Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge June 2011

hiking trail in the Great Dismal Swamp
I love the light and shadows here

Photo Gallery

I was hoping to hike Uwharrie National Forest in North Caroline but that plan got scrapped when my directions broke down and I couldn’t find any trails.  I searched for almost two hours before I finally gave up and just headed to Raleigh.  While in Raleigh I did a search for parks between Raleigh and Portsmouth founding the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk, about thirty minutes from Portsmouth.  A little research revealed the land was donated from a paper company, Union Camp Corporation, to “the American people forever.”  I don’t know why they donated over 49k acres of land, but any time land is donated for the public domain, I am grateful.

The hike is only a few miles back and forth to a lake in the middle of the park and it took me just a few hours to finish it.  Even thought it is a straight shot from the parking lot to the lake I found many things to photograph.  I tried to get some shots of people enjoying the park and a few of the trail.  I just loved the cart path look and feel of the trail.  There were two gravel tracks with grass in the middle and either side.  When the light was just right, the grass was bright green and everything just popped.

two black bear cubs
the two cubs, up a tree

About halfway down the trail, I am just listening to nature, when I hear rustling of the leaves next to me.  I look up and across the canal to find two bear cubs scurrying up a tree.  I didn’t know it but I must have scared them and what I heard was the cubs climbing up the tree for safety.  The first think that went through my head was “Kick ass, bear cubs.”  My second thought was “Shit, bear cubs.”  I know that mother bears can be very protective of their cubs and I was only 25′ from them.  I quickly scanned the ground to see if the mother was near and I perked my ears to hear any rustling in the bushes.  I soon realized, to my relief, that the canal was between the bears and myself.  Not that she couldn’t swim, but I figured at best it would possible slow her down.

Realizing my opportunity was quickly slipping away, the danger of me being mauled a lot less, I quickly lifted my camera and started snapping shots of the bears in the tree.  The foliage was thick so it was hard to focus on the bears, but I did my best.  For a moment they both just grabbed the tree for dear life.  Eventually they looked down, probably toward their mother, who gave them the all clear to come down.  They shimmied down and disappeared into the woods.  I wish I hadn’t snuck up on them, I would have loved some shots of them just being bears, doing what bears do.  I was thankful for the pictures I did get and that I was not attacked.  My heart was racing the whole time, it was amazing.

No Hunting Zone
No Hunting

After my bear encounter the rest of the trail almost seemed boring.  I got to the lake which was calm with overcast clouds so it gave everything a dark.  I didn’t have access to a weather report so I was hoping that it was not going to rain at the show that night.  I had a lawn seat and I hate getting rained on in my old age.  I stayed for a while and took some pictures of the lake and surrounding area but needed to get to Portsmouth for the Phish show that night.

On such short notice it was a decent hike but with only a few things to see.  Running into the bear cubs certainly made it a memorable trip, but not much else.  There are other trails that wind through the forest so I might try one of them next time I am passing through town.

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