Jekyll Island, GA (Part 2)

November 19 – December 18, 2016

Be sure to read Part 1 first! 

During our month long stay on Jekyll Island, we also visited the beautiful historic district. The Jekyll Island Museum reviewed the island history, while the Rockefeller cottage and Faith Chapel showcased the lifestyle of the island’s wealthy early residents. We dined on steak and seafood in the Grand Dining Room of the Jekyll Island Club hotel and Margot went to a ladies lunch at the luxurious Crane Cottage. We attended the popular annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony complete with live music, Santa and Mrs. Claus, fake snow, and fireworks with thousands of other island residents.

In front of the Crane Cottage (really, a mansion!). Built in 1917, it was the most expensive and elegant home built on Jekyll Island. It has since been converted to a restaurant. (More reading)
In front of the Crane Cottage (really, a mansion!). Built in 1917, it was the most expensive and elegant home built on Jekyll Island. It has since been converted to a hotel and restaurant.

We also explored the surrounding area with multiple off-island adventures. A motorcycle ride to the island directly north, St Simon’s Island, took us to their lighthouse and museum. We haven’t yet visited many lighthouses and really enjoyed the experience: interesting museum, the home of the lighthouse keeper set up as it had been, the exercise from climbing to the top plus the fabulous views – what is not to love? I think we will be visiting more lighthouses on our travels.

Margot in front of the lightkeeper's house which is in front of the lighthouse. It was built in 1810, destroyed by Confederatre forces in 1862 and rebuilt in 1872.
Margot in front of the lightkeeper’s house which is in front of the lighthouse. It was built in 1810, destroyed by Confederatre forces in 1862 and rebuilt in 1872.
The lighthouse is 104' tall and we climbed all 129 steps to get to the top. What a view!
The lighthouse is 104′ tall and we climbed all 129 steps to get to the top. What a view!

We also visited a rice plantation, Hofwyl-Broadfield with an old house lovingly maintained with generations of furnishings, all donated by the last surviving heir in the 1960s. She was a dog lover and as such, Sadie was allowed on the grounds and even in the house – yay! Most museums with this level of historic artifacts would only allow you to peer in behind a rope in the doorway, but here you are allowed to walk in the room to see them up close! Ranger Andy was an older gentleman who led our tour, and it turns out he visited a friend’s farm in Elmvale, Ontario (not too far from our old seasonal campground in New Lowell). He raved about their fall fair and how it reminded him of when he was young. We came back the same night for a civil war re-enactment that evening on the plantation, enjoying cookies and hot orange apple cider, a local holiday favourite.

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation at night - the spanish moss looks even more creepy!
Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation at night – the spanish moss looks even more creepy!
The set up luminaries (lights in white paper bags) to light up the pathways.
The set up luminaries (lights in white paper bags) to light up the pathways.
Infantry re-enactment using muskets
Infantry re-enactment using muskets

We day-tripped north to Savannah twice – it was a good 1.5 hour drive each way but we didn’t want to miss our chance to see this beautiful, historic city. We enjoyed the Old Savannah Trolley tour with costumed interpreters and particularly liked our guide “Tammy with a T” who was a total hoot and put her own spin on the history of her hometown. The second day we visited the Savannah History Museum, walked River street and took in a private walking Ghost Tour after dark! Boo! The city was founded in 1733, so there is lots of fodder for spooky stories involving pirates, ghosts and more!

A trolley tour was a great way to to see the city
A trolley tour was a great way to to see the historic district
One of the historic buildings in Savannah
One of the historic buildings in Savannah

Both visits we enjoyed real pralines which are pecans coated in either caramel or chocolate – wow yummy!

They always get you with the free samples! James thinks these are a good replacement for butter tarts while down here!
They always get you with the free samples! James thinks these are a good replacement for butter tarts while down here!

James was excited to go to the Jekyll Island Comicon. A little known fact about James was that he used to collect comics when he was a kid, and is a big fan of Star Wars, so this was totally up his alley. If you haven’t been, there are lots of vendors, industry celebrities (eg. comic book artists, voice actors, and in some cases, TV and movie stars). As well, most of the participants dress up as their favorite characters.

(Update: Check out the video James made about Jekyll Comicon in his mini blog post)

We attended the Jekyll Comicon which made the comic collecting kid inside James happy
We attended the Jekyll Comicon which made the comic collecting kid inside James happy
Many guests dressed up as their favourite characters. Clockwise from top-left: Cat Woman, Stormtrooper, Edward Scissorhands, and Maleficent.
Many guests dressed up as their favourite characters. Clockwise from top-left: Cat Woman, Stormtrooper, Edward Scissorhands, and Maleficent.

Our best excursion was our day trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore directly south of Jekyll Island. Part of the National park System, we purchased a National Parks Annual pass for $80 good through the end of Dec 2017. We were able to bring our own bicycles on the ferry ride over which made it easy to zip down the packed sand roads to explore. The Dungeness ruins were the remains of the Carnegie mansion built on the island. Roaming nearby were the famous feral horses which were cool, but not as cool as the armadillos! But James liked the horses better and got some great photos.

The horses are called feral because their ancestors were domestic but the generations have since gone wild.
The horses are called feral because their ancestors were domestic but the subsequent generations have since gone wild on the island.
A feral horse grazing on the beach
A feral horse grazing on the beach
We shared the beach with the feral horses while I collected some seashells
We shared the beach with the feral horses while I collected some seashells

The armadillos were so cute! They ignored us as they rooted in the dirt for grubs. We spent a good half hour just watching them. One of them almost walked between James’ feet, so James moved out of the way!

Watching the armadillos' antics up close while they forage was a lot of fun!
Watching the armadillos’ antics up close while they forage was a lot of fun!

After enjoying our packed picnic lunch, we biked and hiked our way to the very south end of the island over hot sand dunes and a wooden boardwalk to a huge, undeveloped beach that seemed to go on forever. Returning to the ruins, we wandered past a pond through a bamboo grove and discovered a small, abandoned house just hidden from the shore by dense palm trees with a Gilligan’s Island feel. We wandered to the water where we picked up pearlescent seashells while feral horses grazed nearby. Wow! Back at the campground, I used the shells to make a necklace using materials we had on hand.

Margot made this seashell necklace from shells she collected on the beach on Cumberland while the feral horses were grazing nearby!
Margot made this seashell necklace from shells she collected on the beach on Cumberland Island with the feral horses.

One thing that struck us about Jekyll Island was the strong sense of community among the winter guests (if you stay at least a month, you get a preferred rate and are considered a “winter guest”). Many campers have been coming back for decades and friendships re-ignite as Jekyll Island is the only chance they get to see each other. Because of this, there are many organized activities such as Monday night potlucks, Thursday jam nights, Saturday movie night, stitch ‘n chats, book club, the annual Christmas party, and other special events such as an offsite tour of the Georgia Port Authority, and more! If you think retirement slows you down, you don’t know these folks!

We jumped in to the social scene right away, joining the weekly potlucks and jam nights, and the open and friendly community welcomed us. The potlucks were an awesome way to enjoy a substantial and varied meal while sharing our own culinary creations – a total win-win! Another fringe benefit of these is that James had to shower and shave at least twice a week 🙂 James particularly took to the Thursday jam nights, preparing a few songs to play on our guitalele while I sang along. About a dozen or so musicians would show up to jam night and take turns playing a song while everyone else played along as they were able. James said his years of playing music at church totally came in handy! We especially enjoyed Brian Hiebert from Vermont’s guitar playing and strong voice and Ken and Dawn Moss from Corning, New York of the Elmer Darling Duo who gave us their CD where they perform American country classics! Incidentally, these Jam nights are what inspired us to record the Christmas song from our last post.

The left side of Jam Nights. Dawn, Ken, Brian, and Sharon
The left side of Jam Nights. Dawn, Ken, Brian, and Sharon

Serendipitously, our month long stay lasted just long enough for us to attend the campground Christmas party the last Saturday night before Christmas. We had a great time visiting with everyone, enjoying dinner with our new friends Duretta and Steve Lorang. We had a special bond with them as they had said goodbye to their sweet schnauzer Addie a couple weeks earlier due to cancer. We enjoyed good wine, yummy dinner and danced the night away, at least until 9:30pm which is late enough for me haha! It seems many people were leaving the next morning, driving back to their respective homes as far away as New York State for Christmas (Ken and Dawn).

Our planned departure day, Monday, was forecast cold and rain, so we scrambled and packed up Sunday so James could ride in the warm dry weather to our next adventure!

Postscript:

James here: We may have painted a rosey picture about our stay at Jekyll Island which is easy to do, however it wasn’t perfect. The campsites are a base of sand and dirt which tracked everywhere, and on top of that was a layer of dead leaves and other vegetation which harboured ticks. We had to constantly check ourselves and especially Sadie who regularly brought them into the trailer. Gross! We spent a week and several phone calls trying to source Bravecto (anti-tick medication) and more Revolution for Sadie. We finally found  a vet clinic who could help, but at almost double the price in Canada.  The campground air was stagnant, and the campfire smoke from neighbouring campsites hung heavy in the air.  We frequently had to shut all our windows at night and run our hepa air cleaner just to breathe.  The campground is situated on the opposite end of the island as the causeway so it took us 15 minutes to get to the mainland, and that didn’t include the construction delays on the causeway that started during the 2nd half of our stay.  When we went off-island, we often returned at night and made a game of counting the deer – one night we counted 10 between the causeway and the campground!

Our phone and hotspot are on T-mobile: while there was a signal, we needed our cell booster to make phone calls. Surprisingly, there was campground wifi that worked great for the 1st week, but was spotty after the Thanksgiving weekend. Finally, a word about Matthew:  that named category 5 hurricane (157 mph / 252 kph or higher) that  blew through this area in early October this year. This resulted in closures of some attractions/tourist activities which persisted while we were there. In fact, we were told Driftwood Beach looked much different prior to Matthew. Jekyll Island had a disaster plan, and it was interesting to read how it unfolded on their website.  I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining, because we really did love it here! Of course every place has pros and cons: these were some of the downsides we faced during our stay. 

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