Elusive Catfish and One Hungry Camel – Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA

Fayetteville, North Carolina, is a wonderful place to get back to nature. The Cape Fear River runs through this “City of Dogwoods”, which also boasts countless other eye-pleasing plant and personality-filled animal life that can be admired and interacted with up close and personal.

Roy A. Barnes has gone fishin'.
Roy A. Barnes has gone fishin'

Fishing the Cape Fear River
I am not the most patient person, but fishing is one activity when I am. What fun to cast a line out into the water, and wait in anticipation for a bite. When I think of fishing in North Carolina, the images that are burned into me are those television reruns of Sheriff Andy Taylor and Opie! Unfortunately, Andy and Opie were nowhere in sight. Still, my fishing experience for a couple of hours on the primarily 10-foot-deep Cape Fear River was quite enjoyable. I didn’t fish alone, so waiting for the catfish to bite was even easier via the good conversation I had with the other people. The hot spring afternoon was more bearable being on the river, while catching a constant breeze.

The boat I was on is captained by one Freddie Mims, a jovial fellow who really knows his fishing and boating! He never got around to officially naming his 1985 model Sanpan pontoon boat, which measures 24 feet long and over 8 feet wide, and can travel 150 miles on a tank of gas. He has captained this water vessel for 12 years. Mims is also a commander of a local Coast Guard Auxiliary Volunteer Unit. His duties include educating the public about water safety, even backing up the Coast Guard for many functions, save law enforcement.

Freddy Mims told me early on during the excursion the real secrets to catching fish: “having plenty of time” and when it is “quiet and still". Freddie said some things about catfish that I didn’t know, even though my father used to take me fishing often when my family visited relatives in northeast Arkansas. Did you know that some large catfish will actually eat smaller fish and young birds like baby geese and ducklings?

The kind of bait that most catfish will go for, and that is more readily available to humans for use, is cut up river eels, which is what we used as bait. Yet catfish will also go for hot dogs, chicken liver and marshmallows.

Nope, I didn’t catch any fish during my time on the boat, but that was okay. I will say it again: It is the patient anticipation during the sport of fishing that makes this pastime enjoyable for me.

River Boat Cruises by Freddie Mims: Call 910-630-1475, or 910-391-1246. He also will take people to Jordan Lake and Shearon Harris Lake, which are near Fayetteville.

I'm hungry!
I'm hungry!

They’re Not Mirages at the Jambbas Ranch
Camels in southeastern North Carolina? A kitty cat that wants to help with the office filing? They’re not mirages at the Jambbas Ranch. You may experience both happenings as the desert creature trots over as close to the high fence as possible (near the walking trail), gives you a rueful stare, and then makes an annoying yawing sound that proclaims, “Feed me"! Upon entering the ranch’s welcome center, you are likely to come upon two cats and two large dogs that serve as greeters. One of the greeters is a particular feline named Lester, likes to hang out in the filing box! As you head out the back door to go exploring, Charlie the llama is standing there waiting for you to give him some apple bits.

Everywhere I ventured at the 150-acre Jambbas Ranch, it was all about the animals and their appetites! Included in this motley crew of Mother Nature’s great and small, who also love to eat bread pieces (which are sold at the ranch like the apple bits), are goats, sheep, deer, buffalo, one pot bellied pig that has a duck groupie, some peacocks, and a wild turkey. Last but not least, the big attraction that the kids flock to is Ben the Bear. This 600-pound creature isn’t allowed to roam freely, has to be fed his apple bits with very long tweezers behind a caged fence.

Children have fun feeding the deer
Children have fun feeding the deer

Milton Bass, who runs this ranch, told me this venture came about as a result of “an ego problem that got out of hand”. Yes, it must feel good to be the only person in the neighborhood who has his own camel!

Besides animals, the ranch serves as a hiking and nature walk that can take as long as 1.5 hours to cover. There are some interesting spots like the Swinging Bridge, which will make you feel a bit unstable for 203 feet, as you cross over a ravine that drops about 25 to 50 feet. Along the walkway, you’ll go under a covered bridge, and spot the entry way to a gold mine, where many children like to be photographed (nothing inside it). Along the trails are places to stop and have picnics, with the trees providing plenty of shade. From the Welcome Center, the trail will take you all the way to the muddy-colored Cape Fear River, about 15 to 20 minutes away.

More Nature Attractions
The 79-acre Cape Fear Botanical Garden is a big draw for those who are into plant life and nature walking. Guests can spend up to 2.5 hours getting fit, while enjoying the beauty of the wild ginger, Japanese Maple trees, or the Cherry Laurel shrubs. Overall, this botanical refuge contains more than 2,000 ornamental plants, including 500-plus varieties of daylilies and 200-plus varieties of camellias. Their Children’s Garden is inspired by the book Gulliver's Travels

The Cape Fear Botanical Garden's beauty
The Cape Fear Botanical Garden's beauty

This venue is situated northwest where Cross Creek and the Cape Fear River meet. Its gazebo and surrounding grounds are excellent for picnicking. The onsite Heritage Garden complex contains an authentic 1886 farmhouse (which serves as a gift shop and administrative offices), a general store (used for children’s workshops), a corncrib, a smokehouse from the 1930’s and a log tobacco barn.

The Cape Fear River Trail contains roughly four miles of walking, running, and biking trails on flat to slightly elevated terrain. It is part of the East Coast Greenway that is to run from Maine to Key West, Florida, when this ambitious project is completed. Over 700 species of plants and trees thrive here, as well as bluebirds, which make up part of the 150 species of birds that have been spotted.

Clark Park and its Nature Center are at the south end of the Cape Fear River Trail. It contains 76 acres, some of which overlook the Cape Fear River. One of its three trails, called the Bear Trail, has Fayetteville’s largest Loblolly Pine. Inside the center, visitors are educated via the various displays that focus on North Carolina geology, wildlife and plantlife.

Clark Park & Nature Center: 631 Sherman Dr., Fayetteville, North Carolina. 910-433-1579. Admission charge. No website.

Roy’s Travel Tips
After a long day of natural sightseeing, head on over to Huske Hardware House Restaurant & Brewing Company, a former hardware store turned gathering spot for the locals when they want good food and live musical performances. Try the Chicken Marsala!

Sammio's Greek Salad
Sammio's Greek Salad

If you are in the mood for Italian food, you can’t go wrong at Sammio’s comfortable family dining atmosphere, where good-sized Italian entree portions of pasta and sub selections abound at prices that won’t break your travel budget. I loved their gooey cheese sticks, accompanied with a zesty meat sauce. I then feasted on their filling Greek Salad for one (pictured).

Sammio’s Italian Restaurant: 2623 Raeford Rd., Fayetteville, North Carolina 28305. 910-321-0000. No website.

When those hunger pangs spring up while enjoying nature in Fayetteville, North Carolina, or anywhere else on this planet, they can be remedied quickly by keeping a jar of peanut butter with you. I heard about this tip from someone who was backpacking across Europe. I’ve tried it, and found that she was right – a spoonful of peanut butter is quite filling when your stomach is grumbling! It will hold you over until your next meal. Not only that, but peanut butter is nutritious. If you don’t have nut allergies, stop at the local market before your sightseeing gets underway for some creamy or crunchy peanut butter.

Fayetteville Tourist Information

You can read Roy’s first Fayetteville, North Carolina, article, The Dogwood Festival Rocks at this link.

Roy A. Barnes is a frequent contributor to Bootnsall.com. For the record, he loves creamy peanut butter the best, which goes well with yummy pancake syrup!

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