Merchants Millpond is rightly known as one of the best spots in the state to paddle a cypress swamp, and deservedly so. The 760-acre millpond is perhaps the most enchanting flatwater paddle in the state, a paddle both wild (it's easy to get temporarily lost amid the wading cypress and tupelo) and accessible (the boathouse rents canoes and kayaks). Most folks probably don't even know this paddler's paradise has running and hiking trails, but it does. Nine miles, in fact. And 5.5 miles of those - the Lassiter Trail loop - is one of the best swamp runs around. You'll hike beneath a tight hardwood canopy (impressive beech trees dominate) and through dense understory dominated by assorted bays. You'll hear the sounds that make a swamp hike so intriguing: the cacophony of carpenter frogs, leopard frogs, bull frogs, cricket frogs and tree frogs, the who-cooks-for-you call of the barred owl, the discussions of whatever seasonal avian life is temporarily calling the swamp home. There's a simultaneous intimacy and expansiveness that makes this run all the more ethereal. Somewhere nearby there's a ruckus in the underbrush that's probably a squirrel but that, because you're in a swamp, hints of something larger. Also nearby but out of sight, something takes flight. A duck, probably, but swamp amplification makes you think of something larger - much larger. There's plenty on this 5.5-mile trail to trigger the imagination. Perhaps the ultimate sign of a good trail run. More info:Merchants Millpond State Park, detailed trip description at nchikes.com. Maps: Downloadable here, available at the park.