Growing up in North Carolina, I have traveled to many cities, hiked a few trails, and have become desensitized to what beauty exists in this state. Five years ago if you had showed me a picture of a Cypress Swamp, I would have assumed it came out of Florida, or a country far away from me. As it turns out, North Carolinas proximity to the Altantic Ocean allows this to be a perfect place for Cypress Swamps and diverse coastal wildlife. In just the past year of searching swamps, I have seen multiple bears, bald eagles, snakes, and moss covered thousand year old Cypress Trees. Unfortunately, this part of North Carolina is overlooked and therefore often not appreciated. Many of the Cypress locations I go to involve me hiking long distances, climbing fences, and trying to avoid the large companies that usually occupy the land.
This past week has been filled with a number of opportunities for me to check out new Cypress locations, and I pulled out Google satellite maps and started scanning the woods and rivers. I was in Southern Pines, NC, and in the past I have only imagined this to be a sandy pine city, flourishing with golf money, and not close enough to the beach or the mountains to be worth photographing. After a little time looking through satellite maps, I was able to pick out a couple of small streams that had trees growing along and in them. They had to be Cypress Trees! I have never actually seen such a huge amount of Cypress Trees this far from the coast (100 miles+).
The streams and rivers ended up leading me to a conservation site called the “Walthour-Moss Foundation”. I was more than excited to see some sort of conservation happening for these trees and wildlife, but a little more research taught me that the land is primarily used for horse riders. Not being deterred by this, I drove my car to the area and started trying to find a road in. After almost a full circle around the conservation land, I realized that the only roads were horse trails. I was about to turn around when I saw a homeowner on the edge of the horse trail and I decided to talk to him. I told him I was there to photograph the Cypress Trees, and he pointed me down the horse trail and said ‘go ahead’! These trails were long, muddy, and involved a couple of creeks to cross, but I eventually made it close enough to hike to the area I had plotted on my map.
Here is one of the views of a stream I found from my map
I made my way out to a small pond nearby, and I was stunned with the amount of wildlife! Hundreds of small birds, and numerous large birds occupied nearby trees, with a large volume of tweets and squawks. As I looked around this pond, I saw little heads popping out of the water and realized I was looking at about 4 or 5 beavers. I walked around the pond, and they would randomly jump off of the land into the water with a loud splash, and then as they swam away they would slam their tails against the water creating loud ‘clapping’ sounds. I was overwhelmed and amazed and took in this part of Southern Pines that I never knew existed.
And as I got ready to leave, the sunset created a nice silhouette of some of the ‘classic’ pine trees the area is known for.