Monday, May 19, 2014

Merchants Millpond (Gatesville, NC)

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I remember seeing photos of Evan Venditti's trip through a swamp years ago and just thinking "What? That's possible?"

For whatever reason, the idea of canoeing through a swamp seemed like something only possible in the everglades. Even then it seemed a little bit dicey!

So I called the man, got info on where and when to go, and reserved a campsite as soon as I could!

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Rebecca and I headed to the park on Monday morning, arriving around 3pm. The visitor center at the park was impressive. It featured exhibits and info about the area's wildlife and history.

We decided to explore Bennetts Creek since the campsites were further away than the ones within the millpond.

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After portaging our boat to the put-in, we entered what seemed to be another world. The water was a dark, cola color and the green pollen floating on top created an eerie indication of the creek's slow, meandering path. Along our trip down the creek we spotted turtles, birds, and even a snake slithering beside our canoe. In the distance we heard some intense thrashing in the brush, which we decided must have been the sound of one of the park's infamous alligators.

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The first sites we reached were on land, with a small dock at the shore. We surveyed the area before pressing on to our reserved site which lay just around the next bend. Once we arrived at our reserved site, we noticed the lack of a fire ring and dirt to stake our tent into, so we decided to paddle back to the earlier sites. Since we were visiting the park on a Monday, we were the only campers present and simply took our pick of our favorite site.

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We gathered wood, started a fire, and cooked our dinner before watching the sun set from our small dock.

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The next morning we paddled up river to the put-in and actually made better time than the day before. This probably had something to do with the knowledge that constant paddling was necessary to counteract the slow, but ever-present current.

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The trip was just what I'd hoped for. An unusual experience in a setting like no other. I'd suggest the trip to anyone with but one piece of advice - go to the park EARLY or LATE, but not in the middle of the summer season as the insects are notoriously abundant and aggressive.

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