An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

November 27, 2015

Making Friends at Church

     A couple of Sundays ago, I had the chance to meet a fellow blogger, Marilyn Kircus. I've been following her blog, Adventures of a Vagabond Volunteer, for some time now, as she documents her travels and volunteer work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I've enjoyed reading about Marilyn's encounters with wildlife, her hikes, her canoe trips, and even the more mundane work she has had to do. Many of the photos she has shared on her blog had me ready to throw the tent and sleeping bag into the back of the truck, lace up my boots, and head out west. Her stint at each refuge lasts several months, and when I heard she was going to be working this winter at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge just south of here in North Carolina, I suggested a watery meet up at Merchant's Millpond State Park. I have been this place several times before, and hoped that she would find it as special as I do.

     I got there a little early, and the park was not open yet. Riding further down the road, I saw someone, camera in-hand, and knew it had to be Marilyn. We caught up with each other as mist rose over the pond's dam, and is as often the case with kindred spirits, we didn't stop talking until it was time to go, which is likely the reason Marilyn reported seeing so few birds in her account of the trip.
Merchants Millpond (2)
The Dam

Merchants Millpond (5)
This structure is a fish ladder that enables river herring to continue upstream.

     Just as was the case during my last visit to Merchants Millpond, the dark, tannin-rich water transformed its surface into a mirror. In these parts it has not been the most spectacular fall color-wise, but what little we did see was made twice as nice by the watery reflection.
Merchants Millpond (8)



Merchants Millpond (27)

Merchants Millpond (24)

Merchants Millpond (41)

Merchants Millpond (11)

Merchants Millpond (6)

Spanish Moss
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) has an affinity for bald cypress (Taxodium distichum).
Merchants Millpond (16)

Merchants Millpond with Rosa palustris
Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris)
Merchants Millpond (Myriophyllum aquaticum)
Parrot's feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) might have a nice texture, but it is an exotic invasive.
Merchants Millpond (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Merchants Millpond (37)

Merchants Millpond (9)

Merchants Millpond (13)


  1. This reminds me a bit of the Cypress Bridge Swamp I visited last Oct with VNPS. The water was high enough for us to canoe, which wasn't the original plan, but it was an amazing way to see the swamp and champion trees. Guy name Byron Carmean led us. Worth while if you haven't been.
    Reflections are beautiful!

  2. Oh Les, what a magical place. Your photos are quite wonderful. I'll have to go check out Marilyn's blog. You've really piqued my interest.

  3. Gorgeous photos. There's something about the reflection of trees in still water, and these are exceptional.

  4. Stunning photos, Les. I especially love "Reflection." Isn't it fun to meet up with fellow bloggers? Marilyn is really seeing the natural world in her travels, isn't she?

  5. Excellent composition in each and every photo! I almost think they're more interesting because the trees are past peak color--the stark branches with sparse colorful foliage reflected on the water are stunning. Isn't it great to meet fellow bloggers? Sounds like Marilyn has a great assignment with many adventures! Thanks for sharing highlights from your visit in this beautiful place.

  6. The title of your post gave me a pause, then I remembered: we worship at the same church. Your photographs from this park always thrill me. Its unfortunate that Myriophyllum aquaticum is invasive; it's one of my favorite shots in this posts.

  7. Incredible place! Breathtaking images! You live in a beautiful country!
    And, it's always nice to meet a fellow blogger!

  8. You've outdone yourself Les! These photos are gorgeous. How cool to have met Marilyn here which, I'm sure, enhanced the enjoyment of the beautiful surroundings for both of you!

  9. Wonderful photos, with the water like black glass. It is a miraculous place, the First Church Of Nature.

  10. What a magical paddle! Your photos are stunning, especially the reflected bare trees. How nice too to connect with a fellow blogger who shares your passion for the wilderness. Nature is indeed the best church/temple/mosque.