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Swamp fever: Brunswick Trails provide respite from shopping for coastal travelers
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Swamp fever: Brunswick Trails provide respite from shopping for coastal travelers

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Because of the hard work of hiking and writing articles, I need to take a vacation once in a while.

When I get the opportunity for a little time off, I like to hike and write articles.

It is for that reason that this week I want to tell you about a trail that is not in Western North Carolina.

I know a lot of you take trips to the beach so I found a trail that might be accessible from a few different locations. So, while on vacation, if you get tired of shopping and cappuccino and feel the need for a dirt trail under your feet, here’s one I think you will like.

Brunswick Nature Trail — Winnabow

Difficulty: Easy. You’re out on the coast so expect mostly flat walking. The trails in the park are well-made but narrow in spots so just watch your step.

Shoes: Almost anything you packed for your vacation. I recommend you avoid sandals. Depending on your plans, you could be hiking a few miles so wear the appropriate shoe. There may be occasional water crossings during your hike.

Time: We hiked several trails; some were mainly for bikes and not on the trail map. We were in the area almost 4 hours. It’s up to you.

Distance: If you have time, try to plan on a 6- to 8-mile hike. You have several choices to customize your hike based on the time you allow for your outdoor adventure. The trails loop out and come back to a central point, like the pattern on a butterfly’s wings.

Safety: Let’s start with the most important. Be sure to bring and wear as necessary, a good insect repellent. The only negative feature of the hike was the constant attack from mosquitoes.

You can probably count on the mosquitos, but a possible danger might be the snakes. We’re used to rattlers and copperheads in the west but here on the coast the third amigo joins the group, the water moccasin. The cottonmouth will typically stand its ground rather than retreat if disturbed. The venom is similar to that of its cousin, the copperhead, but not as toxic as a rattlesnake’s. In their defensive posture, they often open their mouth wide, displaying the white, cotton-like, interior that gives the snake its name.

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When we started the hike, I remarked that the area was about one gator short of a swamp. Shortly thereafter we saw the sign that warned us to be aware of alligators.

We hiked all over the area and, as usual, saw no signs of alligators or snakes. Just be aware. As we get into the colder months, this will become mostly a non-issue. On the plus side, we saw several deer.

Courtesy: You can count on seeing bikers on these trails. In fact, this is such a good area we plan to bring our trail bikes on the next visit. The trails are marked so the bike traffic is one way. Just hike in the opposite direction and you will be fine. Usually, there is plenty of room to step off the trail to let them pass.

How to get there: The area is about 25 miles south of Wilmington. It is quite easy to find using any mapping device. Personally, I think it is good enough to take a drive up from Myrtle Beach. That drive should take about an hour to an hour and a half.

The trail: From the turn off from River Road, it is a short distance to the parking area. There are numerous trails so do some research in advance to determine your hiking route.

Hiking trails and biking trails crisscross throughout the area. You will see hikers on the bike trails and vice versa.

Please don’t let the term, “park” mislead you. This is truly a natural preserve. I like this area because you get the swamp feel almost immediately. The trails are sandy and raised a little from the surrounding area, and are wide enough to allow hikers and bikers to pass. They are comfortable underfoot. Even though you feel like you are in a swamp, you feel safe. We did not see any overgrown areas where the footing was unsure. No danger of stepping on an unseen critter.

Some of the trails provide great views of lagoons covered with water plants and blooms. A nice change from our trail views here at home. One of my favorite features of one trail is that you are often under a thick canopy of long leaf pines. These trees are often called the official tree of North Carolina. The state tree is the pine but no particular species. I have often hiked in stands of pine trees, but these are truly something special. Tall and straight, their foliage is of long leaves (needles) that can grow to 17 inches. This foliage often starts high above the ground. It’s like standing in a forest of telephone poles. You tend to feel a little small in these pine forests.

As you come into the park area, look to the left. There is a short road that will take to the Dogwood Trail. Try to allow yourself enough time to include this trail in your hike. You will be provided with great views out and over Town Creek. The trail will loop you into the woods and back out to the river giving a good look at the wetlands.

Another possibility: The kayaking looks great, except for the alligators, which makes me think I’ll stick to hiking.

If you have plans to visit the coast from Myrtle Beach to Wilmington, I recommend that you clip and save this article, or just Google it as “Afield in WNC.”

I feel confident you will enjoy the short break from the normal tourist activities, and once refreshed, you can go shopping again.

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