Friday, February 22, 2008

Butner Seed Nursery and Beaverdam Waterfowl Impoundment

It may become an annual winter tradition. When it's warm enough, and the sun's angle is high enough to get us some late afternoon gold, we go to the end of Brickhouse Road, in the Falls Lake watershed, north of Durham and east of Bahama (stress on that second long "a" sound - this is the South), and walk the big loop through the Beaverdam Waterfowl Impoundment to Butner Seed Nursery. This year it was Moomin Light, our oldest son, and myself.

This land was supposed to be flooded as part of the Falls Lake Project, and was condemned and put in the control of the Army Corp of Engineers. But the land did not end up flooded (not sure if plans changed, or it was a miscalculation...) and this area is only flooded in part, because of dams, causeways, and beaver activity. The Flat River flows though it, on its way into Falls Lake, and beavers there are burrowers, making their homes up in the banks, rather than in the stick lodges more common in the mountains, or further north. Sometimes, as we walk through, we can hear beavers popping the surface of the water with their flat tails, warning other beavers of danger, just before they make an emergency dive.

The impoundment is amazing for the beauty of the trees, especially some of the huge beeches, and for the open, quiet space. The long gravel roads wind gracefully through the mixed woods and fields, the latter plowed from time to time and planted in separated stripes of corn, millet, sunflowers, or grasses to encourage the wildlife. This area is busier in hunting season, when mourning dove is one of the attractions, but in February it's all but deserted. I've done some solitary night hikes here, but it's kind of spooky, because it's so lonely.

Walking the end of Brickhouse road, with the sun setting to the left, and casting long shadows across gravel and fields, makes a great ending to a afternoon and always makes me feel filled up with quiet, with sky, with sunshine. I feel cleaned out, like a winter house that has opened all the windows to the first fresh breezes of spring.

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