To paraphrase popular song from the 1970s would best describe an adventure back in May for the Chalk Banks Challenge:
“Old black water, keep on rollin’
Carolina sun, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me?
Yeah, keep on shinin’ your light
Gonna make everything, pretty
Mama gonna make everything all right
And I ain’t got no worries
‘Cause I ain’t in no hurry at all”
No! There WAS no hurry at all!
As Saturday arrived, so did the annual Chalk Banks Challenge celebration, a family friendly celebration on the Lumbee River at the Chalk Banks.
Food, craft, educational exhibits, and musicians provided land based festivities whilst canoe, kayak, and homemade raft races were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on the Lumbee.
To truly appreciate and experience the Lumbee, you must immerse yourself totally into the nature of the river, and I selected that for my experience, and not to participate in the scheduled kayak race.
Sliding my kayak, Bata nan Og I (Scots Gaelic for “Boat of Youth 1”) into the cool gently flowing waters about a quarter of a hour ahead of the scheduled race, my journey went shortly upstream, and then I reversed as we headed downstream at a leisurely pace.
Along the banks on both sides of the Lumbee are cypress, juniper, pines, maples, poplars, oaks amongst its varied vegetation. Some of the bald cypress trees are centuries old and arise in the middle of the river as well as on its banks.
The true stories of the Lumbee are within its gently rippling and dimpling waters. Once you can interpret and hear the language of the river, your journey elevates to a spiritual one — as now you now speak the same language as the river.
Time is no longer of essence, rather now being totally removed from distractions of civilization, you are now a welcomed guest in the home and classroom of Mother Nature’s daughter, the Lumbee.
All of God’s natural masterpieces are all beautiful, and she is no exception!
The rippling rushes on the Lumbee reveal sunken logs, stumps, and changes in river flows as directed by the sand and pea gravel eddies. Just when you believe you understand the complete language and sights of the Lumbee a stump or log will jar your boat, awakening your meditation, as the she laughs at you.
Her sudden reminders are not unlike one of your former school teachers who after teaching you one lesson that you haven’t completely digested, decides to move abruptly to a higher level.
As you have lulled yourself into believing that the shallow eddies are always on the insides of the bends and you paddle to the deeper outsides, she will put a branch — that may or may not hold a sunning river reptile — into your intended path, and a log in the middle.
Yes, it is a multiple choice test!
In a matter of a few minutes headed downstream, the changing sunlight filtering through the tree canopies reveal that your boat is headed southwest, northeast, south, north, and southeast. That same light may strike the deep water, giving it the lighter appearance of a shallow eddie, and again reminding you that you are her guest, her student, and that you will play by her rules.
The straight gravel road that takes you from Chalk Banks to US 401 is 2 miles long, but beside it, the river flows for at least 4 miles. This is her world, and you “ain’t in no hurry at all.” She has lessons to teach, as each lesson will be filled with its share of surprises, challenging you to return for another.
I will be back — with God’s blessings — again and again. The Lumbee is her own book, and we must write its stories.
Next Saturday, July 25, the inaugural “Sunburnt Boy/Sunburnt Girl Lumbee River Experience” will commence at 10 a.m. at the Chalk Banks access point near Wagram, part of the Lumber River State Park. Following the theme of the Lumbee described by North Carolina Poet Laureate and Scotland County native John Charles McNeill in his poem, “Sunburnt Boys,” canoes and kayaks will put in at the Chalk Banks at 10 a.m. and take a leisure tour down the “Lumbee” to the landing at US 401.
Canoes, kayaks, paddles, life jackets and, if necessary, — your own canoe guide — will share the Lumbee experience. Shuttle service will return you to the Chalk Banks where a lunch of sandwiches, soft drinks, and ice cream will await along with the presentation of signed certificates by Mr. McNeill’s great niece, Dr. Mary Wayne Watson, designating all participants as either an honorary “Sunburnt Boy” or “Sunburnt Girl.”
The event, sponsored by the Laurinburg Rotary Club, the Young Professionals Network — Scotland, and the Laurinburg — Oban Exchange Program is a fund raiser for the Exchange Scholarship Fund which is used to insure all selected applicants may participate in the life transforming international exchange experience.
Suggested donations are $100 per person, but we will accept as little as $25 if sufficient canoes and kayaks are available.
You’ll rarely have a better time to experience an hour journey and the ambiance of the Lumbee River.
We hope to see you Saturday, July 25!
Beacham McDougald can be reached at [email protected]