Monday, March 24, 2014

3/24/14 Fort Pulaski

Ft. Pulaski; GA

     About two miles up the Savannah River from Tybee Island lies historical Fort Pulaski, built in 1829 and definitely a marvel of engineering for that day.  Engineers drove pilings 70 feet deep into the muddy base of a little island, and the pilings were done so well that there is not one settling crack in the fort to this date - almost 200 years later.

     If you come to the fort before their opening time of 9 am and don't mind walking a bit, you can pull up and park by the bridge.  But be ready to walk - today's photographs were taken over a span of a number of miles of walking.  If you don't feel so much like getting there early and walking, it is only $5 a head to get in.

    When I arrived early this morning the fog lay heavy on the islands.  It was an almost surreal scene walking back to the fort.  Deer peered out of the mist and spider webs sparkled and glistened in the muted light, perfectly highlighted by their burden of dew. Slowly the fort emerged from the fog - looking more like a medieval castle with its moats and drawbridges.

     Soon, the sun burned the mist away and the battle-scarred walls of Ft. Pulaski revealed themselves.  25 million bricks were used to build this fort - and considering there isn't any clay for miles around, that was quite  feat back then.

     I always feel sad when I walk these places - viewing the cannon-scarred walls and the squalid conditions that men lived and fought in.  I despise the cowards that start and perpetuate conflict and feel deep sadness for the men who pay the ultimate price for the greed of these same said cowards.  Any fool can start or perpetuate conflict, but only courage, genius and humility can wage peace.  What a waste war is - there are no winners and there are no heros.  It is but a morass of greed and barbarism that leaves the generation that suffered it scarred for life.  

     Anyway, the park still hadn't opened so I walked an additional couple of miles on one of the nicest nature trails I have been on anywhere.  It wound over several "hammocks" - those low-lying islands that are so common on the rivers in this part of the country.  Wildlife abounded - the only noise was the occasional rustling of the wind and the constant song of all manner of bird life.  If you ever make it to Tybee Island and stop at Fort Pulaski, you must not miss this trail.  It is as serene as they come.

     Then the trail breaks into the open, crossing old oyster banks on its way out to an old lighthouse called "Cockspur Island Lighthouse."  Built in the 1840's and rebuilt after a hurricane in the 1850's, it lies on a channel that no longer is the main shipping channel into Savannah.    

     Thousands and thousands of tiny crabs scurry into their holes as you approach them.

     Birds are everywhere - but the density of the thicket makes you work if you are going to get a clean shot of one.  Here is a wood-pecker that cooperated for a photo.

     Then you arrive at the lighthouse, which lies on another small island just beyond where you can walk out to it.  In the distance is Tybee Island and you can see both the water tower and the lighthouse from pictures we saw last week.

Mike Weinstein

    The fort was open on my return, and ranger Mike Weinstein was kind enough to answer my nagging questions.  Such as, where did 25 million bricks come from?  (some from New England and some from a plantation many miles up-river.)  How did they get pilings 75 feet down in the mud back in the early 1800's?  (They had steam powered pile-drivers.)

     Then, a quick spin through the interior of the fort, which really has been restored and preserved to a remarkable degree.  I have yet to see an old fort that rivals this one.

Enlisted men's barracks

Powder magazines underground

     The stair-wells to the top of the fort here are some of the neatest steps I have ever seen.  Has anyone ever seen a solid granite spiral staircase?  I sure have not.  I have no idea how they built these and kept them from getting crooked over time.  Marvelous engineering.

     Looking from beneath the steps gives a unique view - how have these stayed so solid for almost 200 years?  Really neat stairs.

     And finally, a group of at least 200 motorcycles went all the way around Tybee Island today - led by an escort of police cars.  Now, when I grew up, cops didn't escort motorcycles - they chased them.  Times are a-changin' I guess.

Have a great Monday all !!

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