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NC School of Science and Mathematics

2004 Student Intensive

The Search for Fish Dam Road

Notes from the field

Joe Liles, Instructor

Friday, April 2

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  Dear all,

I am a little bleary-eyed because I just returned from our fourth day on Fish Dam Road after spending the night with 15 of the students on the side of Fish Dam Road in the Coile Tract of the Eno River State Park.  Before I tell you about our day today, let me give you a quick run down of the nighttime experience.  Dave Cook, Head Ranger of the State Park helped us obtain a Special Use Permit to camp in a section of the park where camping is not allowed.  The site we picked is right by one of the deepest, most impressive gouges of Fish Dam Road in all of its 30 mile course.  The students set up tents with surprising ease.  All six girls slept in one big tent!  We had spaghetti and salad for supper, a campfire (suspended above the ground by metal sheets and rocks -- we had to pack out all of our extinguished coals and ashes), s'mores, ghost stories, a late night hike to the old quarry, and much more.  We were nervous about impending rain, but all we got was a sprinkle!  After breakfast and camp breakdown, I was very impressed with the students when I inspected the campsite and could not tell anyone had been there.  I should mention that David Glenn (who is the designer of the 2005 Eno River Calendar dedicated to Fish Dam Road) stayed with us as a second adult chaperone.  He was a great help, and the students enjoyed his company.

For our day's exploration of Fish Dam Road, we tracked the road from our campsite as it led us above the quarry and to the trailer park that is on Howe Street.  I have two students with GPS units that are recording the longitude and latitude of Fish Dam Road at 100 foot intervals.  They did a great job today, and their work will result in a topo map of Orange and Durham Counties with all the locations of road remnants with descriptions of the environment at each marked spot.  We backtracked our way back to the campsite and left for the home of Beverly Scarlett.  Beverly lives on land right by Fish Dam Road that has been passed down by her great grandfather Levi Scarlett, a former slave who obtained 150 acres for agreeing to take care of his two elderly former owners until they passed on.  We plan on documenting this intriguing story in more detail on the Fish Dam website which is in progress as I type this to you.

Beverly arranged for her father, John Scarlett (84), and her aunt, Mary Scarlett Jones (92), to talk with my students about their memories of growing up on the edge of Fish Dam Road.  The students lapped it up.  They had very little conception of what it was like to grow up before automobiles, before electricity in the home, and before indoor bathrooms (I should add as an aside here that some of these students discovered the joys, the night before, of using the bathroom outside for the first time!).  We had a picnic lunch by the log cabin that was built by John's and Mary's father, William Green Scarlett, the son of Levi.  We were all entertained by the great, great grandchildren of Levi: Paige and Donovan.  After lunch, all the students joined Beverly in cleaning junk out of the roadbed of Fish Dam Road.  Roadbeds have always been magnets for discarded possessions, and we had a bulging pickup truck load in no time.

We returned to the NCSSM campus, tired and happy.

Two students will be sending you their perceptions of the camping trip from both male and female perspectives.  You will be receiving a student report for this fourth day as well.

Have a nice weekend.  I am going home to sleep for two days!

Joe