Chris and I are on our 20th anniversary trip. We are at Jekyll Island, Georgia, an island with a dark and mysterious past, many dark and mysterious rainforest-like trails, and going with the theme, everything seems to have a delightful dark side.
This island was owned in its entirety in the early 1900’s by a Millionaire’s Club with members with names like Rockefeller, Pulitzer, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and the original J.P. Morgan. Presidents, senators, and cabinet members were entertained here. Finance law was written here. And that was long after all the Spanish treasure hunters and French cotton plantations left. So yeah, there’s a lot of murky history here.
Our fancy hotel has windy ghost whistles that go through the ceilings in the hallway.
The gorgeous interior wetland trails will immediately attempt to give you Triple Malaria by sending 57 mosquitoes to bite you simultaneously.
The alligators have a hand-shaped hole inside of them, and they cannot wait to fill it.
The first thing to note is that this particular moment was never supposed to be an adventure.
We biked 13.5 miles earlier that day, went down some creepy trails that had signs saying not to go down them, found graffiti-covered amphitheater ruins, an alligator, and a sad white horse next to a Cinderella carriage in a barn.
But this was not that.
This was supposed to be a casual after-dinner walk. We had on our dinner clothes and we’d already had showers and we were just enjoying the early evening, wasting time until sunset.
An Instagram follower had suggested Shark Tooth Beach. It’s on the back river side of the island, behind the water park, down a winding trail. It’s supposed to be a place you can find shark teeth. That sounded fun. Casual. A nice stroll down a beach in the late afternoon.
The trail to the beach was much longer than I expected. We were both wearing flip flops so not great for a long walk. But we’re sturdy enough people for a mile hike in flip flops.
We got out to the beach and it was incredibly covered in shells. COVERED. A good number of people were out there staring very determinedly, and I felt immediately like I had no idea what I was doing. I could feel the “you’re such a newb” vibes coming off the other people and in my general direction.
But I kicked around some shells and stared as if I knew what I was looking for.
We walked on down the beach away from the other people. A few curves in the beach later, we came upon a very chatty kid who breathlessly informed us that shark teeth were black and there’s also a shark tooth island and he was supposed to get to go to it today but the waves were too high but he found two teeth here yesterday and his mom found one tooth today and someone found a mastodon tooth on the island yesterday and he really hopes he gets to go to the island soon. Then he ran down the beach and found his mom and brought back her jar with a shark tooth in it so we could know what we were looking for then he ran back to her and ran back to us with her cell phone to show us the picture of the much bigger shark teeth he’d found yesterday.
It was a lot. But it was helpful info. Seeing as how our imbecilic selves had totally been looking for pearly white teeth.
We got about half a mile down the beach. We hadn’t seen anyone for quite some time. There were insane numbers of sharp shells everywhere, but we were having no luck finding shark teeth. We kept turning corners and going farther and farther away from the trail that led us there.
I’d just said to Chris “We may just not be talented at finding shark teeth” … when I looked down and saw my first shark tooth.
I picked it up and studied its serrated edges and gummy root. It was definitely a tooth. And it was so black and shiny and lovely. I decided that I must have found the perfect place for shark teeth and squatted and scoured. I was right. I found SIX MORE shark teeth right in that area – and zero teeth on down the beach as I hurried to catch up with Chris who kept going deeper and deeper down the beach into no-man’s-land.
He somehow got across an inlet waterway that I wasn’t willing to jump over for fear of losing my grip on my seven perfect beautiful shark teeth, so I yelled to him that I was turning around.
Chris: So, I had it in my head that most people, having walked a mile on a dirt trail from the road to get to Shark Tooth Beach, would not go very far to find the toothy treasures, so my thought was that the further we went, the more teeth we might find. Surely 99% of the visitors to this hidden place wouldn’t want to jump an inlet to keep looking, so THAT’s where I would find the mother load of teeth. I found zero.
I went back to my shark tooth honey hole and poked around a bit more. He finally joined me and we headed back down the beach toward the trail that led us here.
But we’d been gone for a while.
And everyone else had already smartly left.
Because the tide was coming in and we didn’t realize it until we realized it. We came up to a turn in the trail and there was very little beach left, and what was left was super thick sludge mud. I’d shlopped down into some of it, about half-calf deep, the first time I passed it and it was very unpleasant and thick and disgusting and hard to get out of and then wash off. Since then I’d been avoiding the soft mud. But at this turn, it was the river, the thick mud, and then the very thick reeds that appeared to also be in the nasty thick mud.
So I took a step as I was warning Chris.
“The mud is really thick here! It grabs your —” SCHLOOOOP “Ack!! Help!! Gross! Ugh! I’m going deeper!!” SCHLOP SHOOP SCLIP
My foot sunk halfway up my calf. I tried to put my other foot somewhere thicker, but that foot went down as well. I started pulling at my feet but I sank deeper and deeper. Then I was up to my knees and the mud had a sucking GRIP on my feet as tight a baby pig not willing to give up the teat to an annoying sibling.
Everytime I wiggled I sank farther.
Chris, seeing my situation and jumping into Hero Husband Mode, said “Don’t panic! I’m coming!”
Chris: In my defense, the Wife In Distress is a solid cultural construct, and I really had no defensible masculine choice but to charge into this situation without thinking it through.
And then there was an even louder Shlurrrrrp.
He didn’t weigh the cost of saving his wife, nor did he stop to strategize how he might pull me out without compromising himself. Now he was up to his knees and I was up to my knees and I had a handful of shark teeth and he had my brand new backpack with my brand new camera on his back and I was really beginning to panic (mostly about my camera.)
We struggled and shlurrped in farther. I put my shark teeth in my back pocket and managed to pull out one of my feet, but only to put it down again and create a new shlurrping foothole. Chris did the same. He reached his arm in, trying to free his foot, and now he just had a MudMan Arm to go with his MudMan feet.
I pushed up on his shoulder, but there was no way the mud would let go of both my feet and my flip flops. NO WAY.
I also didn’t see how I could walk back down the razor-sharp-shelled beach without shoes, but if I couldn’t escape the mud, what could I do?
So I pushed up on his shoulder, pulled my foot out of my flip-flop, and sacrificed my first shoe. I tried to reach quickly into my mudhole to grab it, but as soon as my foot left, the hole closed around my shoe, taking it to the depths as its first payment for my stolen shark teeth. We were living in an Indiana Jones world and this beach wasn’t freeing me without trying to kill me first.
My remaining leg was deeper than the first. Even if I paid the hole with my other shoe, I wasn’t sure if I could get out. My first loosed foot was now back to being ankle deep, but it could sink again any minute. At this point I was directing a naughty word toward the mud as I tried to figure out how to escape my imprisonment.
So I sacrificed the second flip flop. And again, the living mud shlurrped it up immediately, taking my flip flop to wherever it keeps its gold coins and pirate bones.
Meanwhile, Chris was still stuck up to his knees, muddy up to his elbow, and showing no signs of escape. I turned to help him, but he said “Just get out! I’ll be okay!”
Chris: Again, stuck with 4 limbs in the schlurp and not knowing if I was about to sink beneath the quicksand mud and meet my demise, the only available testosteroney choice is to tell your wife to save herself.
So I painfully hobbled and shlooped out of the mud and onto as many oyster shells as I could, hoping they’d hold me up. Which they eventually did. Chris shlooorped one foot out, but wasn’t willing to lose his Diva Flip Flops. He somehow managed to go in after it, and pulled it from the bottom. Then did the same with his second foot.
Chris: So, y’know that scene in Temple of Doom where Indy grabs his hat under the closing door? Oofos are really comfortable flip flops. I timed it just right both times to pull my foot out and thrust my hand into the 20″ hole to pull out my Oofo.
Once I knew he would live and he was out of the worst of it, I came to my senses enough to take a video of him schlurpping his fourth and fifth steps out of the people-eating mud pit. This is, keep in mind, when he was completely out of danger and into MUCH shallower, less lethal, new baby mud…
To imagine the deepest mud, watch the video again and look behind him at the narrow strip of churned mud right behind him.
Chris: I’m still cleansing the shoes and my toenails and fingernails. This mud is a fascinating scientific substance. It is at once slippery, squishy, sticky, thick, greasy, clingy, sucky, and yet does not stink. It has no odor. Terrifying.
And here I am (post first and second cleansing) trying not to die or need a tetanus shot while walking half a mile of razor covered beach – because this beach wasn’t letting me go without paying an even steeper price.
Thankfully, our battle with the mud occurred BETWEEN two party boats full of people driving right by. Although those boozy, happy, boating tourists would have loved the show of two people being sucked to the bottom of a river for taking its shark teeth. Who knows – maybe that’s one of the advertised attractions.
And … my precious shark teeth.
When we originally set out on our stroll, I said “Noah would love it if we brought him shark teeth that we found.” But these babies are my hard. Fought. Teeth. They will not be given to a child. They will be framed and kept forever.
A friend informed me of the existence in this part of the world of Pluff Mud, which is what this murderous mud apparently was. This site has a great description of it:
The mud can be deceiving and even dangerous. In a single step, ankle deep can become mid thigh. Like quicksand, pluff mud draws you deeper the more you struggle. Below its surface are razor sharp bivalves that will slice bare feet, but heaven help he who enters with shoes. Pluff mud has the sucking power of a Dyson. You can’t call yourself a local until you sacrifice a flip flop or two at the gooey alter.
So I think that officially makes us locals.