When the opportunity presented itself this week, I traveled
east to coastal North Carolina
hoping to glimpse something that is at the heart of Dogwood’s mission- a bit of
In March, as we at Dogwood Alliance continued to pressure
businesses and individuals in the health and beauty and music industries to
change their forestry practices, I found myself jaded by the bureaucracy of the
work and disconnected from our true purpose. So, when the opportunity presented
itself this week, I traveled east to coastal North Carolina hoping to glimpse something
that is at the heart of Dogwood’s mission- a bit of remaining wilderness.
The first stop on my pilgrimage, however, was nothing of the
sort; I passed ’s Riegelwood Mill in Brunswick County. The smell hit me miles before I saw the billows of white smoke over the tops of pine trees. Logging trucks passed me left and right on the road. Nearing the mill, I pulled over and snapped some pictures of the mill and the loblolly pines that tower around its outskirts.
Discouraged, I drove from there through a corridor of
Wal-Marts, restaurants and banks along NC-17, passing occasional stretches of trees which were almost all loblolly (one of the most common pines in monoculture plantations, displacing the disappearing longleaf pine). Then, suddenly, I turned onto a two-lane road and saw the large green sign: Green Swamp Preserve: The Nature Conservancy. Suddenly, there were no Wal-Marts, nor
even gas stations. I parked in the designated lot.
The Green Swamp Preserve is 15,907 acres north of Supply,
NC, consisting mainly of savanna and pocosin ecosystem types. The area, I learned from a sign, frequently undergoes prescribed burns to keep the longleaf pine ecosystem healthy; most plants here thrive in fire. At first upon
embarking on the primitive trail I felt only solitude, noticing the grasses, shrubs and longleaf pines that flickered as clouds passed overhead. No humans here.
Gradually, though, my feeling of solitude disappeared. It began when from across the large pond on my left, the cries of wood frogs with spring fever reached me. Then, I heard the knock-knock-knock of a woodpecker and spotted him jerkily hopping up the trunk of a pine tree. I realized that I wasn’t alone: I flushed a group of birds out of their hiding place under a group of sweetbay shrubs.
I did see a few signs of humans (a boot-print in the mud, a half-decomposed cigarette butt), but they were no more evident than signs of other beings. A pile of droppings- coyote, or maybe gray fox- tipped me off to the presence of predators and prey living out their lives amongst these trees.
Did being in the swamp alone make me uncomfortable? I’ll admit that after spotting the fox scat, I was hesitant to venture deeper into
the pocosin. However, this discomfort hardly lasted a few moments, whereas the unsettling
feeling of being amidst parking lots and McDonalds is with me always.
As Dogwood Alliance continues its packaging campaign, I think I will find renewed passion for the work. I realized on this trip that the trees we are protecting, stately as they are, are not just trees. They are the foundation for a whole web of flora and fauna that exist outside the
understanding of humans, a whole brilliant world that is far superior to the convenience of any product in a paper box.
-written by Katie Blanchard-Reid