Our day to the Three Sisters ancient Cypress Swamp began with pre-dawn Counter Culture coffee. Fueled with dark roast, we headed to meet our guide, Charles Robbins, Captain of Cape Fear River Adventures and North Carolina’s 2,500 year old Cypress swamp. Anxious to get on the river, we quickly dropped the cars at the take out and pushed off in kayaks and canoes to paddle down the Black River, the route to the Three Sisters. Captain CR guided us down the river, directing the ultimate route through fallen trees, fast and slow moving water, and shallow areas while entertaining us with stories of his life adventures and empowering us with knowledge about Cypress trees.
The trip down the river is magical on it’s own, the banks lined with crimson and gold trees dripping leaves into the deep blue of the Black River. Despite being December 3rd, the temperature was pleasantly warm with a soft breeze rippling the water. We arrived at the swamp around lunchtime and entered through the narrow passage. Though I had been to the swamp once before with CR, I was in awe again as CR led us through the twisty labyrinth of open water between Cypress trunks and knees.
The trees are mostly hollow, supported solely by their bark and roots, an interconnected system of roots that grow up to six feet tall knees in Dr. Seuss like shapes. They channel resources to one another through the knees, an incredible example of community that as humans we strive to create in our hectic lives.
Time slowed down in the swamp. I let myself get lost in the wisdom and awe of those majestic beauties stretching from the shallow waters to the open sky, hollow yet stronger than anything solid I’ve ever touched. To put my hand on something 2,500 years old reminded me of how important it is to preserve our living history, nature’s museum. CR didn’t just guide us through the swamp, he showed us his favorite trees, the sound a hollow knee makes, the feeling of cold water and smooth bark. He connected us with something bigger than ourselves, to the natural world that shows us again and again how to whether the storms.
We paddled with the current instead of fighting it. We slowed down and took time to get out of our boats and throw our arms around those towers of strength. We talked about watershed issues. We listened to CR play swamp drum beats on a Cypress knee. We fell in love with those trees, and the Three Sisters, a place so otherworldly.
We naturally protect the things we love. And I can’t help but wonder what would happen if more people adventured into the Three Sisters with CR and experienced the Cypress swamp. This wonder of the world is just a few hours from the heart of our town and if more people experienced the awe of ancient trees, there would be a greater impetus for preserving them.
A day with CR surrounded by Cypress is transcendent. In the Three Sisters with my arms around a 2,500 living being, I felt the unique combination of both grounding and taking flight; the combination of the roots of trees and the wings of birds; both of the earth and cosmically connected to something so much greater than myself.
Go to swamp. Go with Captain Charles Robbins. Go fall in love with the Cypress. To find out more about his trip program, visit Cape Fear River Adventures.