Not every trip goes according to plan.
Due to some very good travel-related luck over the past few years, many of my tales recount flowering, sunny details from exotic excursions… like my recent jaunt to perfectly lovely St. Kitts. Unfortunately my next journey is not one of those flowering tales of rapturous journeying wonderment.
It’s more like a soggy, windblown tale of an adventure that could have been.
I’d been planning my visit to the Lodge at Little St. Simons Island for months, and as the weekend approached and the weather forecast grew more and more ominous, I refused to cancel. Unlike the majority of the U.S., the past few months in my neck of the woods have been sunny & mild. I’ve already enjoyed many toasty days poolside and a handful of after-church Sunday afternoons on the beach, so there was no reason to expect anything other than weather perfection from my visit to this little island about 90 minutes north of Jacksonville.
My iPhone’s forecast wasn’t hopeful, but I hoped maybe I’d get a break in the clouds to experience all the adventure the island is famous for. The Lodge at St. Simons Island is an enormous, 10,000-acre wilderness wonderland, full of creatures like deer in a half a dozen curious colors, red raccoons, rare birds and lots of marshy vistas that beg to be photographed.
A little rain and thunder usually won’t put damper on my travels — I can almost always make lemonade out of any lemony (or rainy) situation.
With a radar like this, it was evident that the weekend – meant to be chock full of fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking and beach time – was going to be markedly different than what I’d imagined.
It’s all about the outdoors on this rustic little piece of preserved land, and while the food is tasty, the nightly presentations from the on-island naturalists are informative and the accommodations are plenty comfortable, I just wanted to trek around in search of some big ole alligators and rattlesnakes in the woods, and some big ole red fish in the creeks & rivers.
It only takes about 10-15 minutes aboard the Lodge’s private charter to get from the marina on St. Simons Island to Little St. Simons, but it may as well be a time machine back to a simpler era.
Once on island, you’re encountered with all manner of pleasantries — rustic cottages surrounded by Spanish moss and oak trees, wraparound porches with rocking chairs, and three home cooked meals each day, served family style at community tables in the main lodge among the maximum 32 guests.
The daily menu features some locally grown fruits, veggies and herbs, and tasty dishes like crab cakes or even a whole flounder.
There are jars filled with homemade cookies in varying flavors and a serve-yourself beer tap with chilled tumblers and a thoughtfully stocked bar all wrapped up in a hunting lodge atmosphere complete with mounted fish on the walls, old photographs of the island’s original visitors, a resourceful library full of info on the local species and puzzles, chess and other amusements to pass the time.
While it stormed vengefully outside, there was a toasty fire crackling in the fireplace – something I wouldn’t have expected considering how warm it had been the day before arrival. It was welcome as I was almost always dripping wet and cold after my attempted adventures…
The conversation among guests at cocktail hour was always a hoot. I just couldn’t believe how adventurous everyone was, though I shouldn’t have been surprised.
The sort of folks who come to Little St. Simons are no pool-lounging, passive vacationers. They’re the gung-ho, up-for-everything sort.
Every guest I met, from age 10 to near 80, was an enthusiastic outdoorsman-or-woman. Birdwatchers, science nerds like me, avid hikers and fit bikers from all over the country shared breathless tales of the critters they encountered on the island, and the athletic adventures they’d had outside …
…before the rain came and deluged us all, that is.
Rain or no rain, the most amazing thing about visiting the Lodge at Little St. Simons was how I didn’t have to think of anything once I arrived. Insect repellant and sunscreen were readily available everywhere, not that I needed either on this particular visit. Bicycles, kayaks, beach towels, motorized skiffs and quality fishing equipment are all included, as are meals, snacks, drinks and informative tours, hikes & presentations given by the island’s naturalists.
Though the rain was a bummer, I confess I rather appreciated the forced downtime.
With no outdoor activities to entertain me, I could either be found in the dining area meeting other guests – something I might’ve missed if I’d been cruising around in search of predators all day – or holed up next to a roaring fire in my own digs in the River Lodge.
Listening to the heavy rain roll in and the wind whip through the creaky old oaks and pines was quite therapeutic, actually. I suspect it’s that level of uninterrupted peace and rest that are the real attraction of Little St. Simons anyhow.
Coming soon… part 2! You didn’t think I went all that way without tracking down some alligators, did ya? Storm or no storm, my inner tomboy had to be satisfied… stay tuned for a wildlife-filled photo essay from my very quick trek around the island.
Have you ever been on a trip that you were so excited about, but due to circumstances outside your control, it just didn’t turn out the way you expected? Did you make the most of it or pack it in and head home early? Share your story in the comments!