The bow of an old ship catches my attention as the boat I’m riding drifts further toward the island I’ll be camping just off the Atlantic Coast. It is roughly an hour boat ride to my destination, so I anticipate what other history and aquatic life I might witness before stepping ashore. I had read about the island and was enticed to backpack its sand dunes and forest for a few days to witness its diverse wildlife, history and ruins. The opportunities are abundant. Sea turtles lay eggs at night, wild horses roam the island, dolphins swim near shore, and with a careful eye you can find shark teeth in certain areas. Nature and wildlife are an important part of my life because they connect me to what primitive life is left in this world, and I feel primitive when wandering the wilderness.
Dungeness Ruins stands from the woods as the boat nears the shore. It was constructed by Catherine Greene after her husband General Nathanael Green died in 1783. Research says she used the four-level mansion for people to stay, including tired sea-drifters.
I check in at the ranger’s station and then I’m on my way for a backcountry experience on the island. Sun beating down on me and the sea breeze scattering my hair, I trudge across the soft sand where horseshoe crabs, an array of sea shells, moon snails, heart cockles and relics the Atlantic Ocean washed ashore strew the pearly-white beach. From the beach, I follow a narrow passage between sand dunes and into a jungle of Saw Palmettos and Spanish Moss trees toward the Dungeness Ruins. Below are just some things I captured along the way.
I’m not sure what this was. But it was old.
A fisherman’s boot, perhaps.
A horse bones?
The tree limbs twist, curve, and reach into each other.
I’m lucky as I capture a shot of the Dungeness Ruins and a horse in the distance, and then make haste back to camp ahead of the storm.
Another shot of the ruins.
This is a place that needs careful observation to be experienced in full, and a number of visits, because there is so much to see and so much that is difficult to see when hurrying. When on this island, alone, my thoughts surfaced unlike they do when in solitude at home. I had my notebook with me and wrote under a dim lamp in my tent and found nature and the solitude with it to be one of the biggest motivations for my writing. Alone in the wild, be it an island, mountains, ocean, canyons or somewhere else, I believe I can find myself more easily. I have been tested like never before during my exhibitions in the wild; poor preparations, bad navigation or maps, following a horse trail into a bog or wandering into an area where the ground is marked with bear paw tracks and bear poop. Ignorance or simply a lack of knowledge led me to wisdom and there is much more to be gained. Through failure and fear I have learned.