Each year, my friend has a fishing trip with the guys from college at a house on the north end of Sapelo Island, the part that is completely wild with hogs and rattlesnakes and alligators. Except for one other small house owned by Georgia’s DNR, my friend’s house is the only house on the north end, and it is in the woods at Raccoon Bluff. The wild hogs and other animals come right up to the house, especially at night.
The house is only occupied a limited number of days per year because the island is protected and access to the property is limited by DNR for good reason. The ecological and historical and cultural value of this wilderness barrier island is enormous.
Each year, a few of us always kayak across to Blackbeard Island on the last day, which is even more isolated than Sapelo. Blackbeard is smaller and is a protected National Seashore. We paddle down to the strand of beach at the southern tip of Blackbeard and then back up the river a mile or two to the dock at the ranger station. Then we hike north from there to the northern tip.
This year, I paddled over with a couple of the guys who both happened to be Eric and who both happened to be great outdoor photographers, one professionally. Eric S. had his camera and took these photos.
I used a small child’s kayak as a challenge, and with my weight and day pack, it was always in danger of tipping and had to be held steady like riding a bicycle. It flipped on me twice, and I got to face my phobia of being in deep water where there are bull sharks and I can’t see them, but I stayed up right pretty good for the day, in spite of having the wind in our teeth all the way home.
The only alligators I saw while paddling were less than six feet and wary of people. I’ve not seen any big ones there over the years, but Jay has.
I paddled directly under a bald eagle sitting in a dead pine, and later when I was paddling up the river, she flew right over me, maybe ten feet up. At the time, I was laid all the way back and resting and looking straight up into the sky. The eagle was soaring into the wind and moving slow, and so it just held right there over me, and I got a good look.
Blackbeard Island was hauntingly beautiful like it always is, and it was rough going and hot and grueling like it always is, but we had a good time and drank all the beer we could carry.
The paddling this year was particularly tough for me because 10 days before I had a lumber-jacking accident and got knocked unconscious by the butt end of a big branch while I was up a ladder sawing it. I took the stitches out of my head two days before the trip, but I still had a cracked rib and both wrists still a little sprained. It made paddling back with the headwind more or less a test of manhood.