Saturday, July 16, 2011

a week of marshland, bugs, and trail magic!

*this post is two days old

Oh, where to begin?!

En guard! These tough little guys have replaced the groundhogs and moles, living in the murky run-off ditches along the side of the road.

Well, first off...I crossed a 1m long bridge over the Neuse River out of New Bern and into Bridgeton. What a trip it was to be suspended high over the water for such length of time. The cars whooshing by hardly seemed to notice, but I sure did. A day later, I took the ferry 3m, again crossing the Neuse River. However once standing on the sandy shore on the other side, I found myself rubbing my eyes in disbelief. Not knowing that the Neuse River at this point is actually saltwater, I was surprised  to see dolphins diving and jellyfish swimming floating by carried by on little waves, a day later when I took the ferry 3m, again crossing the Neuse River.

Bridge over the Neuse River, connecting New Bern and Bridgeton.

The first of 3 ferry rides- this time en route to the Croatan
shore of Neuse River inside the Croatan National Forest

After taking this ferry, I entered the Croatan National Forest. I hiked on trail- so grateful - 25miles along beach, through pure stands of Long Leaf Pine, between thickets of blueberry bushes, and underneath enormous willow oaks and loblolly bay that speckled the trail white with its fallen petals. This area is considered a pocosin, or a place that periodically floods and is often very marshy. However with the severe drought, though there was an extensive network of plank walkways through the woods, much of the ground underneath was bone were the wells which I was supposed to depend on along the way for water (I don't suggest drinking swamp water but ya know, it does in a pinch, especially if you add some organic apple juice mix). It was a thrill to again be forced to stop every so many feet to examine a plant - so many new faces!

Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra alnifolia)

Umbellate Water Pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata)

Crested Yellow Orchis (Habenaria cristata)

Common Pipewort (Ericaulon septangulare)

boardwalks through dry marshland in Croatan Nat'l Forest

However, as you may have inferred from the water situation, the Croatan was definitely a challenge. With the sand, the abundance of little red ants that like to swarm your foodbag, backpack, and tent while you're sleeping, as well as the mosquitoes with 1/4"long stingers, sand ticks and every other kind of tick imaginable, and ground too hard to push tent stakes into...I felt like a fish out of water...or rather a hiker thrust from the mountains and into a strange new land. Check out my savvy improvised tent set-up inside this shelter (done in the wee hours with only a headlamp and some twine I found laying around - I could no longer take sweltering in my sleeping bag to avoid the nighttime bugs - once inside I was in bliss land- another shining moment)

A desperate maneuver to avoid the bugs while sleeping in the Copperhead Landing Shelter in the Croatan.

However to reward my efforts, I then met up with my friend Diane again and even took a day off! Diane picked me up just as I entered Bettie and we spent the night at her daughter, Jenna's house in Morehead City. I had the opportunity to meet some splendid yoga teachers who teach in Beaufort as well as take a class myself. It's only been 2 months! We dined at a lovely restaurant called Calypso and another called the IceHouse in Swansboro. We stayed up late into the night gabbing and laughing - so necessary - and I got a grand tour of several small port towns that just begged me to stay longer and lounge waterside at their cafes. Thank you Di and Jenna and Tom!!

I would also like to thank the man who offered his bodyguard services that I met in the family restaurant at Zingo's gas station. I know who to call should anyone give me any beef! More thanks to yet another church, the Woodville Baptist Church - you made a weary traveler feel welcome and gave her a safe place to rest - so much appreciated.

After my day was time to hike on. Luckily the temps have cooled to the 80's instead of the 100's and its been a trip to watch the scenery drastically change from farmland to expansive marsh, boating docks, and roads running waterside. The wind seems to always be blowing and on it comes birdcalls that make me giddy at their strangeness.

roadside beach
roadside marsh
marsh grasses that stretch on as far as the eye can see
And lastly, thank you to Mack and the girls at Davis Provisions in the community of Davis for providing me a lovely porch on which to do some blogging as well as delicious coffee and pastries. Mack even gave me a "mater" for my travels from his fruitful garden beside the shop!

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