Fast Food Roadshow Day 5 – Cypress Swamps and Endangered Pine Barrens

After a restful night’s sleep out under the stars at Pettigrew State Park, Eva, Josh and I headed north in search of Merchant’s Mill Pond State Park near the North Carolina and Virginia border. The drive through the countryside was inspiring, all en route we saw countless signs in people’s yards opposing the OLF the Navy wants to build near important bird sanctuaries and multi-generational family farms. It was heart-warming to see such organized opposition in such a pastoral place.

Merchants Mill
We finally reached the park and rented a canoe to head into the ancient cypress swamp. This small remnant represents some of the best of what is left and what could have been if the entire area had not been laid to waste to make paper and timber products like fast food packaging. We meandered through the primordial swamp, I’ll use my colleague Andrew’s reference here, it was quite like the Dagoba Swamp where Yoda taught Luke the ways of the Force. Slowly paddling though this ancient place I was inspired by the breath-taking beauty and knew that we must redouble our efforts to protect any special places that remain like this along the Southeastern coast.

Our band of travelers then set off for the north and finally crossed into Virginia. Our goal for the afternoon was to find the Zuni Pine Barrens in Zuni, Virginia. This tract is the last stand of longleaf pine in Virginia. The good folks at Old Dominion University are working to maintain and restore this historic landscape that used to stretch from SE Virginia to North Florida and across the Gulf Coast to Texas and now occupies less than 2% of its original range.

With only a couple of news stories to guide us and no directions, we arrived in Zuni. We stopped at the
local general store and were surprised and excited that someone there knew exactly what we were speaking of. Teresa volunteered to guide us there when her shift ended. So thirty minutes later we were following Teresa in her minivan out some sandy country roads. She thought that the restoration efforts were so important and even offered to help her neighbor in his efforts to replant the species for his commercial purposes. The first seedling we spotted brought unfathomable amounts of joy to all of our hearts, after countless hours searching we had finally arrived.

After leaving Teresa we headed up the road and found an “official” entrance to the Pine Barrens. Eva, Josh and I hiked in and marveled at the glory of the place.Picturing in our mind’s eye what the Southern landscape must have looked like hundreds of years ago and knowing that our mission to protect Southern forests and especially these coastal swamps and savannahs was of utmost importance.Yum! Brand Foods and others need to rethink their packaging choices now before these special places that define local culture and harbor countless amazing species disappear.

From the forests,
Scot Q

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