Recently I had the tremendous please to take Dennis Collette, Chris Hayden and James McLaren on a three day/two night kayaking adventure on the Roanoke River. As usual, I was nervous before this adventure began. Maybe that is because of the fact that I put so much emphasis on the small details of each adventure. I want to make this special for the guys. And did it turn out special.
The first evening on the river we stayed at the Williamston River Platform, just about a mile from downtown Williamston. This was a very nice shelter on the river and I would recommend this to anyone. The shelters and river platforms on the Roanoke River are operated by the Roanoke River Partners. You pay a modest fee to stay at these locations, but they are very nice and perfect for an overnight camping location while kayaking.
After dinner we were treated to a tour of Williamston and Fort Branch, by none other than our shuttle driver, Heber Coltrain, owner of Roanoke Outdoor Adventures. Fort Branch sits high up on the bluffs of the Roanoke River just outside of Williamston. This was a Civil War era fort that protected the upper reached of the Roanoke River. We learned that the fort was abandoned before the area was occupied by the Union Solders and the cannon were rolled down the bluff into the river to keep them out of the Union hands. What a fascinating evening. Heber toured us around the area and told us all kinds of stories about the local history. It was truly a nice treat.
The next day we spent kayaking to our next night campsite at Beaver Tail Lodge. We started on the Roanoke River and then went down what is known as the Devils Gut. As we paddled, you got a sense that we were there all along in this swampy wilderness. The sense or remoteness was great and if it were not for the occasional plane flying over, you would have believe we were hundreds of miles away from civilization. The trees were beautiful as they hung over the river and the river was swift in places. Occasionally we would catch sight of a white egret or a great blue heron.
We made it to our wonderful platform for the night. It was nestled in the back of a beautiful stand of bald cypress trees. The river was high and so the platforms had water all around them. It was a unique feeling to be camping up about 2 feet from the level of the swamp. But oh want an evening we had and the sunset was simply breath taking. The owls were out in full force, calling to one another. What a wonderful way to end the day of kayak.
The last morning was cool and after a nice warm cup of coffee and some fantastic pancakes, it time to begin our journey home and find out way out of the beautiful swamp. As we got ready to leave our platform, Chris, who had been reciting poetry each morning for us as be began, had one last poem to read to us. It was “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. For me, it was a perfect way to begin the last day of adventure. As Chris read this poem to the three of us that morning, I was reminded about how the wilderness adventures I have had as a teen had shaped me. The time I had spent exploring God’s Creation had changed me and helped shape me into the man I am today. Time in the wilderness has, as Kipling says in the opening line had helped me to “keep my head as those around me were losing theirs.” Thanks Chris for the reminder.
One last thing, after we got back from our adventure, our poet on this adventure wrote this poem. I want to share it with you.
If you’ve been stressed or tired or down
In thought or word or deed
A Mahanaim Adventure, friend,
Is what you chiefly need.
Launch your kayak on a wild, pure river—
A river that’s calling to you,
Calling you back to your childhood dreams:
“To thine own self be true.”
Let the gentle Spring-time breeze
Caress your worried brow,
As you glide through ancient forests clad
In beauty’s Eternal Now!
Behold the giant cypress breathes
“Lifting its arms to pray”
With Spanish Moss and Mistletoe
To bless you on your way.
The giant Snowy Egret glides
Weaving among the trees
With sunlight flashing off its wings
Your wondrous eyes to please.
Late afternoon you’re feeling tired,
Your arms they sweetly ache;
But jewel-fire’s dancing off the waves
To keep you full awake.
On a secluded river platform
‘Neath a toweringTupelotree
You pause to rest, to eat, to sleep
With a goodly company.
Softly the moon is rising now
Glimmering through the wood;
An owl is hooting hauntingly
The Heavenly haunt feels good!
Your sleep is long and sweet and deep,
You dreams with peace adorn.
A blessed and a wiser soul
You rise the morrow morn.
By Chris Hayden
Mahanaim Adventure provides guided kayaking, backpacking and camping adventures to families, group of individuals. We are based in the Wilmington NC area and provide these adventures, not just in the Cape Fear region, but all over the southeast United States. The next time you are looking for an kayaking adventure contact us.