In Early November, WWAY Promotions Director Steve Klem forwarded me an e-mail from ABC. It explained to local stations around the country how to do and promote tie-ins to Good Morning America's special reports on "The New 7 Wonders." Steve asked me if I'd be interested, and I was. Somehow, by the time I left work on Nov. 3, we'd come up with a list of seven local wonders to air along with GMA's series.
I'm probably nuts to agree to shoot, edit and write a seven-part series all in less than two weeks. But it was an interesting trip, or trips really.
It all started with a drive over to the USS North Carolina Memorial. There was little doubt about it being on our list. How can you leave off a ship that when fully loaded weighed 45,000 pounds and won 15 battle stars during its duty in the Pacific fleet in World War II? The Battleship symbolizes a lot around here. Not only does it honor North Carolinians who were part of the greatest generation, but it serves as a constant reminder of the cost of the freedom we as Americans hold so dear.
A trip down NC 133 to Southport and a ferry ride over to Bald Head Island took me Old Baldy Lighthouse. It is definitely not the biggest lighthouse around. But it certainly has some history. Did you know Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson commissioned the original lighthouse on the island in the late 1700s? The final approval came from President George Washington. That lighthouse was built in a bad spot at the tip of the island. But much of the material in it, including the lantern room, lives on two centuries later in Old Baldy. And talk about a view. The day I went there, it was cloudy and a little rainy, but it was still something to see. I can't imagine what it would be like on a clear day.
It rained the day I traveled a few blocks south to St. Mary Church in downtown Wilmington. If you've never been, it is certainly worth a visit. Like so many ornate churches, there's so much to see. But what's so amazing is that the whole church was built without a nail, steel or a single wooden beam. I did not know that the first time I went there this summer. Knowing it makes the experience inside that much more spectacular.
A short trip out toward Wrightsville Beach is a true natural wonder in Airlie Gardens. It's hard to believe such a beautiful and serene place exists in the middle of so much hustle and bustle. Garden Director Jim McDaniel told me Airlie has become a very popular spot for weddings over the last few years. Recently he went to the County Commission recently to request charging more for weddings. McDaniel said commissioners were worried raising the rate would hurt business. Instead, bookings are up. For about half a century, Airlie inspired the art of gatekeeper Minnie Evans. McDaniel told me there are countless stories of Minnie meeting someone and feeling something special about them just handing them one of her paintings. Some of her works have sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ah, to be so lucky.
I'll bet most of you have never followed the signs leading to a rural corner of Pender County that helped America win its independence from England. In February 1776, American malitia tricked and ambushed a group of about 1,600 Scottish loyalists at the Battle of Moores Creek. The patriots led the loyalists to believe they'd retreated. Instead the patriots laid in wait on the other side of the creek, having torn the planks of the bridge across Moores Creek, even greasing the remaining beams to make crossing it more difficult. The colonists' victory stopped a loyalist march to the coast. That in turn forced British troops to head to South Carolina when they arrived in the spring and overwhelming defeat. Today, the National Park Service maintains the 88-acre Moores Creek National Battlefield. Historians say the victory there helped convince North Carolinians that independence was possible and led to the creation of the Halifax Resolves, which were the first official action by a colony calling for a split from mother England.
The last two stops on my tour were to learn about natural wonders. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I saw a Venus Flytrap. But I'm not the first person to feel that way. The ranger at Carolina Beach State Park who showed me around told me most people think the plant will look like something out of Little Shop of Horrors. But they are just tiny little traps laying on the ground. But they are truly unique plants that grow natively only in our area. You might even find them along the banks of White Lake in Bladen County. The lake is one of countless Carolina Bays that pepper the south Atlantic coast. No one is sure how they were formed. But it probably wasn't from meteorites hitting the earth. The ranger who showed me around the lake says there are no iron deposits around that are characteristic of meteorites. Probably the most logical explanation is simple erosion as the ocean receded millions of year ago. Nowadays the clear waters of White Lake draw throngs of visitors during the spring and summer for boating and swimming.
Seven days. Seven wonders. For someone relatively new to the area, it was a great experience. I've lived all over this great country of ours, and when I move to a new place, I always wish I'd seen more of the landmarks of where I lived. Now I don't have to worry about it. There are a lot more places I surely need to visit. But I'd say I'm definitely off to a very good start.