Kayaking at Fort Fisher Basin

What is it about Fort Fisher that continues to draw me back to this place to kayak?  I am not quite sure, maybe it is the fact that it is easy for me to get to quickly.  Maybe it is the fact that I get a chance to enjoy the seclusion of the southern end of Fort Fisher State Park beach.  Maybe it is a chance to see so many different sea birds as I paddle along the rock wall, as I make my way over to Zeke’s Island.  I am not sure what it is that keeps drawing me over and over to this location to kayak, but I like it.

The explorers of the Fort Fisher Basin and Zeke's Island











At first glance, the basin area looks boring.  This may be due to the large open expanse of salt marsh and open water.  As you stand at the launch there at the Federal Point / Fort Fisher Wildlife Boat Ramp, you can see quite a ways away.  You can see far off islands and the beach access that are all popular stop over location for many folks.  You see this and wonder what is so special.  Then you get out on the water and all that begins to change.

Don’t be deceived by this area, the basin area can be deceivingly challenging place to kayak.  First you have to deal with the currents.  Many people forget this is a tidal area and the tides are always affecting this marsh.  If you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can have a very hard paddle on your hands.  Another factor that most people fail to consider is the winds.  The wind can be calm one moment and then in the next be very strong, blowing up a nice chop in the basin that can be challenging for any kayaking skill level you are.  Then there is the distance.  Distance in wide open spaces can be very deceiving.  As you look to where the beach access is to one of my favorite places to stop, you think that this can’t be that far.  Yet it is almost 1.7 miles of paddling.

Yet the rewards are great.  No matter when I am there, I see so many sea birds.  To watch the Brown Pelicans diving to get their dinner, especially if they are diving a few yards from your boat, it is awesome to see.  What is even more amazing is how these big awkward looking birds can skim just inches from the water and not even touch the water.  Then there are the clapper rails.  These are small birds that live in the marsh grasses and have a very large call.  What is cool is that there seems to be thousands of these birds in the marsh grasses and listening to them as you paddle at sunset is truly a wonderful experience.  Then there is the rock wall with all the birds you see feeding.  All I can say is WOW!

There are so many other reasons why Fort Fisher Basin draws me back over and over again.  Maybe it is the feeling I get while I am out on the water. Maybe it is the peaceful and serene feeling that allows me to relax and connect with myself, God and all those who are with me at that time.  Why don’t you join me one day and find out for yourself and experience the awesome beauty of this area.

Check out the following photo video of a recent Fort Fisher Basin Kayaking Adventure.

Mahanaim Adventures offers guided kayaking adventures in the Wilmington, Carolina Beach areas as well as the Cape Fear Region.  We specialize in creating that memory of a life time for you and your family and friends.  Check out our web page and find out more details about all of our adventure locations.

Roanoke River Kayaking Adventure

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.

Mahanaim Magic

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.

Family Camping Part 2 / How to Prepare for Outdoors Activities in Colder Months

Why do some people consider it unthinkable to spend time in the outdoors during colder months? Yea, it can be cold, but don’t let that stop you for enjoying outdoor adventures when the thermometer drops below 45 degrees? Consider the reverse of that situation; when that thermometer rises to high 90’s during the summer? There is not much keeping people from heading out to a mountain lake and enjoy some camping and other outdoor adventure. What about the people who head to the beach with all those other tourist? During the summer months, it is almost impossible to get a last minute camping site at your favorite camp site at Carolina Beach State Park. Yet in the colder months, you get your choice of site and if you are lucky, there are no more than a half dozen sites filled in the whole campground.

I think part of the reason is a fear of the cold and not knowing how to deal with it. I hear from people who worry that their children will get sick if they camp outside during the colder months. Granted, I’m sure this can plays a role in how we get sick, but we are probably just as likely to get sick by being cooped up inside all winter also. As a parent of three kids, my wonderful wife and I wondered the same when our kids were smaller. I also must admit that it is harder to winter camping, but the rewards and memories have been priceless.

Over this past Thanksgiving Holiday’s our family went camping once again. Each morning, it was in the upper 30’s at Carolina Beach State Park, and then warmed up into the higher 50’s on Thanksgiving Day. So in my opinion the temperatures were just perfect. Yet, we were prepared and knew what to expect in the way of weather for this adventure.

So you ask; how to you prepare for cold weather camping? Well here are a few important tips that will help you when you want to attempt to try a colder weather camping expedition.

The first tip is to make sure that you layer you clothing when you go out. Layering is the best way to stay warm as the temps cool off at night. It is also important to properly layer so that as the temps change throughout your cold weather adventures, you can adjust your layers for comfort. More layers as it cools down and fewer layers as it warms up. Remember, layering allows you to control your warmth level by adjusting your clothing. Another important fact is that you can also have too many layers on. You can get warm quickly by properly layering but you can also get over heated quickly. Why over heated? Because with too many layers you will begin to sweat and once you start sweating, your clothing gets wet. With these damp or wet clothing from sweat, as the temps drop you will get colder. If you have a full day of activities planned, you may want to change clothing, getting out of the damp sweaty clothing.

Another part of layering is to stay away from cotton clothing in the winter months. Why? Because cotton dose not wick away your sweat, causing your clothing to remain damp. So when you are packing make sure you pack plenty of clothing that will keep you dry. Clothing made out of quick dry nylons, polypropylene, suplex, polar fleece, wool, thermax and other materials are great for layering.

When getting in your sleeping bags at night, also remember the layering principle. On cold weather adventures with my scouts, often I hear the next morning that a scout was cold. When asked what he wore to bed, I get this layer and that layer of clothing, or the clothing I wore yesterday. WRONG answer. The same layering principle applies when sleeping. First, find out what your sleeping bag is rated for. A 30 degree bag is designed to keep a person warm down to 30 degrees. The problem is that too often what happened is people will have two layers on and then get into their bag and get warm quickly. In the middle of the night the bag gets damp from the sweat and you get cold. In most instances a single layer of dry clothing or long underwear worn in the bag is just fine.

One last thing, dry socks are critical to saying warm. Don’t make the mistake of wearing the same socks you had on that evening in your shoes to bed. These socks are damp and your feet will get cold. We teach our scouts to take off their socks, dry their feet and place on dry socks. When you do this, you will be surprised how warm your feet stay.

The second important item to have is a good sleeping pad. A good sleeping pad between you and the ground is critical. You can have a 5 degree bag and still get cold without insulation between you and the ground. A good closed cell pad or a Therm-a-Rest type backpacking pad are great to use. If you don’t have one of those, you can use wool blankets or even several comforters from you linen closet at home will also work. The key here is getting a good layer of insulation between you and the ground. One last thing about standard air mattresses, they do not insulate you against the cold from the ground. These types of mattresses will allow the air in them to get cold, creating cold mattress for you to sleep on.

Third thing to have is a pair of warm gloves and a warm hat to wear. I typically carry two winter type hats to wear, one for the day’s activities and one to wear at night, even while sleeping. Enough said.

Lastly is a warm fire and warm drink. Having a nice warm cup of hot tea or hot cocoa by the fire at night is warming and cozy. The added benefit is that the fire is something special at camp that no camping adventure is complete without. You don’t have to have a huge bonfire to keep warm, but plan accordingly. Remember don’t let your fire burn unattended in camp, even when you head to the tents for sleep.

Check out Campmor.com for all your family camping gear, click here for a Campmor coupon.

So, are you ready to give a Family Camping Adventure a try in the colder months? If so contact Mahanaim Adventure and we can help you have a fantastic and safe cold weather camping adventures!

Family Camping

It is cooling off now that fall is here and my family is now beginning to plan our next family camping trip.  What memories this beings back to Diane and I as we begin talking about what we want to cook and do on this upcoming family camping adventure.  The memories of sitting around a camp fire in the evening, the smell of the roasting marshmallow and the anticipation of the gooey smores fixing to be made.  Awe, this is going to be an even more special camping trip for us, since we are planning a Thanksgiving camping adventure.  While most families gather in the homes of family and friends, sitting around a large table loaded with the Thanksgiving Feast; our family will be gathering around a nice warm fire in our campsite for our Thanksgiving Celebration.

This will be the third time Diane and I have gone on a Thanksgiving camping adventure.  The first time we did this was our first Thanksgiving that we were married.  We had only been married for 4 months and my parents and some other family friends drove up from Florida to North Georgia’s Vogel State Park for the holiday.  This was going to be fun, this would be our second time camping since our wedding day back in July, and Diane’s first time camping in what was to be some cold weather.

What a memorable camping adventure this was.  We arrived at Vogel just after dark with a COLD drizzle falling.   What a night, it was wet, you could see your breath and I had never set our tent up before this night!  I learned that night to never take a new tent camping before setting it up first in the backyard.  As we got started, I could tell Diane was not that thrilled to be helping.  You guys know the look on your brides face when she is not having fun.  Just then some family friends drove up in their motor home.  Diane decided it was time for her to sit in the motor home with Helen, while Jim and I spend the next hour trying to figure out how to set up this tent.  This was the most miserable campsite setup I can ever recall in my life and resolved to never set up again in a very cold rain.  (This was one promise to myself that I did not keep, this same thing happened about 15 year later on a backpacking adventure)  Anyway, once that was behind us, the rest of the weekend was fantastic, including the light snow we got later that same night.

Enjoying a campfire at camp
Joseph sitting around our first at camp

Three years ago, Diane and I decided it was time for our second family Thanksgiving camping adventure.  So we decided to go to Carolina Beach State Park for our family camping adventure.  Yes, it was cold at night, but nowhere as colds as our first time.   This Thanksgiving would turn out to be very special and we had great fun that weekend.  Josh, our now son-in-law came with us.  After that adventure, I know that he was bound to be our future son-in-law just because he survived the weekend.  Hillary, Sarah and Joseph told Josh about all the times we had as a family camping our way around the Southeast.  They shared all the wonderful memories we had.  We laughed at when Sarah got sick all over Hillary.  We reminded Joseph about the picture we had of him with his pants down so far you could see his vertical smile.   We cried some as we talked about the last time we camped with my Mother on Cumberland Island National Seashore before she passed away in 1997.  It was truly a time for many fond memories and a time of Thanksgiving.  Thankful that God had so blessed our family with each other and all the wonderful times we have had together.

Our Thanksgiving meal all cooked over an open fire
Dinner is served

Last year, we tried to go camping once again but at the last minute we had to cancel our plans.  Thanks Joseph.  Joseph broke his nose the afternoon before we were to leave and following the doctor’s recommendations we choose not to go.  So we are really looking forward to camping this Thanksgiving once again.  This will be Hillary and Josh’s first Thanksgiving camping trip a married couple and I wonder what memories they will have from this adventure to share with their future family?  I wonder what other memories we will be blessed with to tell around the campfire when our grandchildren join us on future family camping adventures.

Camping adventures are lots of fun, especially when you have family and great friends to share them with.  If you are looking for ways to draw your family together and create some lasting memories, you need to consider spending some time on a family camping adventure.  I am positive you will not regret your decision.  If you don’t know how to family camp or don’t have the gear, contact us at Mahanaim Adventures, we can help with that.