I did some minimal research (looked at the weather and picked the place where rain was least likely) and reserved campsites on Cumberland Island for 3 nights. Figured out who was going and who was staying and got our ferry tickets and an AirBnB for the night before and the night after all in about 20 minutes. Cost around $200 for the whole plan.
A couple days before the trip, we decided to tack on an overnight at Providence Canyon to break up the drive over. The only trouble with that was-after we'd paid the (ack) $30 to camp, I checked the TEMPS, not just the rain. It was going to be chilly. So we ended up having to bring cold weather camping gear for one night and hot weather for the rest of the time. It was minimal hassle, just a lot more 'stuff' to keep organized in the van.
I'm glad we ended up going for an overnight trip just before the longer trip because Chandler's backpack was not working at all for her. We popped by REI in Jacksonville and she tried on several packs. For some reason, despite my even flat-out asking, the sales person never added more than 10 pounds of weight to each pack. Still, she decided on the Deuter Act Lite 45+10 in blackberry and aubergine.
Her knee pain got better by going barefoot, so we are going to have that looked at this week and see if better shoes will help. I am also pain-free in the feet/knees being barefoot or hiking in my Chaco sandals. That's after shelling out for really good trail shoes with insoles. Dangit.
SO-Sunday, we arrived at Providence Canyon and hiked in. The lady at the counter gave us a map and said the trail was a 7 mile loop. Then she said if we needed water or the bathroom, we'd need to walk back up to the visitor center. Yeah...no. I'm not adding another 7 miles to the day to pee, thanks. I'm going to guess she's not a camper.
We paid our $5 park entry fee and picked up the obligatory stickers and a couple snack treats and headed out. The trail goes down into the canyon on a switchback trail that's about 1/4 mile to the bottom. The backpacking loop starts at the first creek crossing, the trail is the creek for a while. It stays on flat ground around to the Glory Hole, a poorly named body of water of unknown size or origin. The trail then climbs up a long, straight path back out on a ridge. All 6 campsites are along this ridge. First come, first served. We picked site 5 and it is the best site by far. We could not even find site 1. Site 2 is a wide sandy wash and site 6 has a camping shelter, but the ground is rutted with runoff inside it. 5 is just off in the woods with a fire ring and trees and some privacy. 3 and 4 are smack by the trail. Nearly every site had satellite sites with additional fire rings and trails off in several directions where people have cleared spots to camp. Not sure why, there's a 6 person limit per site. But it looks like 20 people all camp in each site and there were fire rings and campsites scattered through the woods in addition to all of that. I imagine it's not patrolled in the least and I was glad I waited for Matt to come with me. I would not have been comfortable there on my own.
The trail parallels the main road and there is traffic noise all night, though not particularly heavy. Lots of birds, we saw fireflies and armadillos.
Monday we packed up and headed on around the loop. It drops back into the canyon and climbs back out, then one more in and out before it makes it back around to the eroded area that makes up the main attraction at Providence Canyon. The trail drops down once more into the canyon (red blaze), but we opted to stay on the rim and walk around (white blaze) to the van to drop our packs and get more water before going through the canyon to explore and take photos.
Stopped for a geocache in Crawford. They also have a Dollar General.
Getting to the backcountry trail.
The creeks in the bottom were small and sulfury. We made do with what we brought and refilled at the bathroom when we got out. Matt said that water tasted like pipes, but I say at least it was clear.
The trail makes another climb up and out just past this point. It wasn't difficult hiking, despite the climbing in and out, probably because our packs were fairly light.
The backcountry trail weaves all through that forest down there.
We dropped our big packs and picked up some fresh water and went back down to do the 3 mile canyon trail.
After we had seen all the canyon we wanted to, we climbed out a final time and celebrated with cold vending machine Powerade!
Then we headed toward Jacksonville, FL to our AirBnB for the night.
Below are a couple shots of the smoke from the wildfires in the area, there were no clouds-that's all smoke!