The Great Dismal Swamp used to cover about a half million acres in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Three fourths of that has been drained and cultivated, and almost all of the virgin timber has been logged out. But 126,000 acres is maintained and protected by federal and state agencies - your tax dollars at work. The part I hiked in is run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It's a place I've wanted to visit since moving to Virginia, and I finally made it.
I hiked along the Washington Ditch, which is a straight-as-an-arrow 4.5 mile hike each way to Lake Drummond. But first, at the parking lot, I walked along a 3/4 mile boardwalk that goes through the swamp. I didn't turn on my GPS for tracking until I was mostly done walking this part and realized that it looped to the pathway. Here is the one-way track for my hike:
As I said, I started my hike along this beautifully built boardwalk, which threaded its way through very wet woodlands. Most of the woodlands are seasonally flooded, and the construction of 150 miles of logging road have disrupted the swamp's natural hydrology. As a result, trees like bald cypress and Atlantic white cedar are less common now, and red maples are the dominant tree over much of the area.
After 4.5 miles of walking, I reached Lake Drummond, "discovered" in 1755 by the first colonial governor of North Carolina, William Drummond. It looks today very much the same as it did then. There are two theories about how the lake was formed. The first is by a meteorite collision. The more likely theory is a vast peat fire that burned several feet down into the peat.
From there, I drove to Sandbridge, Virginia for the night. Although I was tired from the long walking, I walked nearly two miles on the beach that night, marvelling at the stars. It was a beautiful and clear night. I could not quite make out the Milky Way, but seemingly millions of stars were visible. At the end of the day, I was worn out, having walked over 29,000 steps that day, and hit the sack by 9:15!