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The first day's paddling was great. It's so relaxing when you first get out on the water -- the feel of the paddle in your hand and the sounds of the wilderness around you. On the Lumber, civilization quickly seems a world away -- even though it really isn't. There isn't much on the river itself -- except for a few bridge overpasses here and there -- to remind you of the world you have left behind.
The scenery on the Lumber is great. It is truly a beautiful and unspoiled masterpiece. One great benefit that we discovered as we paddled -- even though the temps were in the mid- to high 80's, the water temperature was very cool -- almost cold. (Really too cold to swim, except for a short time.) While a swim is nice, it's even better to be able to dip a cloth in the river and pat your brow as you paddle. You could also put your food stuffs on soft coolers in the bottom of the kayaks and the frozen foods remained frozen -- it was like built in refrigeration!
After about four hours of paddling Friday, we reached the Piney Island canoe-in campsite. This was the second canoe in site that we passed, and the one we'd planned to stop at. Incredible site -- with a shelter and two picnic tables, and a dock. Lots of flat, high ground for pitching tents.
Saturday, May 20, 2006:
On day two we were a bit detained by the rain. It started at about 5:30 in the morning and rained hard for four hours straight. We didn't really want to get out of the tent and break camp in the rain, so we waited it out. At 9:30 or so the rain stopped. The skies broke and the clouds soon were replaced by bright sunshine. We pulled the wet tarp and tent out on the shelter and dried it in the sunlight. We also fixed a nice breakfast and were finally on our way by about 11:30 a.m. The destination for the second evening was the main facilities of the Lumber River State Park at the Queen Ann site. There are two campsites for canoe-in camping which are right down on the water -- very convenient. That night we were the only campers in the whole park as well, so it was nice.
The only thing Lumber River State Park did not offer was showers in the restroom building. After two days of paddling on the river, a hot shower would have been really nice, and we were looking forward to the clean-up. (For some reason, we'd assumed there were showers at the state park; we had to opt for "sponge bathing" at a spigot by the boat ramp.) Other than that one minor suggest, the folks at Lumber River State Park were a GREAT HELP in planning our paddle on the Lumber. For those who really do want to arrange for a mid-trip shower, there is a campground that we discovered on the paddle that is not on any of the paddle maps we were using. Google puts it at 34 D 23 M 41.87 S North, 78 D 58 M 11.70 S West. There would be quite a few more people to deal with, and maybe a little noise, but we did stop long enough to check out the bath house facilities and they were respectable if not luxurious. If you value a shower every now and again, that may be your ticket.
All in all, the second day's paddle was another great day on the river. We reached the Queen Ann site in about 4.5 hours of paddling. This was much less than our estimate of 7 hours. Water levels were generally up and we made great time on this trip. There is generally a little more boat traffic (though still not much) on this section of the river, especially around U.S. 74. Of the three days we spent on the river, this was my least favorite paddle, but still a great day on the river.
Sunday, May 21, 2006:
Saturday night brought more rain. We wisely decided to deploy the rain fly BEFORE the rain started this time around. After an easy breakfast of bagels, peanut butter and coffee, we broke camp and were back on the river. The little bit of traffic we saw on the second day quickly dissipated, and the river below Queen Ann was more isolated and empty, more like the first day's paddle. After about three hours of moderate paddling, we could hear the church bells coming from Fair Bluff, which meant we were nearing the end of our journey. At a little after noon, we reached the take-out point at River Bend Outfitters on Hwy 904 in Fair Bluff, NC.
All told - notwithstanding a little rain -- an OUTSTANDING trip. There is plenty of peace and solitude -- yet lots to see. Wildlife: deer, beaver, heron, and even a few snakes were seen. A highly recommended paddle. We plan to do it again some day.
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