When you’re a kid, there are places that seem like magic to you. They possess characteristics that make them seem otherworldly; they become the places where you let your imagination roam wild and create a unique mythology that cements a location into your own personal legend. There were a few of these spots while I grew up, like a grove out in the woods where the deer always played, or a hidden spot behind a great Magnolia tree. Growing up on Lanier, the lake was always the center of adventure for me and my brother. The mythical place from my childhood that followed me into adulthood, remaining the pinnacle of intrigue for my lake adventures, has always been referred to simply as “The Island.” The Island is about a half mile from the cove behind my parents’ house, and it’s not some small spit of land where you can see water all around it, but a massive landmass that takes a considerable amount of time to circumnavigate and a short amount of time to become utterly lost in the hills that comprise the interior. As a kid, I was honestly quite intimidated by the island which my brother had ceremoniously named “Jackson Island” for reasons which are still unknown to me We had a canoe and a bass boat, but I never went to explore it for myself like he did with his friends. They often camped out there and returned with stories that I only dreamed of being a part of. It was my own version of Treasure Island, such an unreal place that I might have been a little apprehensive to journey to, but with which I would eventually make the greatest connection. My brother moved away when I went to high school and I rarely made a trip to the island, and certainly hadn’t explored it very much until college when I finally let my adventurous side loose on the world.
The pull was reignited after I turned twenty and finally camped out on the island with my brother and our friends. They had camped there plenty of times so, even through the nearly impassible brush, we made it up the hill from the water to the ridgeline that crosses the entire island to the same spot they always had made their campsite. We would stash the canoe in the brush on the lakeside to hide it from any DNR patrols that might have wandered too close (we weren’t exactly SUPPOSED to be camping there). The night out there was unreal. The fire was perfect, the food never tasted better, and the beers were, well, cheap but refreshing in the warm summer night. The flip side to all of the positives had to be the size of the spiders out there — I’m talking Land of the Lost-size wolf spiders running all over and creating even larger silhouettes from the side of the tent. As we slept, the noises were amplified as they always are when camping in the wilderness. Sounds of bobcats, large groups of deer, owls and all other manner of creatures resonated, droning us to sleep. As we left the next day I was hooked with the need, not want, but the need to become intimately acquainted with this place and learn all of its secrets.
That time finally arrived after a 6-month study abroad trip to Southern Spain where I really developed a severe case of wanderlust and the unshakable drive for constant adventure, no matter how close or far from home. When I came back to the States, I began working in the state parks division of the Georgia DNR as a naturalist on Lake Lanier and bought a kayak. Months of research and test runs landed a solid 9-foot Dagger kayak which was perfectly suited for flat water and even challenging rapids. More importantly, it is very easy to carry and load on my jeep with ease, so going anywhere is a very easy endeavor. The second use of my new vessel was a trip to the island, my first time there by myself (only took 23 years). The most direct route from our cove to the island offered a good landing spot on a teardrop-shaped offshoot of land from the main body of the island. When the water level is low, that spot offers a good-sized sandy beach which is frequented by the local wealthy middle-aged folks who beach their pontoon boats for a weekend of binge drinking. Because of this, I go out there on days when the weather is rougher or colder, making the experience that much more memorable.
Upon landing, the obvious plan to begin exploring the legendary island was to first walk around in the teardrop part where I landed. The initial impression was everything I had ever dreamed of. Some of the oldest, most beautiful and untouched trees were preserved by isolation. Of particular note is a very large Beech tree with a large opening down the entire trunk that offered enough space for me to stand inside, now called the Tree of Life. Not far away was a massive hole in the ground, full of stone, unmistakably an old well. I had heard stories that there was an old homestead on the island, but after actually venturing around and actively looking for it, the island didn’t seem very deserted after all. It’s worth noting that there is a strange atmosphere out there, something in the air like a whisper offering a secret that no amount of listening will reveal; only a slight touch pushing you deeper into the woods in search of something that must be there, but you aren’t exactly sure what. Walking toward the main bulk of the land, there is a noticeable trench, which is an old road bed that stretches over a mile across the entire island running southeast to northwest, creating a picture of what the island would have looked like before the Chattahoochee was dammed in 1956. Upon moving inland, trash which is common to see along all the banks of Lake Lanier became increasingly sparser and older in age. Beer bottles gave way to mason jars, not terribly uncommon to find in the woods of North Georgia, and then deep in the woods there is a bright glimmer that shone like a beacon on a lighthouse saying “there is something over here.”Moving toward the light, rocks were no longer scattered, but stacked and joined by mortar, obviously walls of a building that stood no more. The homestead was real and I had found it, and the legend and myth of a Treasure Island that childhood me has dreamt of was real and staring back at me.
I was standing where someone used to sit on their front porch, maybe in a rocking chair with a shotgun sitting up against the door frame, who knows. My mind was racing to try and picture what my eyes would be seeing 60 years earlier in this same spot. Maybe 50 yards away was still the bright shimmer of something that called me over. It was a difficult crawl under a wall of thorns and poison ivy to get to, but the risk yielded one of the greatest rewards and an experience that I will tell many others down the road. All around me were mason jars, bottles, glasses, and other household goods that graced an early 20th century kitchen. I realized that I was standing where a family used to cook meals and jar their own food, and they must have abandoned all of these items when they were relocated for the creation of Lake Sidney Lanier. Many were broken, but I came home with about 8 marked Mason Jars dating between 1919 and 1938 which are now clean again after decades. Only once had I felt more like Indiana Jones, but this experience instantly made all of the mystery and legend of The Island that I created as a young boy a reality, and there are so many places like this left to explore both near and far that will grant similar experiences for others. All it takes is the eyes and heart for adventure, and a walk.
Shirt Sizing Guide
|Length (inches)||28||29 ¼||30 ¼||31 ¼||32 ½||33 ½|
|Waist (inches)||25 ¼||26 ¾||28 ⅜||31 ½||34 ⅝|
|Hips (inches)||35 ⅜||37||38 ⅝||41 ¾||44 ⅞|