February 27 – March 4, 2021.
At the end of February, we found ourselves in Stanley, North Carolina at Greg’s parents’ house. We had decided to make a speedy 2200 mile trip across the country from the California/Arizona border to check in on them. It had been a long while (almost a year and a half) since we had seen Greg’s folks. In the past, we have generally visited them a couple of times a year – one when returning from a long journey and another as we set off on another. Usually, these visits involve winding up (getting the van ready to travel) or gearing down (getting ready for a summer of house sitting and painting). Aside from van repairs, cleaning, reorganizing things, and small projects, and besides visiting with Greg’s family our trips to Stanley have been usually pretty uneventful. But this time we weren’t gearing up or winding down and although we did do some van projects we were still in adventure mode.
But was there any adventure in this part of North Carolina? I have never really looked before. Stanley is near Lake Norman. So I pulled up the map to see if there was any good kayaking in the area. This is how I found a big green blog on the map called Latta Nature Preserve. Add preserve, refuge, conservation area at the end of any name and you pretty much got my attention these days.
The Latta Nature Preserve is a 1460 acre peninsula extending into Mountain Island Lake, a section of the Catawba River that flows down from Lake Norman. The preserve includes the Historic Latta Plantation, a Nature Center, lots of hiking trails, two kayak launches, and the Carolina Rapture Center.
We got a little busy with our van projects so we never got a chance to launch Pirogue Bleue at the preserve. The Nature Center was closed and we gave the Plantation a pass, but we did manage to take a couple of hikes and visit the Carolina Rapture Center.
Carolina Raptor Center
The Carolina Raptor Center is one of the largest raptor medical centers in the United States. The center has treated over 18,700 injured and orphaned raptors since 1975. Of the 900 to 1000 birds that they treat a year 70% are released back into the wild.
The center features a Raptor Trail where over 30 species of raptors and other birds of prey are on exhibit.