Fort Pulaski

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Fort Pulaski
Stirs the Senses

by Camille Waller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The woods carry the potent scent of plant life down the trail, cutting though the trees until it meets the man-made canal lined with sour raspberries. Across the path, clumps of tiny red flowers layered atop a bed of vibrant orange ones color the ground in patches. The grass eventually gives way to seashells and the shore of a brown-sanded beach. The water of the Savannah River pushes itself across the sand in small, short waves, keeping it moist.

Fifteen miles east of Savannah, on the way to Tybee Island, lies the Civil War's Fort Pulaski that was completed in 1847. After its battle in 1862, it continues to look over the Savannah River to this day, welcoming visitors with a nature trail to enjoy before learning its history.

A tiny yellow and gray hermit crab creeps around a small brown and black bird that sits almost motionless in a puddle of muddy water, staring straight ahead with eyes connected by a band of white feathers. It reminds me of a small sparrow I saw standing just as still in the middle of the sidewalk on Broughton Street one morning. But unlike that bird, this one doesn't fly away, not even when moved from the puddle.

Bright green sea lettuce clings to a rock as the water splashes over it. High arched footprints pattern the sand just to be filled with water and eventually smoothed away. A wall of white and tan shells stands at the edge of the beach behind blocks of fibrous gray clay and in front of a line of trees. The clay in the wet sand sucks my feet down with each step. I walk quickly and lightly to avoid contributing a foot sized crater to the landscape while I'm wearing my good gym shoes. The blocks of clay grow larger and more numerous; long blades of green grass sprout up above them while root systems dangle beneath.

A winged insect writhes as it falls off a gray aquarium-sized archway splashed with dull metallic color. I kneel and poke at its solid form, trying to determine whether it is natural or man made.

The mud swallows my feet up faster and it is time to leave the beach. Crabs scatter as I make my way through the final stretch of mud and back to the solid path.

I look ahead past Battery Hawbright, to a forest of sugarberry, wax myrtle, and red bay and cedar trees; toward the visitor's center and Fort Pulaski; toward the tour guide in the blue Union uniform and the class of shrieking girls and boys who haven't gotten their voices yet; away from the cool mud, the calming sound of water washing over sand, and the smell of salt that flavors the air less and less with each step away from the beach.

A little alligator floats around in the moat surrounding the fort and a group of older tourists pour in for the guided tour. Park Ranger Calhoun stands between two tall trees in his blue slacks and red plaid shirt, his navy blue, gold-buttoned Union jacket and hat and shiny-rimmed sunglasses not quite matching. He addresses the gray-haired audience filling the benches in front of him with various facts about the fort and its battle.

The sound of the giant American flag waving overhead beats my eardrums while I take note that the red brick fort's foundation is made of wood and preserved by the salty water running through the area.

The sunshine lights and warms all but the dark, cool spiral stairways and windowless rooms built into the fort and people get lost in the dimly lit system of tunnels out front, pointing at and following the young gator when they finally emerge while chaperones yell at a class of teen-aged children to return to the bus.

As the crowd dissipates, I think of the empty beach, the land right across its waters, the cute little crabs rushing here and there with their sideways walks, the carnivorous clay sand that tries to eat feet, the scented woods that led me to it all, and I find myself wanting to go take that little archway as a souvenir for my turtle.

Fort Pulaski is open almost year-round from 9 am to 5 pm, and until 7 pm in the summer. The entrance fee is $3 for anyone older than 15 and there are group rates offered for groups of tourists. A park pass can be purchased for 10 dollars which will waive the entrance fee for all passengers in a non-commercial vehicle. Best of all, Fort Pulaski welcomes all leashed, well-behaved pets, providing a day of fun for the entire family.

Questions? Comments? Editor@SavannahBest.com

photos by Heather Young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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