This trip recap and gear review comes to us from Jeff Turner, the owner of Blue Ridge Fly Fishing in Blue Ridge, GA. Jeff was gracious enough to host Kommendant Dave and me on a trip down the Toccoa last week, and I encourage all of you to stop by his shop next time you are in North Georgia.
Riding the ferry into Cumberland Island, I remember that I am not a hiker. The plan is to hike the island and find tidal creeks that will be fishable by foot in the future and searching to see if any redfish have accidentally made their way up during the early spring.
After making it down from Blue Ridge, GA, my friend Kat and I made it out on the water with Capt. David Edens before we were to depart on our camping trip. Loading up my large Simms Waypoints backpack was a little overkill for a short half day trip, but I already had it with me to take on the boat. It stored everything well and we had a great time with Capt. Dave.
The night before, Kat and I are repacking in the hotel ready to catch the ferry in the morning. I am packing the Waypoints as our day pack as well as what I plan on fishing out of. It has to fit my propane, miniature camping stove, water bottle, filtration system, headlamp, rain shell, sweatshirt, freeze dried meals, fly rod, reel, Fishpond Sushi Roll, all of my tippet spools, and Simms Pliers. It is not a ton of gear, but for someone who doesn’t hike except to get a few miles in the mountains to some small streams, it looks like a lot.
Standing on the top deck of the ferry to Cumberland, I am surprised by how light the pack felt even loaded down with a few things I plan on leaving at our base camp. I had picked up an old framed backpack from a customer in the store who didn’t need it anymore a few months ago. I was apprehensive since that pack fit my wide back very poorly. The trampoline design on the Waypoints really helped keep it off my back and the frame did not rub on my back like previous packs I had worn. It sat high above my waist, and no one has ever mistaken me for being tall.
The first day we headed south towards the Carnegie mansion ruins. Looking at the map, we found that a trail followed a tidal creek that cut into the Island on the southern portion and followed it back across the dunes to the ocean which we would use to get back to our campsite.
Finding creek access along the trail led us to some great looking water that could be waded into from the shore. After getting a decent vantage point and watching for any pushes, we decided to make our way back to the campsite. Day one was a round trip of sixteen miles, and I was surprised that I felt just fine. I never noticed the weight on my back. Making a few casts here and there accessing my gear was easy and efficient since I was only working out of one Sushi Roll.
The second day, I was determined to find my way to Christmas Creek by foot, but I had dragged Kat around enough in search of water and we decided to make our way to Plum Orchard Mansion (if you go to Cumberland Island you should see it). I was cool with some sightseeing since our trip back would take us along multiple creeks coming inland. The hiking trail from our camp was approximately sixteen miles round trip, and we thought since we had done that the day before it would be no problem.
With no potable water in between us and Plum Orchard, I had to make sure to take all of my filtration gear for the sulphur wells. Staying organized in the Waypoints pack is easy. I stuffed the main compartment with all of our hiking gear, put my rod into the sleeve, and kept my fishing gear in the top pack. When we took off, I was not aware that we would be doing twenty-two miles total. This ended up being a real test.
As we made our way up to Plum Orchard we came across what I can only assume was a college outdoor club on spring break and could overhear complaints. “My pack is to heavy; it is hurting my back.” Until that point it hadn’t even struck me that I had no pressure on my back and wasn’t feeling the heat of a heavy pack suffocating me. This was a very different experience than my first one with a framed pack.
After doing the first eight miles in around two-and-a-half hours, we were happy to sit down next to Plum Orchard mansion and eat some lunch and get our legs back under us. I made it down to some flats and made a few pointless casts into a low tide. Realizing our legs were starting to feel some real fatigue, we packed up to make the return trip down the Islands main road that the few government cars traveled.
After running into group of wild horses and finding what looked like the best tidal creek to fish by foot in the future, I was pretty excited that my scouting trip had produced some great results. Around thirty-five miles total for the trip caused the muscle pain really started to set in. Everything was beginning to hurt, but amazingly my back felt fine. I connected the chest and waist straps on the pack and we grinded out the rest of the hike.
I am not a hiker.
After hiking along the beach, through the woods, and in tidal creeks for two days and thirty-eight miles, I can unequivocally say that I wouldn’t do any kind of trip like this in a different pack. Even on a lightweight day trip to a blue line stream, this will replace all of my other packs. It is not your answer to day trips in a deep river that you will be wading in, but for most everything else it is the best option I have seen.