With weather that had been cold and overcast for the past week, I was excited on Tuesday to see Wednesday’s forecast looking so good. I lost no time in putting a paddle trip together. With the hundreds of miles of paddling opportunities in Eastern North Carolina, I had a lot of options to choose from. I decided on Blounts Creek, a 14 mile long waterway in Beaufort county. I recruited Morgan, one of my college friends also interning in Washington, to come with me. We left Washington at 1 o’clock Wednesday and reached Cotton Patch Landing, our put in, shortly thereafter.
The sky was blue and the sun was shining on the rippling face of the water as we slid in our kayaks and began paddling away from the landing. The first stretch of the creek is fairly wide, with marshy peninsulas and a large stretch of open water. Several fishing boats were anchored in this area with fishermen lounging on the decks, rod in hand. We soon rounded the first bend in the creek, leaving the fishermen behind as the water became shallower. The banks of the creek were lined with a vast array of vegetation – cypress trees lined the banks, their roots stretching out and submerging in the water. Innumerable shrubs and small trees wove themselves together, creating a wall of foliage on either side of us. We approached a partly submerged log in the water in front of us, and saw several turtles warming themselves in the sun on the elevated portion of the log. The colored striped on their outstretched neck caught our eyes, some yellow, and some orange. All but the largest retreated into the water as we approached. We slowly floated by, only feet from the turtle, trying not to move and expecting it to drop into the water at any moment. It stared us down as we passed, but maintained its ownership of the log.
After rounding another bend in the creek, my eyes were drawn upward to a tree overhanging the water. The sun’s rays reflected off its yellow leaves and gave them a shimmering gold appearance. As we passed under this tree I began to notice young bamboo stalks growing along the sides of the river, the deeper green of their leaves contrasting with the rest of the undergrowth. We suddenly realized that the creek had become much narrower at this point. It had been getting smaller so slowly that we had barely noticed it. We were paddling one in front of the other now, there not being enough space to paddle side by side. Two downed trees that had fallen in the water were slowly getting nearer ahead of us. For a moment it looked like this would be as far as we would go, but I noticed a small almost concealed pathway right next to the bank that was unobstructed, save for a few branches under the water. We managed to get by the trees following this path and resumed our trek up the creek. It was only a few more minutes before our path was again blocked by a downed tree. This time, there was no pathway around, so we turned and started paddling downstream.
As we paddled back down the creek, everything was so serene it instilled a sense of peace in me. The world seemed to be resting, the silence broken only by the sounds of the insects chirping, a distant bird calling, or the wind rustling through the trees along the banks of the creek. The wind blew across the water in front of me, making ripples along the surface and letting me almost see the breeze as it passed. Since we were moving downstream now, we stopped paddling for a while and drifted with the current. A large tree towered above the rest of the tree line on the shore in front of us. Spanish moss hung from its otherwise bare branches, gently waving in the wind as we paddled by it. As we neared the wide open part of the creek where we started, my attention was drawn to the cypress knees in the shallow water near the bank. The particular group that caught my attention had one that almost looked as if it had been carved. I paddled nearer and thought I could distinguish a perched eagle carved at the top. I concluded after a few more moments that it hadn’t been carved, but I still marveled at how closely it resembled an eagle. Nature is full of natural art, and this was certainly no exception.
The large area of the creek now stretched out before us, the sun’s rays piercing through a dark cloud in the distance. On our right a tiny island appeared that was only a few feet in diameter, and elevated a few feet out of the water. A small tree was the only thing growing on the island. I stopped to look at this curious sight for a moment before paddling onward. A towering tree stood alone on an island in the distance, a large osprey nest nestled in a crook of its branches. Over a dozen hawks were circling over an area in the marsh as we approached Cotton Patch Landing. We watched the birds soaring overhead and drifted the rest of the way until we reached the dock. I would have given a lot at that point to be allowed a few more hours of daylight to paddle the creek and continue exploring the beauties of the creek. It was approaching 5 o’clock however, so we reluctantly got out of our kayaks and strapped them onto the top of the car. Every time I end a paddle, I find myself wanting to go on another trip right away. This trip was no different, and I look forward to continuing my exploration of the many wonders that the waters of Eastern North Carolina are so rich in.