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A dismal day

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The alarm went off this morning at 6:30, and I hopped out of bed ready to take Emma and go on an adventure.  No chores today!  I had packed a lunch last night, so we were soon on our way for a two hour drive.  Our destination was the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

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The refuge encompasses more than 110,000 acres of seasonally flooded wetland forest.  That was a surprise to me.  I had expected the Great Dismal Swamp to be flooded year round.  This refuge held another surprise for me as well.

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We hiked the first boardwalk along the Railroad Ditch road.  At the end of the boardwalk is a pavilion that showcases the part that the refuge land played as a stop in the Underground Railroad in the period just before the Civil War.  It also served as a hiding place for communities of escaped slaves known as maroons.  I can’t imagine the hardships endured by these former slaves when confronted with living in this swamp.  I had no idea this was such an historic location.

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The Railroad Ditch auto tour route ends at Lake Drummond.  It’s a 3100 acre lake that is named after the first colonial governor of North Carolina. 

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After stopping at the refuge headquarters to have my passport book stamped, we headed over to the Washington Ditch road to have a little lunch.  There are two trails located off of the parking lot.  We tried the Dismal Town boardwalk first, but weren’t able to complete the whole loop as I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes.  I guess you really have to expect that in a swamp.

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The second trail is the 4.5 mile long Washington Ditch trail that goes all the way to Lake Drummond.  I certainly wasn’t going to be able to do the whole thing, but we did walk a portion of it.

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                             Oh boy, what a horrible job those slaves had to do hand digging that long ditch. 

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That’s the ditch on the left.  Good old George, along with some shareholders, formed the Dismal Swamp Company to drain, farm, and log portions of the swamp.

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Being in the swamp at high noon on a hot and muggy day, I really didn’t expect to see much wildlife out and about.  So I was pleasantly surprised when these two does popped out of the woods in front of me.

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           I imagine they’ll be a bit more skittish towards the end of fall when the hunting season opens up.

While I was at the headquarters getting my passport stamped, I mentioned that I volunteered at the Gateway VC, and that we didn’t have any information on the Great Dismal Swamp NWR.  It is one of the 11 refuges that we tell visitors about.  So, I left with a bag of pamphlets to display at the VC.  Winking smile  At this point, I’ve visited six of the eleven refuges we represent.  I’m hoping to visit the rest of them in the next couple of weeks.  

I think you’ll agree that my day wasn’t really dismal, it just involved a Dismal location.  One of the best parts was it was a day off, and it didn’t rain!

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                                                                                THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

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