A decade ago my old friend Michael Gowen wrote this article for another publication I managed. Since Gowen will periodically be contributing new articles for Snake Nation Press in the future this piece serves as an appropriate introduction. Gowen, a proprietor of Southeast Adventure Outfitters also plays an integral role in the new St. Simons Island venue Village Creek Landing. He also operates as caretaker of Quarantine Island, which you can read about our recent visit to the island here. He’s an outdoorsman of the highest-order. Welcome, Captain Gowen! –James Calemine
By Michael Gowen
I’m constantly reminded of my good fortune at having been raised in coastal Georgia. Growing up here many can’t wait to leave but soon realize how absolutely beautiful it is here and strive to return. The usual scenario: throughout high school one has dreams to get away, then off to college in Athens, Statesboro, Valdosta, or Atlanta. After college many relocate to Atlanta or elsewhere, start families and have careers.
At some time during this phase a realization occurs, “I miss and love the coast”. Each year a few find a way to return. I did the same and often say it takes going elsewhere to appreciate where you are from. The luck is being from a place as enchanting as the coast of Georgia. Though St. Simons can be busy, in minutes you can be in a creek or on a nearby island that is the same as when the Guale Indians were here. The wildlife in and above the waters is not as prolific as back then, but it is still an amazingly fertile ecosystem. I joke that if the water was clear around here no one would get in it. It’s seems hard to believe that you can have hundreds of people in the ocean and very few ever find the hundreds of crabs, stingrays, various whelks, jellyfish, and yes, sharks that are abundant in the same area.
If you pull a seine net off the beach these creatures are easily revealed. That’s a big part of what appeals to me about here: you never know what you might see. In a day of fishing it’s not unusual to catch 10 different kinds of fish, see dolphins, turtles, dozens of different bird species and who knows what else. I think that element of uncertainty and surprise keeps it interesting. In fact I don’t think it’s possible to not see something unique on any given day on the coast.
Some days it might only be a special piece of driftwood or a blimp heading down the coast, but on another you might spot right whales off the coast or be encouraged to touch a funny box shaped fish between the eyes only to be shocked that it actually did shock you. With a couple thousand miles of tidal creeks, hundreds of marsh hammocks, many undeveloped islands and beaches, you could go somewhere different everyday and never see it all. We have a huge trail system here; it’s just all wet. So I think it’s a requirement to get in or on something that floats to get the most from our time in the Golden Isles of Georgia.
Powerboats, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, standup boards, skylights and styrofoam blocks, piles of marsh wrack (from my youth), whatever works. I encourage everyone to find a way to float while here and have had the opportunity to make a career of enabling folks to do so.
I guess it was a fortuitous fate that had me raised by parents that exposed me to the wonders of the coast (my dna has been passed through many generations of gnats) and encouraged me to do the things I loved. Little did I know at the time it was job training. If you’re ever down this way I’d love to share….
(All Photographs by Michael Gowen)