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Lessons Learned -The next morning, I learned my first lesson. Never bring a new camp skillet unless you are the first to use it. It is like buying a new car and everyone else trying it out, getting the first dent before you get a chance to drive. Since we shared bringing the gear so there were not any duplicates, I brought the fry pan, a nice new GSI Teflon coated, folding handle. Myron volunteered to cook the first morning’s breakfast. This consisted of link sausage; needless to say some of the sausage scorched the bottom of the new pan, but I got over it after about a week. After eating and clean up we were headed for our next adventure of the day, a portage around Milburnie Dam. We were only about 3.3 miles from the dam and the water quickly lost current, signifying we were close to the dam. We approached the dam on river right and took out unloading all our gear for the portage below the dam. I learned my next lesson of not trying to carry all the heavy loads with the canoe. This wore me out, and I will have to practice this before ever going to the Boundary Waters. After bringing my canoe down the other side of the dam, there were some rocks we had to step through. I got the canoe down, but the with the overweight pack on my back, I fell over the rocks, in between the rock, landing on my back with arms and legs straight up. Wayne said I looked like an overturned turtle! We were soon off, and back into a current again below the dam. About a half of mile below where Crabtree Creek joins the Neuse, we stopped for lunch below some rapids on the rocks. We eventually went 16.8 miles this day and due to high banks we had to paddle up Marks Creek to find a campsite. We grilled out again that night and sat around talking about the joy of not having to do another portage.
Buzzards on the Prowl - We left camp on the second morning paddling on down the river and at one point, we came upon about 40 buzzards in the trees. Myron thought he heard them talking that they were going to pick the weakest one of us off. They must have realized we were the DBT crew. We saw deer that day, otter, nutria, muskrat and other bird life. We made the Smithfield Town Commons Park after about 18.2 miles and needed water. There is no spigot at the park so Myron and I walked down the road to a bar, Little Brown Jug, near the river on Hwy 70. I wanted to fill my water bag up with some other liquid from the bar, but settled on water. I know the bar patrons must have thought we were a strange lot coming in to the bar for WATER! We left after getting water and paddled on another few miles and made camp. This third day we paddle 19.6 miles and camped on the river left before we got to Hwy 301 and I-95. Wayne cooked his standard fare, a shared meal of red beans, rice, and kielbasa sausage and Myron baked some cornbread.
Deer in Camp - We broke camp on the third morning and after paddling under US Hwy 301 and I-95, leaving the roar behind, we headed into the section known as the “Let ‘Lones”. This is a long section over 24 miles with no bridges, and a very desolate section of the river. We had done a two nighter on this section in Nov 04 and a report is on this web board. We paddled 22.5 miles that day before finding camp. Once we got set up in camp, we heard a dog barking in the distance. The bark gradually got closer and before we knew it, four deer ran through camp with a small beagle barking away at the deer’s heels. They passed us without even a glance and even surprised Izaak, as he probably did not get a chance to get a good scent.
Full Moon - The next day we paddled down and around Quaker Neck Lake, a lake used by the power company close to Goldsboro, NC, which was a long paddle that seemed like we were going in a circle; and we were. After 23 miles we wanted to find a campsite before we got into Goldsboro and we found one, which required pulling our canoes along side of a tree, climbing up the tree, up the bank and then all of us dragging the canoes up the bank. That night with the full moon and clear skies, the weather called for rain the next day. We could see the jets taking off from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Izaak stared at the moon probably thinking, “When this trip would ever end”.
Challenge with the scorched fry pan - The next morning we awoke to rain. It actually started around 0330 that morning. It was time for me to see if the scorched fry pan would be able to cook a decent egg omelet. It worked great, and I took back everything I was thinking about Myron, for scorching it. To get in the water that morning, Myron had to get down on the tree off the bank and we lowered the canoes down to him so the stern of the canoes would not dip in the water. All of us made it down the bank balancing on the tree and into the canoes and off we went. As we got close to Goldsboro, we decided to paddle down the Neuse River Cut off, a channel made to divert floodwaters, which had a dam. This time we wanted to portage as it would cut about 5 miles off the trip, however after looking at the dam, the mud and rocks we decided to take the long way. It was still raining and foggy that day and we could see the jets landing at the AFB and was hoping when we got to the section of the river that passes almost under the runway, that one would land or take off, mainly to warm us with the jet blast. After 23.6 miles that day we finally found a decent campsite. As Wayne would say, “I’ve seen better” then “I’ve seen worse.”
Cliffs of the Neuse - The next day we paddled 3.5 miles before reaching the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. These cliffs rise to 70 feet above the water and have nice camping facilities for car camping and nature trails but no canoe campsites. After the Cliffs we reached the town of Seven Springs, NC and Whitehall Bridge. This was our last water stop and thanks to the man who lives near the boat ramp who allowed us to get water. Seven Springs is where the Confederate Gunboat Ram Neuse was built before being sailed down the river to its final resting place in Kinston before being burned to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Union Army. After 19.6 miles that day we finally made camp. This was about 10 miles from our take out at Kinston.
Home Stretch - The next morning, Saturday, Feb 26, we awoke to frost on the ground, water bags frozen, and a cold morning. I could tell when we went to bed it was really cold, sleeping with a toboggan pulled over your head and eyes and leaving a little hole in the sleeping bag to breathe. This morning it was every man for himself as far as breakfast, and I even let Myron use my fry pan for corned beef hash and eggs. We made the take out at Neuseway River Park, in Kinston, around 1230. Myron and I stashed extra clothes to change into and we headed off to King’s Barbeque. We may not have been a 10 but we cleaned up real good! The buffet was good, and even Wayne decided the barbeque was good although it was not Lexington style.
The entire trip was 144.2 mile on my GPS and we were finally glad to get this one out of the way. We had good food, four nights we brought food to grill over the coals, one night each we cooked for each other, we each cooked two breakfast for each other, and one on our own breakfast. We did bring extra food in case we did not make it until Sunday.
Campsites on this river were tough to find but we found them, none were classified a “5” but as Wayne and Myron said, “I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse.” Wayne will give a final fishing bobber count as soon as he can do this, as this seems to be a river ritual of his and I have all ideas this will be a new record. Next year’s DBT trip will be further South and hopefully the weather report will not say anything about a “Wintery MIX”!
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