Posted May 5, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen
See our 5-Bambi rating legend at the end of this review.
“I long, I pine, all my days, to travel home and see the dawn of my return.”– Odysseus, in Homer’s The Odyssey
This post – Part 3 of 3 – wraps up The Navy Brat Tour of 2021.
In the interest of nostalgic self-care which the experts say is actually good for us these days, Jim wants to watch me rediscover the places I lived as a child. I’m supportive, but not much help.
At fourteen years-old I had already moved sixteen times. Memories of those first eight years are mostly learned from my sister Deborah and from Dad, and also from Mama who passed on several years ago.
And, as they say, “Time is like the Mississippi. It flows in one direction and never takes you back.”
My early childhood is like a sweet southern ambrosia – a slurry of bright innocent moments, suspended in heaps of that fluffy stuff dreams are made of – absent of schema, montage or terra firma.
And, I’ve learned to like it that way.
Also, going back is a lot of work. While most people can recover childhood memories from cardboard boxes in their garage, I must travel – and I’m not even quite sure where I’m going or what I’m looking for.
I have few recollections before my family boarded the SS Constitution and set off for Europe.
Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of the big picture, but only momentarily. I guess, my developing childhood brain set aside record keeping and moved on to sensory management. Things trigger memories of those years on Georgia’s Barrier Islands … trees, moss, salt marsh, fish bones, the dank smell of mildewed leaves, tabby ruins, saltines crushed into a glass of milk …
We lived in two houses in The Golden Isles – an old beach house on Saint Simon’s, and a brand new house in a navy project in Brunswick.
Jekyll Island was our playground
On weekends we piled onto Daddy’s Toy and sped away to meet other boating friends on the beach for picnics and camping in a place I believed was a secret island wilderness …
where the driftwood shores, tangled forrest and marshland are still as familiar to me as Mama’s face, and the shadows of the overhanging oaks and riotous birdsong are like the comforts of the cradle.
Deb and I ran wild on the beach and through the dense forest where we took turns playing Tarzan because Jane was boring.
“Fifty-five years, and it looks about the same,” I said as we crossed the Sidney Lanier Bridge. Snowy egrets skimmed the surface of the marsh as we drove the lovely Downing Musgrove Causeway onto Jekyll Island.
By now, of course, I had figured out that Jekyll was not a family secret. But, until this Springtime visit, I had no clue that the island was once a winter refuge for the richest families in America … and, that wouldn’t be mine.
By appearance alone, Jekyll Island is a quiet, minimally developed vacation destination for travelers who just want to walk or ride a bike or a horse on the beach, or read a book and sunbathe without competing for space.
Jekyll Inland History
Yet, these islands were once home to tens of thousands of people. The Timucua Nation lived in present-day Coastal Georgia for 15,000 years.
The French were the first western invaders to arrive, but the British were the first to claim territory. General James Edward Oglethorpe founded the colony of Georgia in 1733 and gave Jekyll Island its present name in honor of his personal friend, Sir Joseph Jekyll.
“It is my hope that, through your good example, the settlement of Georgia may prove a blessing and not a curse to the native inhabitants.”– James Oglethorpe – founder of the colony of Georgia
The DuBignon’s settled the island and established a cotton and indigo plantation. Then, in 1886 and until 1947 the grounds were developed into a resort known as The Jekyll Island Club, where in charming, isolated splendor, the tycoons of New York City wintered in the edenic environment.
Today – due to the aftermath of The Great Depression – everyone can indulge in the splendors once reserved for the Vanderbilts, Hortons, Martins, Carnegies, Leakes, Rockerfellers, Macys, Goodyears, Pulitzers and Morgans. Some estimate that a sixth of the worlds wealth was once represented by members of the Jekyll Island Club.
The state bought the club In 1947 in order to recover and restore the abandoned and tattered remnants of success and excess … but the place still smells like money.
The Jekyll Island Club Resort with the financial support of Georgia State Parks and the Jekyll Island Authority continues to maintain the historic and elegant Millionaire’s Village. The restored island homes are tastefully furnished with Golden Age appointments.
The Wanderer is a most difficult but important exhibit. The Jekyll Island Authority recently opened a trail with storyboards to outline a conspiracy devised by Charles Lamar of Savannah, Captain Corrie of South Carolina, and Henry DuBignon to break government laws against the slave trade.
The three schemed to outfit a sailing yacht, which appeared for all intents and purposes to be a pleasure craft, to sail undercover as a slave ship to the Congo.
The ruse was a success as the ship passed British inspections, allowing Corrie to sail into central Africa. There, he commissioned the capture of 500 souls and kidnapped them to Jekyll Island. The survivors of the ordeal were detained on the island until they could be smuggled into the illegal slave trade. The actions of this white-collar gang of heartless criminals (who were acquitted of their crimes) contributed toward tipping the United States into civil war.
“Slavery is against the gospel, as well as fundamental law of England.”– James Oglethorpe – founder of the colony of Georgia
So, on a short first-day walk-through, Jim and I learned that Jekyll Island, my idyllic childhood paradise, serves as a microcosm of America’s colonial sins, and as the strange bedroom of an illegitimate ruling class, and contains the shore where our horrifying slaving past made an historic and revealing landfall.
But the island is not to blame.
With two whole weeks here, and so much to process, I would use the time to think about ways to improve the world, and exercise my primal scream …
But before donning loincloths, we acquired an exclusive and pricy full-coverage vehicle pass. The pass is purchased at the State Park gate and the funds are used to Keep Jekyll Classy with piers, beaches, hikes, bike paths. So, we coughed up the $56 annual fee and enjoyed our stay.
The vehicle pass is $8 per day and is not waived for guests of the campground, hotel or B&B. Over the years we have learned that islands are expensive. But we like islands, so …
Jekyll Island Campground has 179 total campsites, with 167 full hook-up sites and 12 primitive tent sites located within 18 densely wooded acres.
All sites have four-point hookups – water, sewer and 30/50 amp service.
Every site provides a sewer connection, so no dump station is provided.
In an effort to protect the trees and the natural environment, the sites are non-conforming. Most sites are a bit tight while others have big yards. Some sites are back-in, and some are pull-through.
Some sites are quite private, and others offer no privacy at all.
But all of the unpaved bare-earth sites are numbered and have a fire ring and a picnic table.
The island is almost perfectly flat, so neither of our sites required leveling.
The majority of the campground roads are paved …
with dirt roads on the perimeters.
Majestic oaks draped in Spanish moss kept us cool with little need for the awning.
Wi-Fi is free at speeds of around 2 Mbps, but our Verizon cell signal facilitated around 5 Mbps – plenty fast for our needs.
Pets are allowed in the campground with a one-time $4 pet fee to cover the cost of poop bags and maintenance. Some of the beaches allow leashed dogs.
Because of The Virus, we avoided the bathhouses. They were clean, but outdated.
A climate-controlled special event pavilion has seating for up to 164 guests.
The laundry room was spotless. The machines have slots for both credit cards and quarters.
The campground store offers firewood, fishing tackle, ice, bike rental, and limited personal items – but, no groceries.
Propane is available for sale at the front entrance for just under $4 a gallon.
Rates start at $47 for full hookups, and $32 for a primitive site. With taxes and the pet fee, we paid $691 for 14 nights, averaging $49 a night.
Monthly rates are not listed online. Call the office to reserve the special 30-day rate. From October through March you can book up to 90 nights for $750 a month. From April through September, you can book up to 30 nights for $800 a month.
Check in is 3 PM and check out is at noon.
Book a site online or call 912-635-3021. There is a three-night minimum stay for: Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. If you need to cancel, call the office to make changes. Cancellations and early departures are subject to a $10 fee.
Tucked away in the heart of the campground, we discovered a well-kept bird sanctuary with observation seating.
The feeders are maintained by dedicated volunteers.
Donations are accepted in a small box placed near the benches.
The sanctuary is a place to think, pray, day-dream, nap, meditate and be transported into the world of birds.
It’s a short walk from the campground to Driftwood Beach, on the north end of the island.
The specter of hundreds of massive dead oaks blasted and bleached by sun, wind and tide is something to see.
The boneyard invokes whimsy, fantasy and romance.
Biking and Hiking
About twenty-five miles of trails are maintained for bicycles and hiking.
Cycling on nice hard packed sand is a wonderful low tide pleasure …
and the off-street dedicated trails lead deep into the magnolia live-oak forrest.
Clam Creek Fishing Pier, about a half-mile from the campground has plenty of launch sites.
We didn’t see any bobcats, but the squirrels were constantly on Pico’s radar.
Jekyll Island is also Georgia’s premier birding destination.
The structures built by Jekyll Island Club and its members are a National Historic Landmark, opened to the public.
Jekyll Island Businesses
Businesses on Jekyll Island are minimally stocked with necessities and are mostly tourism related.
Hotels and restaurants are located throughout the island, but most are part of the new Beach Village development where musicians often play in the courtyard on weekends.
As of this writing, 28 restaurants are open for business, but we only visited a couple which offered outdoor dining and ample social distancing.
When you’re not playing Tarzan
Saint Simon’s Island
Saint Simon’s Island is an easy paddle from Jekyll.
And we drove there several times.
Daddy gave us directions to the old beach house. Jim and I cycled all day along every single street and lane before giving up.
But, at least we had a good excuse for a cold beer at Barrier Island Brewing Company.
The house is probably gone now. But Saint Simon’s Island with its beautiful old front porch homes, expansive beach and friendly neighborhood shops and restaurants reminded us of our old home town, Coronado California.
We even felt a twinge of homesickness.
My most vivid memory of Saint Simon’s Island was Fort Fredrika.
Mama often took us here to play under the trees while she harvested pecans for her amazing pies and divinity. As soon as we arrived I set out to find the grassy hillsides where Deb and I crossed our arms and rolled down the slope on our sides, making ourselves dizzy so we could stumble like drunks and sing, “How Dry I Am…” and then laugh our faces sore.
But there weren’t any hills, only earthen battle trenches dug in the 1700’s … Aha! For a child who grew up on sandbars, those trenches must look like The Alps. Those military trenches are also where The Battle Of Bloody Marsh took place, when Spanish and British forces collided over control of the barrier islands.
MmmMmm … Nothin’ like Mama’s Bloody Marsh Pie.
“That’s a good joke, but we tell it much better in England.”– James Oglethorpe – founder of the colony of Georgia
So that wraps up the Navy Brat Tour.
What a winter! We didn’t see any flying fish, but we had a wonderful time, discovering and re-discovering some places that are a bit off the radar – all, good finds which we hope to see again someday.
And, Jim, my love, thank you for the memories and for making this happen. It was fascinating and informative. But that wasn’t really the goal, was it? You wanted to be part of my childhood, and now you are.
Now, let’s play us some Tarzan and Jane.
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.
|Our “BAMBI” rating system explained:
– One Bambi: Should’a boondocked.
– Two Bambi’s: Better than a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.
– Three Bambi’s: Adequate for a short stay.
– Four Bambi’s: Great place! Met our expectations for an extended stay. Needs minor improvements or is not ideally situated for all our preferred recreation (hiking, cycling, swimming, kayaking) without driving.
– Five Bambi’s: Destination Camping at it’s best! Critical as we are, there’s nothing we’d improve, and you can bet your sweet Bambi we’re going back!
Click here to see our other campground reviews.