Here's a question
that I don't think many of you will be able to answer: where is the closest
place you can go to see live alligators living in a natural habitat?
Most of you are thinking Florida, I would have thought that, too; if it wasn't
for a chance visit to Merchants Mill Pond.
I love to visit parks and
recreational areas. Parks are interesting places to visit at anytime, but if
they have a pond or a lake I take a particular interest in them.
This year, now that I'm fully
retired, I ended my 20 year absence from the piscatorial pursuits and once
again picked up my rod a reel in search of the really big one. I have with a
renewed vigor begun fishing once again. And now, after introducing my wife Flo
to the fun of fly fishing, we are like two kids enjoying our time on the water.
So it's no wonder that we both love to visit parks with lakes and ponds.
Now Fly fishing has nothing to do with trying to fish for flies. It's
a technique used to deliver a lure which is made from natural materials to
resemble insects in both color and size that live on or near water. These lures
don't weigh enough to be cast by conventional methods like spinning or casting
rods and reels. They have to be delivered delicately enough so they light on
the water and appear natural. The equipment; fly rod and fly line are
specialized to present the lure in a very realistic way; of course casting with
a fly rod does require some specially developed skills.
Ok so now that
you know we aren't interested in catching flies, and its fish that we're really
after. By the way although fly tackle appears delicate; they regularly catch
every kind of fish, both in fresh and salt water with fly tackle. Largemouth
bass are the big fish we look for when we're fishing. So visiting parks with
ponds and lakes only helps us find new places for our outdoor adventures. I
can't think of a better way to find and investigate these parks and out of the
way places than by traveling to them by motorcycle.
PC turned over 35,000 miles on
Flo was doing a little
dance in North Carolina...
On Thursday (25 October) Flo
and I rode to Merchants Mill Pond in North Carolina. We rode about 160 miles
round trip. What made this ride special was the route we took. After riding our
usual back roads to get from the James River Bridge to Winsor's intersection of
460 and 258, we headed to Franklin on 258.
Where 258 crosses over 58,
it then becomes 189 or S Quay Rd. We turned off of S Quay Rd onto Gates Rd
(666): Gates turns into Camp Pond Rd. (745) and at the North Carolina border
the name changes once more into Sandbanks Rd. (1200).
For those who
don't recognize the name Sandbanks Rd. or NC1200; it's better known to us as
the fabled "Tail of the Lizard". I know I have talked about this particular
stretch of road a lot. Some of you may know it by other names like the
Motorcycle Highway, or the Superbike road and other names. But as the names
imply it's one of the very best roads in the area to ride; no matter what kind
of motorcycle you're on. It made our day's motorcycling adventure even better
by including the Lizard as well as a few more roads we discovered on our way to
Merchants Mill Pond Park.
In all of my many trips to the "Tail of the
Lizard" I never ventured beyond the stop sign at the intersection with 13. On
this trip, we crossed 13 and followed county road 1343 to the little town of
Gatesville. Where we made a right turn at the intersection and followed 37 to
Mill Pond Road. Mill Pond Road took us to the Merchants Mill Pond Park entrance
The mill pond is one of those
ponds studded with cypress trees, Spanish moss, Pine and Oak trees. The water
is covered with so much green pollen; it looks like a lawn more than the
surface of a lake or pond. It's a place where you really want to fish. It looks
like it hasn't changed since dinosaurs were roaming North America.
was reading one of the bulletin boards, when I couldn't believe the large
warning sign telling the visitors to give the alligators plenty of
Gators? Yes right here in Gates County, not more than twenty miles or
so from the Virginia border are living in the wild; alligators. No they aren't
fenced in or in a display they are living and breeding in the wilds of the
So now you know you don't have to travel to Florida to see
Next summer we are planning to return to Merchants Mill Pond and
rent a boat or canoe and try to photograph a North Carolina Blue
On this visit we didn't see anything more than the posted signs
and a turtle, not one gator showed up to greet us.