My husband placed a small glass of orange juice and a cup of hot tea on the breakfast table. "Skies are clear. Where do you want to go?"
It was Kel's day off, and we'd originally planned to hike the River Canal Trail in Roanoke Rapids, but after checking the brochure, I decided it was a bit too urban for me. Smoke from the wildfire raging on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula just east of us had blanketed the area, forcing us to stay indoors for several days. I was one degree shy of Cabin Fever, and I needed to get out. And a town wasn't out enough for me.
"Not sure," I said. "Let me look."
I padded across the hardwood floor to the bookcase located near the front door and slipped exploring north carolina's natural areas from its assigned slot. This book has been an asset in the past, but it failed miserably on our last outing. Though it claimed to cover parks, nature preserves and hiking trails in North Carolina, the author omitted Medoc Mountain State Park. A grievous error, we decided after visiting the place.
I sat beside Kelley at the table and opened the book. I had a good idea of which section to search, after all, east was out because of the fire. The Mountains and Outer Banks were too far and the Piedmont too flat. South--noted Carolina Bay, Lake Waccamaw in particular--was an option, but north was the most likely candidate because the rolling hills and leafy green-treed landscape remind us of the mountains.
And we love the mountains.
Thanks to the small maps located at the front of each section, I found the chapter I wanted within seconds, and I took a sip of juice as my finger drifted down the listings for the Lower Roanoke River Floodplain.
Since we've explored only one destination—Medoc Mountain State Park—in (or maybe it's near) the LRRF, I know very little about its cities, natural communities, and topography beside what I read at the park's Visitors Center. To prepare myself, I skimmed the first page of the LRRF introduction in exploring. From it, I learned the floodplain is predominantly a brownwater ecosystem. I knew from previous research, at least I was fairly certain, that meant the river basin originated somewhere other than the coastal plains, and that sediment made the water appear brown.
The map showed three areas designated as Wildlife Refuges, and since we're really fond of those—when they're not on fire—I flipped to page 113 and read about the Roanoke River NWR. My attention drifted after a few lines, so I finished off my juice, turned the page and saw WINDSOR WETLANDS BOARDWALK ON THE CASHIE RIVER.
That caught my attention. I scanned the paragraph and saw words like "boardwalk through swamp forest", "interpretive", "blackwater stream…joins…Roanoke River…Albemarle Sound". Then I saw a line explaining the difference between blackwater and brownwater:
Blackwater differs from brownwater…in that their headwaters are located wholly in the coastal plains. They generally carry much less sediment than brownwater rivers, and are more acidic.1Go me. I'm learning!
I read on and saw something about a cypress gum swamp. That sealed the deal. Blackwater stream in a cypress gum swamp in an area known for its rolling hills? A veritable dream destination.
I drank my now cool hot-tea. A half hour later, I tied the shoelaces of my hiking shoes and we were off.
Ten minutes later, we drove into the thickest smoke we've seen thus far.
For Part Two, Click Here
1 exploring north carolina's natural areas, (The University of North Carolina Press, 2000) pg 114