It has been exactly a month since I started my internship with the PTRF, and today marks the first of my kayaking escapades on the Tar-Pamlico River Water Trail. I was privileged to be accompanied by Guy Blackwell and Andy Anderson, two PTRF volunteers very familiar with the Tar-Pamlico waterways. We all met at 9:30 in the morning at Mason’s Landing, (http://tinyurl.com/omnk5ow) a river access point near the mouth of Tranters Creek, one of the Tar River’s tributaries (The link above shows a map of the location of Mason’s Landing, but is called Clarks Neck Road Access). The sky was a little overcast and there was a slight chill in the air as we set out down the winding waterway of Tranters Creek towards the Tar River. Cypress trees lined the bank to the left, each one surrounded by dozens of cypress knees stretching their necks out of the water. A small sailboat rested at anchor to our right as we rounded a bend, bringing the Tar River into view ahead.
On our merging with the Tar River, we turned and began the four mile paddle upstream to the Cypress Hideaway camping platform. The river was placid, with a slight breeze blowing at our backs. The currents on this part of the Tar River are primarily wind driven, so this breeze would usually have altered the current to aid our upstream paddle. However, recent heavy rains upstream had increased the water level so that there was a slight downstream current. Despite this, we moved upstream with ease, meandering past the wooded swamps East Carolina is known for. Upturned trees dotted the shoreline, the intricate weavings of their exposed roots resembling works of art. The occasional motor boat passed by, leaving small wakes that gently rocked our kayaks in the water. The sky had cleared to a beautiful blue at this point, and we continued upriver with the suns warming rays at our backs.
At length, the Cypress Hideaway platform came into view to the right, on the far side of a wide stretch of the river. It was nestled behind a row of trees on the shore, its structured form contrasting with the trees and underbrush surrounding it. If it were summertime, the leaves on the trees would likely have hidden it from view. We traversed across the river and docked our kayaks in a tiny inlet, getting out to inspect the platform and stretch our legs for a few minutes. On resuming the water, we merged with the almost imperceptible downstream current and paddled along with it. We navigated under low hanging cypress branches stretching out over the water. Each branch was adorned with Spanish moss, resembling fingers reaching towards the water.
A small island appeared to the left. Two small makeshift docks reached out from its banks and a rope swing hung over the water. It is a favorite spot for boaters to spend a summer afternoon fishing and hanging out with friends. I paddled around the far side of the island and passed a fishing boat lazily drifting off the island’s shore. Every so often a fish could be seen leaping out of the water, and hawks drifted lightly on the breeze overhead. The sheer beauty and serenity of everything surrounding me was striking. The sun warmed me as I drifted downstream, and I could think of nothing better than staying on the water all afternoon. All too soon however, Mason’s Landing appeared in front of us. The kayaks were quickly loaded on their trailer, and the trip was over. But this was only the first of many trips, and something tells me that even greater ventures lie in wait for me in the future on the beautiful Tar-Pamlico River.