The towering cypress on the left occupies an eight foot diameter half a mile from Pages Dairy Road in Yulee, Florida. The oldest known cypress in the world (burned in 2012 by a meth addict) was seventeen and a half feet wide and approximately 2000 years old, so this conifer has at least a millennium on any awkward biped rowing below its baobesque branches.
New growth hints at futility.
Aquatic wanderlust began developing around puberty. Oblivious to the primordial black water flow beneath Highway A1A, my friends and I started crossing the bridge over Lofton Creek in 1992. A couple older brothers with cars finally convinced us devout skaters to give surfing a go, so whenever waves broke on Amelia Island, we loaded up the surfboards at the crack of dawn and piled into Bill’s orange VW Vanagon (with the pop top camper), or Gabe’s brown Buick Station Wagon (with our favorite rear-facing “way back seat” to make faces at cars behind us). Fugazi’s “Repeater,” or Bob Marley’s “Legend” blared from open windows while we envisioned rare perfect waves at the end of the familiar 40 minute car ride. Bleary-eyed, we noticed little else along the way.
Landlocked in North Georgia now for almost two decades, I surf only a few times a year, but kayaking has become the surrogate sport. After a few hundred trips across the same bridge, Lofton Creek (not the Atlantic) was the first destination when I migrated home to the coast this summer.
Paddlers slip boats down the Melton Nelson Boat Ramp into a prehistoric world (more so once out of earshot from highway traffic). Many of the haunting spanish moss draped cypress trees that give the tannic water its signature sweet tea hue are over 500 years old. Paddle north to meet a cypress that’s been growing for over 2,000 years.
Viridescent pickerelweed clumps subtly announce narrow entrances to Lofton Creek’s labyrinth (where wayward paddlers easily get lost).
A sole cardinal flower rises above pickerelweed.
Southbound, the hardwood forest gradually transitions into salt marsh soundclouds.
Canopy submits to blue sky.