“Paddle Faster; I hear banjo music!” It’s a joke. Or is it? It’s a line that is common on paddling tee-shirts, and of course, refers to the 1972 movie “Deliverance,” in which four naïve city-slicker paddlers stumble into bubba country, and not everyone makes it out alive. It is, of course, not a fantasy, but a story based on real-life occurrences, about people that have disappeared after blindly stumbling onto criminal activity.
Now, more than likely, if you indeed hear music, it will be mariachi music. In 2006, it was reported that Mexican drug cartels were operating in 50 areas in the U.S. A short four-years later, in 2010, it was 1,286 areas and escalating rapidly, as much as 500% in two years. Small town and rural areas are a major target, especially if there are already Hispanic communities settled there. On Sun., 10 June, CNN reported on a Federal drug raid near Ivanhoe, NC, along the Black River. This is a stream recommended as a paddling destination by five contributors on paddling.net, so like Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight in Deliverance, this is indeed a situation you can find yourself paddling into.
The agents reported that the marijuana plants went as far as the eye could see. There were at least 2,400 of them. There was a camp and shelter with a generator, a pump for drawing water from the river for irrigation, fuel, clothing, some of it in camouflage, and toiletries. When those working the drug crop are present, you can count on them being heavily armed. The bottom line is that snakes, bears, and gators are not all you need to think about when paddling in remote areas. If you find people wandering in areas where people aren’t expected, or see suspicious activity, record the GPS position and paddle like hell. Be sure to report the activity and position to authorities so they can act before someone else stumbles into the area as the activity escalates, which it always does. They may not be lucky enough to paddle away.