To be accurate, Lake Mattamuskeet is a very shallow lake, not a river. Today the temperatures hover above freezing (just barely) and the swans weave a snowy blanket over the lake and nearby fields. In fact, a few blankets (preferably heated with a waterproof tent over them) would help us survive Lake Mattamuskeet Swan Day 2017. Somehow Mother Nature and I get our wires crossed for this event. I request weather conducive to photographing swans. Mother Nature delivers lamentations of swans grounded due to low visibility. Sure the birds are abundant, but hidden from the lens of my plastic bag shrouded camera by a persistent, biting mist.
Lucky for me that as I wander the grounds of the old lodge waiting for our scheduled tram ride through the gloomy, bone-chilling nature preserve I cross paths with James “Little Brother” Topping. Mr. Topping spent his childhood working for guest’s tips in the Lodge here. He later served as a hunting guide at the lake until 1974 when the lodge was closed. In the video below, he shares his story of a life enjoying goose hunting and meeting nice people at the historic Lake Mattamuskeet Lodge.
I include a tiny clip of our water soaked tram ride through the refuge at the end of the video. But staying warm and dry, not taking pictures, quickly becomes the goal of this expedition. We spend the first half hour of our ride squinting to view birds through the wintry veil and shuffling to avoid showers of water from the overhead canopy. After that, we focus solely on catching sight of the super heated buses that we know are waiting for us at the end of our muddy tram ride. The wind picks up and time slows down. It seems like hours before anyone glimpses the billowing exhaust of those elusive motorized beasts. Once aboard, the bus warms my cold soaked body like a toasty mobile oven. At last a sanctuary that I can appreciate!