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Natural Splendor on Cumberland Island

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Photo: Roe Ethridge

Here it is probably worth saying that I returned from the trip empty-handed. I take pleasure in noting that I came back at all.

The rain was pouring by the time my search led me away from the sandy shore to a bog where abruptly I found myself plunged to my knees in mud. The soft sucking sound the muck made as it pulled me downward brought to mind Discovery Channel specials on quicksand wallows (“Dino Death Traps!”) where layers of dinosaur bones have been found. This must be how fossils get started, I thought, as I rocked delicately from one foot to the other, remembering also the mastodon effigies at the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A., their trunks raised in protest as the earth swallowed them whole.

Using moves I may have picked up in a Boy Scout manual, I was able to free one foot and anchor it on a patch of spiky grass. The slime made a hungry sound as it covered the spot where my leg had been. I extracted the other foot, and laboriously huffed toward dry land, enjoying a little laugh at myself on the way. I hosed off at the inn, got fresh clothes and a cold beer, and took myself to a porch swing with a book. And there I remained, as oblivious of nature’s mighty mysteries as Peggy Gravel was on the road to Mortville, trusty Grizelda at her side.


Guy Trebay is a reporter for the New York Times.


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