My new favorite is the
The trail starts behind the ranger station, passes the concrete bunker where the Fort Fisher hermit lived, and ends at an observation deck looking out over the Basin, that shallow body of water at the end of
On the trail, Womble has seen snakes (don't worry, they usually scurry away) and anoles, those green lizards with the expanding red throat fan. She's also seen foxes and "tons of deer."
We crossed a wooden bridge over a creekbed filled with phragmites. It's an invasive plant that crowds out native species.
"We're working to get rid of it," she said. Although rangers have used herbicides and mowed it, I think the phragmites is winning.
As we passed a gate leading into the aquarium property, a group of second graders from
They'd been on a scavanger hunt along a grassy creek.
How was it?
"Cool! But sweaty," called one.
"Muddy, too," added his friend.
"I love crabs," said a little girl.
We passed bushy patches of wax myrtle and red cedar. A stand of yaupon holly reminded us that Indians used to brew tea out of it for ceremonies.
A red-winged blackbird flashed by, and white ibises poked around in the marsh grasses. Little brown willets scurried busily about.
Park rangers know what things are called, a useful skill.
Green grasses called spartina alternated with darker black needlerush.
We watched fiddler crabs weaving across a mud flat, the males waving their one huge claw in the air.
We encountered William and Daniel Hoeholt, bird-watching brothers who live in
"The glossy ibis is pretty decent," Daniel said. "It's very birdy today, lots of wading birds."
We poked our heads into the World War II-era bunker where
It was only a short walk from his bunker out to the observation deck.
We looked across Basin to Zeke's Island, with the Rocks -- a 19th century
On the way back, a boat-tailed grackle flew along the path fussing at us. We heard a painted bunting but never could spot it. Butterflies and dragonflies were numerous.
But it's a lovely way to get some exercise as you explore the maritime forests, sandy dunes and seemingly endless marshes at the southern end of
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