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Experiences

From Branch to Hero pt II

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Great Dismal Swamp
Entering the Great Dismal Swamp
Entering the Great Dismal Swamp

It was rough. The road was full of ruts, holes and broken branches. The teens were definitely using their skill of calling out hazards. Almost every 100 feet someone would call out “hole!”, “dip!”, “tree!”. It was slow going with an average speed of about 10 mph. We occasionally had to cross fallen trees that completely blocked the path. Pulling our bikes through the branches. But at each glance of my GPS the mileage to the destination was less. I stayed confident we were on the right path.

Six miles in and we’re at the Trail Head to the swamp. A sort of ‘crossroads’ complete with a map of the swamp and the surrounding area. It was a road, alright but it was designed for mountain bikes.  Confirming what we already knew.  We were at the “T”. To the right was a road that went off (my) route and God knows where and the path straight was the continuation. I suggested we go straight.

The road was much smoother and the riding speed increased dramatically. One of the teens who always rode in front was in his usual spot.  We were rolling now. Hitting speeds up to 17 mph. The heat wasn’t so oppressive with the wind in your face. But it wasn’t long before the joy was taken away.  After three and a half miles of riding I heard a voice.

Great Dismal Swamp
Going deeper into the Great Dismal Swamp

“Why’d you stop?”, one of the teens called out. “Keep going!”.

“Where?!”, the lead cyclist asked in frustration. “There’s no where to go!”

I came to the front to inspect. In front of him was a wall of trees and bushes. The road just ended. He was right. There was nothing there. Looking left I saw the remnants of a bridge crossing a very nasty creek. It was beaten with rotted boards but had to be the continuation of our road. A tree had fallen on it but the supporting I-beams were  still intact. I left the boys with Itza to do a little recon on the other side.

Crossing the broken bridge was precarious but manageable. On the other side were more fallen trees and what turned out to be an overgrown a footpath. That was our way out. We formed a fire brigade and get the bikes across the bridge and the rest of the team crossed over one by one.

While I was on the other side of the bridge some of the boys were experiencing a little lack of confidence in me. Being less aware than I was of our geographical location they were petitioning Itza to call the National Guard to airlift us out of the swamp. To distract them she had them break out into song.

We could only ride the foot path for about 500 feet before it became too overgrown. At first I beat back the thorn bushes and weeds with my bike.  The heat, sweat and biting flies weren’t necessary to remind us that we were in a swamp. We were in the thick of it and thorn bushes grabbed to cut and make their marks on us and our clothing.

With only a mile and a quarter to go before we were out of the swamp the thick brush fought to hold us in our tracks. That’s when I looked down and picked up a fallen tree branch.  It was about three feet long. I used it like a machete and hacked our way out.

Experiences like these help teens discover the joy of adventure and confidence through self discovery. Be a hero without having a tree branch by making a donation today at https://TriangleBikeworks.org.

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