Great But Not Dismal

The morning after Christmas, I set myself a goal to capture the sunrise over one of Virginia’s two natural lakes, Lake Drummond, at the center of the Great Dismal Swamp.

For those who have never been to been to Lake Drummond, getting there isn’t an easy task. It involves either an hour drive from major cities followed by a six-mile drive down a gravel road or a several hour paddle on a canoe/kayak. And, to add to the logistical obstacles, the vehicular gate doesn’t open until after 7:30 a.m. which makes matters a bit more difficult when trying to capture the  sunrise!

I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m–even though I had the day off and should’ve been catching up on my sleep–and arrived at the gate outside Lake Drummond… I parked my car, set up my bike, and immediately began riding through the cold December air. Visibility was poor due to the fog coming off the swamp. After approximately ten minutes of solid riding, my head lamp caught two pairs of eyes in my path, about the height of a female bear and a cub. I immediately stopped the bike and the eyes stood still too. I made some noise, the eyes turned away, and quickly disappeared….I never saw them again, but I made sure to pedal a little harder for the next couple of minutes.

Though the rest of the ride was uneventful, it was eery being in the middle of a large empty wilderness. I arrived at the shoreline just in time to catch the last of the stars twinkling in the inky black sky. Distant owl calls pierced through the quiet calm. The first glimpses of light emerged over the mirror-like water, blue at first, then red, then yellow.  Flocks of awakening birds flew overhead. Finally, the sun’s rays poked above the horizon, shining through the branches of a bald cypress growing in the lake.

The experience felt like a belated Christmas gift, one that I will always cherish.

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