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Canoeing the Deep River May 30, 2011

Posted by Jenny in canoeing.
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Zach and Noura had excellent hats for a canoe trip

My longtime friend Gary Howell suggested a canoe trip for Memorial Day weekend, and I found myself thinking, “My goodness…something other than hiking…that might actually be fun!” So I drove out to Cary, NC (near Raleigh) to spend a chunk of the weekend with the Howell family. They live in a house stuffed to the brim with books and musical instruments (saxes, clarinets, and a grand piano). Spending time with them in their nice neighborhood full of woodland pathways is a fine thing to do, anyway.

We set forth Sunday morning with two canoes on two cars. Our destination was the Deep River between Carbonton and Gulf. In case you might not know where that is, look to the west of Sanford, southwest of Raleigh and near Route 1.

Since I moved to NC in late 2009, I have not ventured much out of the western part of the state. In fact, I am more likely to be found in Tennessee than in other parts of my adopted state. My ignorance of eastern NC is so profound that when I was chatting with a friendly gentleman in a Cary convenience store and he mentioned he was going to Greenville, I asked him whether he meant Greenville SC or Greeneville TN. Of course, he meant Greenville NC.

North Carolina does tend to trip up the unwary, I must say. There is not only an Asheville but an Asheboro, not only a Greenville but a Greensboro. There is a Jacksonville with no apologies to Florida and a Wilmington with no apologies to Delaware. And a Concord to compete with the ones in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The other thing about NC is that it seems as though the settlers were under instructions to establish a medium-sized city exactly every 50 miles. As I drove east on I-40, they came along as regularly as speed bumps. Hickory—Winston-Salem—Greensboro—Durham.

After performing a car shuttle, we put in at Carbonton beside a mysterious structure, perhaps the remant portion of a mill.

Structure at our put-in spot

Gary and I were in one canoe, Zach and Noura in the other. We started gliding down the Deep River, and I enjoyed the immediate change of mode from land to water, as if entering a different dimension. The river was muddy, full of fish that rose up to the surface to slurp down bugs, and other creatures including otters (we saw one), snakes (I didn’t see it, but the others did), and birds (herons, ducks, osprey, and geese).

We start our journey down the Deep River

The Deep River turned out to be not deep at all. I could often touch bottom with my paddle. But it had a wonderful sense of privacy because of its steep deep banks. During our mighty six-mile journey, we never saw a house and never heard an automobile until we reached the bridge at the take-out point. The banks were full of lush green vegetation with very small side streams running down over sediment instead of rock—that seemed odd to me. I’m more accustomed to streams that scour off the muck and get down to the rock. The trees were predominantly sycamore and willow.

We found a big horizontally growing sycamore for a lunch spot. After bobbling awkwardly in the front of the canoe trying to climb up onto the tree trunk, I opted for the easiest solution and simply stayed in the canoe. Zach, Noura, and Gary clambered onto the tree.

The Howells climb onto the sycamore tree...

...and eat lunch on it.

After lunch, we continued gliding down the river. We explored around an island (Gary and I ran into a dead end and had to backtrack) and bounced along over a couple of mild riffles. We reached the bridge and there had to deal with a rather challenging take-out at a steep muddy bank bordered by lush thickets of poison ivy. Gary and Zach did the brunt of the work while Noura and I performed the end-point car shuttle.

And returned home to greet Nadia, have a delicious meal of pasta and bean salad, and go out for a walk through Cary’s green parks that led us to a spot where we consumed our dessert of cheesecake and ice cream.