Wand'ring Again

small adventures in Eastern North Carolina and beyond

Six Bays and a Swamp: Part Three

When I returned home after the trip to Waccamaw Lake State Park, I took a long shower, bandaged my wounds, and had dinner. I was very tired, but when I tried to sleep my mind kept replaying images from the swampy nightmare. I thought that if I concentrated on pleasant childhood memories I might drift off into slumber, but instead my mind gravitated to the recollection of a youthful indiscretion I would have preferred to forget.

When I was a kid, I was the well-behaved sibling that authority figures liked, whereas my younger brother, Jason, was the fun-loving, mischievous one who was frequently getting into trouble. In some ways, I liked being the “good boy,” but I envied Jason because he was outgoing, and always had lots of friends that he seemed to make quite easily.

During the summer between second and third grade, a family with two kids moved in down the street. The boy was my age and the girl was Jason’s. Jason immediately befriended the boy, and I was very jealous when I saw the two of them together constantly.

One day I saw them walking down the street, huddled together having a secret conversation. I approached them and asked what they were doing and if I could be part of it. At first, they were reluctant to let me share in their plans, but eventually they spilled the beans. The new kid had a box of nails and they were going through the neighborhood sticking them under the tires of parked cars.

I certainly knew that we should not be doing this, but I so wanted to be part of the group that I eagerly joined in. Of course, being stupid boys who didn’t realize we were not invisible, we were quickly caught and punished. After that I was convinced that my mother thought the new kid was a bad influence on me and my brother, and that his mother thought we were the bad influences.

Anyway, this was the memory that I could hardly shake as I tried to get to sleep that night. In the morning, when I went out to my car to drive to work, I discovered it had a flat tire. The next day, when I had it repaired, the guy at the garage told me that the tire had a nail in it. Later that week, I listened to an episode of This American Life about the emotional impact of coincidences.

Return to Bay Tree Lake State Park

As you might have guessed, my trip to Bay Tree Lake State Park was not only a disappointment because I got the car stuck in the sand, but because I never actually managed to see the lake. Even though I was certain it wouldn’t look any different than the other bay lakes, I still felt the need to return to the park and make my way to the water. So, on Super Bowl Sunday, I again took to the road, intent on walking the sandy lane into Bay Tree Lake State Park so that I could gaze upon its elusive waters.

When Cooter had rescued me during my previous visit, he had mentioned that it was not the first time he had retrieved someone from the park. He further told me that I had not even gotten to any of the worst spots, and described the park interior as a tangled mess of deeply rutted sandy strips intermingled with flooded sink holes.

With this warning in mind, I thought that I should try to get a better sense of what was ahead of me before returning to the park. I looked at the Google Earth image of the area, and zoomed in real close. This allowed me to get a fair overview of the reticulum of sand paths within the area, and to plan my approach to the lake. It looked like I needed to follow a main road for about 1.5 miles, and then bear sharply to the left to reach the lake by the shortest route. The entrance road to the park is indicted by the red arrow at the top left-hand side of the image below.

Given my previous two less-than-ideal outings, I was determined to be very cautious on this trip. When I got to the park, I pulled over onto a solid, flat area on the opposite side of the highway rather than risking the sandy lot at the trailhead. As I walked in the road, I used the heels of my boots to make deep markings in the sand wherever there were multiple paths that might confuse me on the way out. In the end, the distinctive tread marks made in the sand by my boots served as even better signposts for the return trip.

Of course, along the way I passed the spot where my car had been stuck on my previous visit.

It wasn’t long before there were many different sandy tracks through the trees. Some ran parallel to each other, but some veered off to the left and right. I explored a couple of the side trails, but each one seemed to end before getting anywhere interesting. Instead, the central-most route seemed to be the best way to proceed, and eventually it led to a large open area where many different paths converged. The deepest pair of ruts turned sharply to the left, and so seemed to be following the trail that I had planned to take.

After passing through an open area that was evidently popular with picnickers (there was lots of trash scattered about), the road forked into a sandy track on the left and a wide path covered in pine straw on the right. The path on the right looked easier to walk, but did not seem to head directly to where I guessed the lake was located, so I kept to the left. In almost no time I could hear the water lapping on the shore and then I was on the edge of Bay Tree Lake.

I followed the trail along the shoreline, and soon it joined up with the pine-straw path I had seen earlier. I took this shady lane back out to the main road, hiked to the car without incident, and felt a small degree of satisfaction having finally completed a visit to the lake.

The weather forecast for the day had been “cloudy with no chance of rain.” But just as maps and websites often provide misleading information, a better name for the weather service would seem to be Inaccuweather. At the start of the day a rain lasting 30 minutes had begun when I was only about 20 miles from Greenville, and as I was leaving the park the sky was a bright, perfectly clear blue.

Ten More Carolina Bays

Having anticipated that the walk to the lake would not take very long, I had planned a convoluted drive through the nearby countryside for afterwards. The route I had mapped out would take me past ten Carolina bays I had not previously visited. I hoped to be able to see some of these from the road as I drove past, and that I might find ways to walk to others. The ten bays are highlighted in red on the map below. A portion of Salters Lake at the bottom of the map is highlighted in purple as a reference point.

One of the largest of these bays is Bushy Bay (top left). The Google map view shows it as mostly filled with water and labels it Bushy Lake. But a look at the Google Earth image reveals it to be completely filled in with soil and overgrown with vegetation.

Although I had taken detailed enough notes to allow me to travel along all the roads included in my plan, because all the driveways leading towards the bays were on private property, I didn’t manage to see even one of them. And Atlanta lost the Super Bowl to boot.

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