Cruising on Last Dance

This blog archives the adventures of Glen and Jill Moore and provides a means of communication for friends and family. Exploration and adventure have been synonymous with boats and water for centuries. The joy of adventures shared while exploring new places and meeting new people has built a strong bond for Glen and Jill. Last Dance is the platform for the exploration.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine, 354 - 430

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910

"There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats." The Wind in the Willows, 1908, Kenneth Grahame, 1859 - 1932

"I've never believed speed and ease are conductive to living fully, becoming aware, or deepening memory, a tripod of urges to stabilize and lend meaning to life." River Horse: a log book of a boat across America, 1999, William Least Heat-Moon,1939 -

The Great Loop -- The current adventure is a circumnavigation of the Eastern United States, cruising north up the east coast through New York into Canada, across the Great Lakes to Chicago, navigating multiple river systems south to Mobile, along the Gulf coast to the Florida Keys and back to St. Augustine. This trip by boat is commonly referred to as the Great Loop. Progress and current location are indicated by the red line on the map to the right. It was titled the Traceless Path in recognition of a German sailor we met in St. Augustine who published booklets of his travels with hand-drawn, detailed maps describing his travels across the water as the Traceless Path.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Dismal Swamp

Something entitled “dismal” doesn’t produce images of beauty.  And, many do not think of a swamp as a place to explore.  But, the Dismal Swamp is not what its name might imply.  George Washington called it “a glorious paradise.”

There is much history of our country and commerce contained in the man-made canal that transits the Dismal Swamp.   In 1763, George Washington visited the Swamp and suggested draining it for logging purposes and digging a north-south canal through it to connect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina, to create a shorter and safer route for commerce.  The 22 mile-long canal was dug by hand over a period of 12 years and is the oldest active canal in the U.S. 

Within the swamp lies Lake Drummond, the largest of only 2 natural lakes in the State of Virginia.   Scientists believe the oval lake may have been formed by the impact of a meteorite and Native American legends mention the “Firebird” in reference to the lake’s origin.  The lake’s water is unusually pure and the amber tannic acid from tree bark prohibits the growth of bacteria.  Long before refrigeration, these waters were a prized commodity on sailing ships because the water would stay fresh for a long time.

Today, 14,000 acres are protected by the North Carolina State Park and 111,000 acres by the Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge, with access available by boat, and hiking trails.  (Reference:  North Carolina State Parks.)

Learning the history of our country and experiencing the lands and waters where this history took place is one of the benefits of cruising the waterways.  Much of the United States commerce and development were closely tied to water transportation, so water travel brings you close to history.

The Pasquotank River is the southern connector to the Dismal Swamp.  The southern section of this river is so wide that it might better be described as a bay.  At Elizabeth City, located near the middle of the river, the Pasquotank becomes a narrow, winding, wild river.   The Elizabeth City drawbridge does not open between 7:00 am and 8:30 am, so an early departure from the dock was required.  Jill captured an interesting image of the bridge opening for us.

Not far upriver from Elizabeth City, all traces of human interaction with the land end.  The river becomes a winding water trail through nature.

A Bald Eagle guided us along the Pasquotank, as we traveled north.  It would perch on a branch until we approached, then fly down the river about 20 feet off the water.   Flying much faster than Last Dance travels through the water, it would get far ahead, then perch on another tree branch.  Again, when we approached, the eagle would launch from the tree, down toward the water and fly along the river in front of us.  This continued for a number of miles.

The Dismal Swamp Canal begins with a lock to raise the boats eight feet, to the water level of the swamp.  Not far into the canal, we came upon a pair of Canadian Geese.  While not much guidance should be needed to navigate this straight canal, the geese decided to continue the guidance that the Bald Eagle had done so well on the Pasquotank.  They would fly down the canal, only a couple feet off the water, then land in the water when they were about a quarter mile away.  When we approached, they would perform a water take off and fly along the canal in front of us.

After the Geese tired of this game and flew over the trees into a field, we came upon a Great Blue Heron.  He took up the job of leading us along the canal.  At least a dozen times, he would fly along the canal surface, gain some distance ahead, then land on a tree as if waiting for us to catch up.  When we did, he would repeat the leap from the tree and fly along the top of the water leading us forward.

History, beauty, nature, flora and fauna all while on a peaceful piece of water.  Transiting the Dismal Swamp Canal is all that and more.

No comments: