Thu, Feb 20 2020 - Return to Sapelo Island! Camping & Beachcombing Weekend on Atlantic Coast of GA (View Original Event Details)

Trip Leader(s): Charlie Cottingham
Participants:Charlie Cottingham, Huiling, Fred J, Debra W, Laura, Keith, Judy C, Andrey K, Lorri, Kathy H, Janet C., Phyllis Melton, Pam, Victor, pan, Mary Reed, Dan Reed, Kevin M, Lysa, Will

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Write Up:

  We 20 AOC camper-adventurers shared an unforgettable long weekend together on this "crown jewel" of GA's barrier islands.  Enhancing the experience was our exclusive use of Sapelo's wonderful "Cabretta" oceanfront campsite, which had been closed since 2017 due to bridge damage from Hurricane Irma.
  As on numerous past Club trips to Sapelo it was fun exploring the Island's secluded beaches, marveling at its sunsets & wonders of the night sky – also just chillaxing at camp under the gnarly moss-cloaked live oaks and enjoying lots of friendly socializing all weekend. Thanks to all who contributed so much to our family-style group dinner parties and other meals with dozens of tasty and healthy culinary delights & refreshments.  Our blazing campfires on Friday & Saturday night were also memorable - complete with song & joke sessions, hot s'mores, and a variety of excellent beers, wines & other liquid libations.
  More amazing and unforgettable than ever on this trip were our almost nonstop close-up encounters with bald eagles, dolphins, alligators, deer, and hundreds of other amazing wild birds & critters.  During our traditional "Friday 1st-full-day" guided bus tour with my friend JR Grovner (a lifelong Sapelo native) it began to sink in how "normal" this has become on the Island.  At one heavily wooded stop JR walked with us to the clearing below a 100' pine tree where a pair of bald eagles has been raising young for several years in their huge nest atop the tree.  The female posed for us in the nest while her partner flew to it from time to time with fish in his beak.  A few minutes later by the Reynolds Mansion pond we had an equally amazing view of dozens of large native water birds including graceful white egrets and a gorgeous pink roseate spoonbill.  At other memorable tour stops we visited Sapelo’s historic lighthouse, the Island’s marsh-side cemetery & post office, and the little general store & gift shop in "downtown Hog Hammock."  Back at camp after the Friday tour we began having regular sightings and photo-ops of a second pair of bald eagles that has recently begun fishing there and perching in the tall trees overlooking Cabretta Creek.
After breakfast on Saturday sixteen of us had a good time venturing into the seldom-explored northern half of the Island, first stopping at the historic Raccoon Bluff Church, then basked
 in the warm sun on the Bluff overlooking Blackbeard Creek & Blackbeard Island and had a leisurely picnic lunch.  From that high vantage point we had nice views of several playful dolphins and many shorebirds including pelicans and cormorants. En route back to camp eleven of us enjoyed taking a longer route which let us explore the western side overlooking the Duplin River and its adjoining marshlands.  There at "Lumber Landing" we were treated to more dolphins, including one who slapped his tail loudly, causing dozens of shorebirds on a small nearby island to fly! - also lots of beautiful wildflowers and even butterflies.

  I’m esp. proud of how well everyone took "right in stride" our 1st day’s showers and Fri & Sat’s colder & breezier-than-normal weather.  It had begun raining Thu AM just as we were leaving Atlanta for our 4-hour drive to Sapelo's mainland dock - then persisted on the Ferry while trundling ourselves and our bulky camping gear to the Island.  The showers were even heavier during our truck-towed tram ride from the dock to the campsite, and also as we began setting up camp, but thankfully ended soon after midnight.  For the rest of the weekend we all managed to wear enough appropriate layers (and snuggle deep enough in our sleeping bags each night!) to stay warm.  Our almost continuous campfires all weekend (thanks to the the giant trailer-load load of cut firewood provided by my friend Marvin) added a lot to our comfort and good cheer.
  I look forward to adding below the links to our campers' various online photo albums, etc. so we can share some of our hundreds of colorful shots.  I'll likewise welcome any humorous or insightful anecdotes about the trip that I'll gladly add to this writeup.
  - Submitted by Charlie, Mon Feb 24, 2020 with Photo Links & commentary added later below.
  p.s.  Hope you’ll mark your calendars for a Spring 2021 "encore" of this and other past Sapelo trips which I've tentatively reserved for the AOC for Thu Apr 22 – Sun Apr 25. 2021.  Likely I’ll post the online event article in December with signups beginning in Jan 2021.

Huiling Johnson's Photo Album link added by Charlie on Feb 25: 
Thanks, Huiling
for sharing this colorful Google album of more than 40 of your favorite photos.  Among them are your colorful closeups of the above-mentioned roseate spoonbill, bald eagles and other amazing wildlife - also some brilliant sunrise shots taken from our own Cabretta beach. Clicking "Photo Album" above also accesses them.

Lysa Parker's Photo Album link added by Charlie on Feb 28:
Lots of nice ones, Lysa, in a wide variety of subjects, including many that you took during our group walk on the beach Friday AM and later Fri at scenic stops during our Island bus tour: e.g., the Reynolds Mansion, Lighthouse, Nanny Goat Beach, etc.  Also:  Your colorful kite that we flew on the beach after our Sat hike, a golden sunset over our Cabretta marsh later that evening, and a Sunday "parting shot" of our entire group taken by our dining Pavilion.
  Thanks also, Lysa for reminding us of our group stargazing session Friday night.  We took a 2-minute walk from the campfire to the top of "Richard Reynolds' grassy dune" by campsite where we enjoyed using my laser pointer to point out celestial wonders such as Venus, the twin stars of Gemini, the great hunter Orion and his "dog star" Sirius the brightest star of all!).  Also we discussed how easy it is to find Polaris (the North Star) using the Big Dipper's 2 end stars of its cup as pointers. 

Andrey Kundin's Photo Album link added by Charlie on Feb 29:
Thanks, Andrey for sharing these 28 incredibly sharp and artistically framed photos that you took during the trip.  Esp. nice are those you shot from the interior of our "Conestoga-wagon style" tram, a couple of the historic Sapelo Lighthouse, and some of  the weird things we saw along the beach by our Cabretta campsite.  Sadly Andrey, you had to leave us a day early (on an earlier return ferry).  Thanks for adding this note to your photo link email, "Thank you!  Miss you all!"

Phyllis Melton's E-note to us on Feb 25:
 "Thank You Charlie!  Thank You Everyone!!  AWESOME TRIP!!!  Great people, great food, and lots of laughs.  Our next trip April 22-25, 2021!   Woo Hoo !!!! - Phyllis"

Judy Campbell's E-note on Feb 29: "Charlie,  It 
was a wonderful trip!  I'm working on my photos and will share with everyone once I get them uploaded.  It was a birder's dream trip! I added several birds to my life-list including a Little Blue Heron, that Roseate Spoonbill, a juvenile White Ibis (all from that stop on the bus tour), and the Black Skimmers that Huiling was kind enough to tell me were at the end of the beach where the creek meets the beach. I'm working on IDing the terns. I do have some people photos worth sharing, too.  Thanks again for leading us. It was cold, but the friendliness and hospitality of everyone was more than warm enough to make up for the weather. - Judy

My "Sapelo Song" that we sang around the campfire:  A couple of you have asked me for its lyrics, copied below. Glad you enjoyed it!  - Added by Charlie on Mar 3:

- Lyrics & music by Charlie Cottingham, 2012,  Key of C

Sapelo, what an Island, where you can't keep from smilin',
  Where clouds seldom linger and friendships last long;
Her golden strand shines before us as the shorebirds in chorus
  Sing their old Sapelo song. 

     In her forest sublime gnarly live oaks and pine
       Wearing Spanish moss cloaks can beguile;
    'Neath her star-studded sky we stare and ask why
       We should be blessed with this beautiful isle. 

Sapelo, what an Island, where you can't keep from smilin',
  As deer roam her meadows and dunes, proud and strong;
In sparkling streams around us playful dolphins astound us,
  The lore of the sea in their song.

     In Hog Hammock fine folk, with a smile and a joke,
        Warmly will welcome you there,
     Where tradition survives, island culture still thrives,
       And there always is plenty to share! 

On Sapelo we're smilin', gettin' mile after mile in,
  Exploring her marshlands and beaches so fair;
Her lofty lighthouse beckons, and you bet we all reckon
  To be back again year after year! 

   Her golden strand shines before us
      As we join in the chorus...
        And sing our old Sapelo song!