DAY 6: MORNING UPDATE!
DAY 6: AFTERNOON UPDATE
Samantha talks about the geology of the Neuse River while floating next to the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park.
Day 6 on the river started out cool and windy. We woke to light rain that had been coming down all night, misting our tents and boats and causing the gear to be very soggy. We packed up as quickly as we could and had some quick oatmeal breakfast crouching under our umbrellas (pro tip for long haul kayakers: umbrellas are surprisingly easy to store in the boat and incredibly helpful when it rains at camp). Once we got on the water, everything was peaceful again, though the heavy winds were a new factor that we had to contend with while paddling the snaky river path. Paddling in the light rain, the dogs were shivering, but the river took on another face of peace and misty beauty that we hadn’t yet seen on this trip.
A few hours into our journey we arrived at a natural wonder sitting right alongside the Neuse River: the Cliffs of the Neuse. This 90 foot tall Cliff formation is an incredible sight to behold when paddling on the river from Goldsboro to Seven Springs. The cliffs were formed some millions of years ago when tectonic plates shifted and then the patient Neuse River slowly carved its path along the fault lines, exposing the many layers of rock, sand, seashell, shale, and clay underground. The Cliff of the Neuse feels like something holy as you paddle by it, and it immediately makes sense why it was such an important place for the native communities who first lived here—the native Tuscarora and Saponi tribes used the land above the cliffs as traditional hunting grounds and ceremonial grounds. Later, white settlers used the pristine creeks flowing through and around the cliffs and into the Neuse River for fishing, making cornmeal, and even making moonshine. Today, the Cliffs of the Neuse state park offered an unmatchable outdoor adventure for families and friends who want to explore a unique geological formation carved by the Neuse river, and lush forest with flora that typically only grow in the North Carolina mountains. Passing by Cliffs of the Neuse state park was a highlight of the trip so far.
We ended our windy and cold paddle day at the small and friendly town of Seven Springs, where we were greeted by the Hughes, who run the Neuse River Trading Company right off of the boat ramp in the center of town. To our pleasant surprise, the pair graciously fed us a proper southern feast, complete with deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, and a seven layer salad that tasted like heaven after days on the river without much greens or any home cooking to speak of. Rhonda Hughes, the mayor of Seven Springs, and Alan Hughes, one of the town’s five commissioners, regaled us with stories about the town. We learned about the town’s history as a hub offering natural spring mineral spas to the public, where the people would come from far and wide to enjoy the mineral springs said to be healing to the body and soul. Fun fact: the town earned its name from the first seven natural springs found here, though later two additional springs were found, so the town could actually be called Nine Springs.
We also heard about how the already small population of Seven Springs was cut in half by the flooding that happened with hurricane Matthew in 2016, and how the town is still struggling to recover from that disaster.
Today, the town of Seven Springs is working hard to revitalize, offering a local festival for every season, exploring flood mitigation measures to keep the town above water, and hopefully offering new opportunities for others to make this beautiful spot on the river home. We will be sad to say goodbye to the welcoming town of Seven Springs and our new friends that we made here, but know we’ll be back to visit and look forward to reconnecting with this lovely community again.