Well… it’s official… Roller Coaster Trail is complete! Y’all have heard me talking it about for more than two months now, and this past week we officially completed it. What was once the trail that was in the most terrible condition has now officially been cleaned, cleared, restored and GPS mapped.
On Friday, January 8th, we welcomed 27 members from the staff of Southern Adventures to Cumberland Island. Southern Adventures is Georgia Southern’s Outdoor Club, so we had a group of talented and passionate outdoorsmen and women ready to work! Once we took the group up to Hunt Camp, Lawrence, our new volunteer for the week Desiree Fowler and I took five volunteers out to Roller Coaster. It was late afternoon so we walked in at a decent pace in order to finish the last couple hundred yards before the sun set. This group was fun and full of energy. Arriving at the final section, it took us about 45 minutes to finish the last 100 yards. To Lawrence and I who have been working on this trail for months, it didn’t seem real. Hiking out, we breezed through areas were other groups had toiled for days on end clearing impassible sections, and were grateful for all the hard work.
The next day, we kick started early with all 30 of us and hit the trails ready to go. We hiked in at Table Point in order to tackle the 1.9 loop. After Roller Coaster, this trail was in the second worst condition. The previous week, a hiker who had attempted to hike Table Point told us that she had gotten lost several times, and was nervous passing through the walls of palmettos as she couldn't see her feet. With half the group heading in the southern spur of the loop and my group beginning at the trail head, we began lopping.
Quickly recognizing the skill and energy level of this group, we knew we’d accomplish a lot but we didn’t know exactly how much. Finishing two miles of the (now currently) worst condition trail on the island seemed like a near impossible task. I didn’t want to tell the group we could finish, only for them to feel let down at the end of the day. I let everyone know it was a possibility, but highly unlikely… but that finishing even half of this trail would be an incredible feat.
We usually take a lunch break around noon, but this group was so enthusiastic that they wanted to keep pushing on until 1 PM with the high energy level they were working with. After a quick lunch, we pushed on past the intersection Ashley Pond and Table Point. At this point, we had already completed 0.9 miles of trail, but had no idea the location of the other group or how long it was taking them to work on their super rough patch of trail. At 2 PM I could sense energy levels were declining a little and I announced “hey everyone let’s go ahead and work for one more hour then we’ll hike out.” Several group members responded “we don’t want to finish then, we want to finish when we’re done with the trail!” Not even 15 minutes later, we could hear the other group of 15 pushing through the trail towards us. We had entered the thickest section of brush. It was mostly shrubs, dense palmettos, and an unbelievable amount of thorny vines. Being able to see the other group renewed us with energy. Jumping into a thicket of vines, volunteers cleared through this section with a final push. I couldn't believe that not only had we cleared all 2 miles of the trail completely, but we had finished 30 minutes early! All of us were astounded at the work ethic and enthusiasm of this group, and we can’t wait till the final group of Outdoor Rec majors joins us this May from Georgia Southern!
A few days later, I met with Gordon Jackson from the The Brunswick News. He interviewed me about the trail restoration project which you can read about here: