An ocean wave at Third Street Beach
I am searching my memory for the earliest time that I have taken a complete dip in the ocean, and I think it is the first week of June.
If that is the case, I established a new personal record on May 28, 2011 when the ocean waters splashed over my head at Third Street Beach on Emerald Isle.
It was no polar bear swim. The North Carolina water was warm, just not quiet as warm as my body. Even though my dip occurred at sometime after 6 PM, it was a cooling dip, and not one where I had to worry about being too cool when I got out of the water. Actually the whole purpose of the trip was so that I could cool down completely after an afternoon in the heat. We have had some heat here on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks in May 2011.
Just before our beach trip, while the sun was still beating down on our subdivision on the shores of the White Oak River, I applied fertilizer to our yard. For some strange reason, just after I started with the fertilizer, the winds that have cooled us for weeks dropped to nothing. That turned my tolerable job into one where I slowly baked in the sun. After retiring to the house and replenishing my fluids, I decided the proper way to draw the remaining heat from my body was a dip in the ocean.
I have often maintained that the best way to cool down is an ocean wave perfectly positioned between your shoulder blades. It always works for me, and Saturday, May 28, 2011 was no exception.
After my dip in the water, I wandered up to the picnic table where my wife was relaxing and enjoying the ocean view from just above the dunes.
A few minutes went by before I even bothered to finish drying off. Only after we decided to leave and drive down to Salter Path to check out the Memorial Day traffic did I put on my tee-shirt. There is nothing like a warm summer evening on the beach to make you lose track of time.
As is normal on a holiday weekend, the Crab Shack and other restaurants in Salter Path were packed with evening crowds. We also noticed that the beautiful Hydrangea bushes that grace some of the spots around the Oak Grove Motel were starting to bloom. The Oak Grove had their “no vacancy” sign showing. I was most impressed when we caught sight of two Indian Beach police cars in less than a mile. It is a good thing to remember that Salter Path is one of the stretches on the beach where the speed limit is 35 MPH.
We didn’t bother going farther up the beach towards Pine Knoll Shores. We turned at the putt-putt course on the edge of town and headed back down to Emerald Isle where we found plenty of folks walking and riding on the bike trails. It was good to see some holiday crowds. Jordan’s Seafood was packed as was Kathryn’s and Chowdaheads. The Dairy Queen and the Sweet Spot also had good crowds.
Even more impressive was the parking lot of Food Lion in Emerald Isle. Not only was it filled to what we call the wilderness parking area, but there was also a line of people at the parking lot ATM. It was a good day to be locals who did their grocery shopping much earlier in the week.
As we drove back across the bridge to the mainland, only impatient traffic behind us kept me from slowing to enjoy the gorgeous view looking east up Bogue Sound. As I often say, it is one of the most beautiful views that I have ever seen. It always renews by soul.
Our trip home took us by Fairway Restaurant which was also packed. It is good to see the local restaurants doing well. The winter months are pretty quiet here on the Crystal Coast. Still it was reassuring to remember that we had a nice porterhouse steak waiting for us at home. Sometime in the spring we found the steak on special for around $6 at Food Lion and tucked it away in the freezer.
The perfectly grilled steak with a sweet potato and fancy green beans doctored with sesame seeds and soy sauce was a nearly perfect ending for a busy day. There was even enough steak left over for a sandwich the next week. However, the real crowing touch was a bowl of fresh strawberries from the box that we had captured on our morning errands when we stopped at Winberry’s Produce just before we swung into Redfearn’s Nursery for a couple of plants. It is not often that you get to view a triple crown of local berries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
After enjoying our steak with a glass of wine, we cleaned up the dishes. Only then was I comfortable relaxing in my easy chair. I thought back over the day which included a short early morning boat ride on the almost deserted White Oak River, the mid-morning mowing of our yard, and enough stops on trip to town that it was a challenge to remember all we did.
Our errands included a visit to S&H Feeds for our centipede fertilizer where we chatted with a neighbor who just picked his first ripe tomato this week. Then there was the perfect cheese-steak sandwich which my wife and I shared for lunch at Trattoria in Swansboro. After lunch we enjoyed the display of flags around the Otway Burns statue in Centennial Park near where we had parked.
Fortunately my review of the day didn’t have to last very long. Within an hour or so we decided to head off to bed
Saturday was a great start to Memorial Day weekend, and I certainly didn’t have any trouble falling asleep.
If you want to check out some of the locations mentioned, visit this welcome page for a downloadable PDF map of the area.
The lunch crowd at the Point
This has been a great spring for walking along the beach, and it does not take much to send me off on a beach hike.
After completing my personal challenge to walk all the beaches inside the town limits of Emerald Isle, I was itching to get back to the Point to see if there were any changes since my last trip there earlier in the spring.
I chose a Monday for my trip since I figured the crowds would be gone. As you can see from the picture, my guess was absolutely right. Of course I doubt there was really much of a crowd there even on the weekend. People tend to avoid spots which require walking. I guess that is one of the reasons that I love the Point.
While the little parking lot on Coast Guard Road did have five or six vehicles in it when I arrived just after 11 AM, there were only a few clumps of folks on the beach. Even with that the beach actually had a few more folks than I thought might be there on a Monday. I guess that is a function of our early warm water.
By the time I walked all the way to the end of the Point, even those people had disappeared. I fished unsuccessfully for a few minutes in a spot that I particularly like just east of the Point. Apparently it is a place of great structure but no fish.
Still it was a stunningly beautiful time out on the beach. The water was warm, the breeze just about right for the temperature, and the skies were blue. Among other things, I got to watch boats trying to figure out the location of buoy #4 for the Bogue Inlet channel into the ocean.
There were also some boats riding the chop in the inlet and fishing the waters just off the Point. I couldn’t tell it they were being more successful than me. I also got to see some impressive waves breaking on the shoals just south of the Point. Obviously that is a spot to avoid when boating.
Actually I don’t need much more entertainment than standing in the water and watching the crystal clear waves come ashore. Just the waves and the odd shore bird are enough, the boats and a few people walking the beach are just icing on the cake.
Still I was a little surprised that the Point itself was empty as noon rolled around, but after watching the boats bounce around in the Inlet, I was happy just to be soaking my feet in saltwater.
Hunger did finally motivate me to head across the 1400 ft. of sand that separates the water from the vehicle ramp at Inlet Drive. The sand is pretty impressive and seems to stretch almost to the horizon.
That last picture captured the only change, some new vegetation, that I noticed from my last hike on the Point. I am glad to see the Point won’t be a desert beach. Some vegetation might hold the sand a little more the next time we have a storm.
You can have a look at my hike on this map. Rest assured that I do not walk on water, and the Point is a lot bigger than Google would have you believe. My track is not far from the mid-tide line, and then heads back up the middle of the new giant expanse of sand that has come back to the Point.
You can check out my rough Photoshopped view of the Point at this link. I haven’t had time to finish it, but it is more accurate than Google Maps currently.
It only takes about 15 minutes by car to get home from the Point so it is always a place that I consider when I need to feel one with the elements. I don’t think I have ever had a bad hike on the Point even in the winter when I swear that I will wear gloves the next trip.
Jones Island Beach
Most people living along the Southern Outer Banks came here because of the water. Even a casual visitor soon figures out that we have more types of water than the average spot.
I am pretty ecumenical when it comes to water. I like to enjoy it all whether it is a mountain stream, the White Oak River, Bogue Sound, or the Atlantic Ocean.
However, there is no question that some water is easier to enjoy than other water. When we moved to western Carteret County, one of the reasons behind the move was access to water.
While “access to water” seems like a simple concept, it is more complex than it might appear, and I have even called it a puzzle. Solving the puzzle is well worth the effort.
My wife and I wanted to be able to see water and to live right on the water. While getting a spot on the Intracoastal Waterway or the beach can be very expensive, finding a place on a tidal river can be a reasonable proposition.
After looking at a variety of places up and down the east coast, we chose a spot on a gut of water leading to the White Oak River. The White Oak is a relatively short river with no cities right on the river. Much of the thirty odd miles of the White Oak flows through some of the most undeveloped land in Carteret County.
While the lower part of the White Oak is two miles wide in places and has a few subdivisions along it’s shores, the upper part of the river is much narrower, wilder, and deeper. You don’t have to go far up river for it to shrink to under thirty feet wide and to deepen to sixteen feet. At the same time the shores of the upper river have huge stands of marsh grass which eventually transition to giant bald cypress trees growing right in the river.
But that is not all that is neat about the White Oak. Just three miles down river from where we live, the White Oak joins Bogue Sound at the town of Swansboro. While much of the White Oak now flows down the Intracoastal Waterway behind Bear Island, part of it still heads out Bogue Inlet in the Atlantic Ocean.
What all of that means is that if I lower the lift behind our house and put my skiff in the water, I can be in the Intracoastal Waterway in about ten minutes. With a climate that often has some relatively mild days even in a harsh winter like this past one, I manage to use my skiff twelve months out of the year. This year I even used it as an icebreaker when the gut behind our house froze for a few days.
Of course there are things that I would rather do with our skiff than go out and break ice. I much prefer a day like Wednesday, May 11, when I left the dock in early afternoon and only rode three or four minutes down the river before anchoring and fishing for a few hours. It was a warm afternoon, and I was almost alone on the river. I fished as long as I wanted to and then headed back to the dock. While I only caught one croaker, I know there will be better days of fishing. That time on the river was a special kind of relaxation.
We have had some great days fishing in Bogue Inlet and off the beaches of Bear Island and Hammocks Beach State Park. It only takes another ten minutes from Swansboro to make it to Bogue Inlet where the ocean and the sound meet.
But being able to take a skiff up or down the river is only part of the equation. It is just as easy if not easier to slip my kayak into the water and paddle down to Jones Island like I did on Thursday, May 12. Jones Island is now part of Hammocks Beach State park, and it is a great paddling destination from our Bluewater Cove subdivision. My Thursday trip to the Island was about 4.7 miles and took an hour and thirty minutes. The beach pictured in the post is the beach on the back of Jones Island.
While kayaking and boating might be enough for some folks, there is even more here on the Crystal Coast. We are fortunate to have miles of beaches where you can walk as far as your legs can carry you. It takes just over ten minutes by car to get to the nearest public parking at Emerald Isle’s Western Regional Access.
From the WRA and other beach access points, there are miles of beaches to explore on Emerald Isle. This year I have given myself a personal challenge to walk all the beaches within the town limits of Emerald Isle. I now have just two miles of beach left to cover. I have had a wonderful spring of beach hikes often between three and four miles each. Walking on the beach is a wonderful way to clear your head and put things in perspective.
With boating, kayaking, and walking on the beach at my doorstep, it would seem that most water needs are covered, but we are fortunate to have the neighborhood pool just across the cul de sac from our home. There are many warm days when a dip in the pool is just enough to take the edge off the heat, and if that doesn’t work my favorite technique is to head to the beach and let an ocean wave catch me right between the shoulder blades. That will cure almost any hot day problems.
With such a selection of water at our doorstep, it should come as no surprise that we have a hard time leaving home. Having “access to water” along the Crystal Coast has re-defined my life and made for a wonderful experience the year round.
I start each morning by walking out on our dock and then doing a walk around the neighborhood’s boardwalk. It is a great way to start a day, and if I am given a choice, watching the sun slide into the horizon from the White Oak River is my favorite way of ending the day.
I feel blessed to have so much water at my doorstep. If you are looking for more information on the area, try my Emerald Isle Travel Guide.
Perfect May Saturday on the Crystal Coast
Every area has its sweet spot, and I like to think that one of the best times to enjoy the Crystal Coast is one of those warm, blue sky days like Saturday, May 7. Sometimes, however, you have to be patient as the day develops.
My Crystal Coast kind of Saturday started a little damp on the dock. It was actually cool with fog blowing in off the White Oak River, but I knew the fog was only temporary since I could see some blue sky in places, and the weathermen were calling for a nice afternoon.
After the sun broke through, I took a nice walk around our boardwalk in Bluewater Cove. I stopped by the pool just to check the water. I judged it as potentially warm enough to support adult swimming depending on afternoon temperatures.
As is often the case, I got to see an interesting bird or two on my walk. I managed to see a nice bluebird, but it was hard to get a good picture, and I have lots of good ones from other walks. When I got back home, I decided that it would be a good time for a quick boat ride.
Our skiff sits on a lift only a little over twenty-five feet from our garage door so it only took me minutes to get my life-suspenders on and carry my standard gear to the boat. Then it was just a matter a putting the plug in, attaching the GPS, and lowering the skiff into the water.
On the short ride out Raymond’s Gut, I managed to watch an Osprey soaring in the sky, and just as I was entering the White Oak, I saw a Green Heron perched in a tree. Even though it wasn’t far from being high tide, I was surprised to see the oyster bar near our channel. It is a sign that the water is pretty low.
After maneuvering between crab pots that are dangerously close to our channel, I headed down the river a few buoys just to give the motor on the boat a little workout. I turned just as Jones Island came into view and headed back home. You never want to push your luck on the water when your wife has a morning agenda. I did find the water temperature in the sixties and one spot in our channel where there is some silting. I’ll just have to make some extra trips out to open up the channel. A fishing trip on Monday would be a good start.
It was a quick trip back to the dock, and I got home a little after 11 AM. I carefully did my u-turn, got the boat on the lift, grabbed the GPS, and headed inside to shave and get ready to participate in the day’s planned activities. We made it to the Swansboro Post Office well before noon, then headed down to the grand opening of the new Swansboro Papa John’s Pizza. There were plenty of free slices of every variety to sample. They had set up some nice tables with umbrellas so it was a very festive atmosphere. We ate far more delicious hot pizza than we intended and had a nice discussion on flounder fishing with someone who joined us at our table.
After thanking the owner for all the free pizza, we headed down the road to the Enviro-Fair. We really didn’t know what to expect at the Enviro-Fair, but with more tents, blue skies, and a pleasant breeze, it was impossible to resist. The event had just a nice amount of people. I enjoyed seeing the farm raised flounder from Riverworks at Sturgeon City in Jacksonville.
I also had a nice conversation with Dale Weston, the Vice President, of the White Oak-New RIVERKEEPER® Alliance. We exchanged stories about the White Oak, and I thanked them for their efforts at improving the river water quality.
Then I moved on to talk to the lady with Carteret Catch. I told her how much we enjoyed the fresh red snapper that we had gotten from Clyde Phillip’s Seafood on Friday evening.
I also had a conversation with my friend Cathy who was in charge of the booth for Q 4 H 2 O which is program where restaurants charge you a quarter for a glass of water, and they donate the money to help provide clean water in developing countries. With just the three Rucker John’s Restaurants participating so far, they have already collected $33,000.
I stopped by a booth with some live corn snakes. They had a great NC snake book published by Davidson College Press. I confirmed that the snake that I saw behind our dock the other day was a brown water snake.
After the snakes, I checked out some goats, a worm farm, and watched the Boy Scouts filter some water. While I was doing all this my wife was collecting some hemp seed to go on our oatmeal, sampling some new recipes, and getting a massage.
We managed to pull ourselves away from the exhibits about 1:30 PM and headed home by way of Buck’s Corner Farm where we picked up a nice box of freshly picked local strawberries.
Once we got home, I had to have a nap to sleep off the pizza. It was a nearly perfect nap since the outside air temperature was just in the mid-seventies, and all the cooling that was needed came from our overhead fan. In fact it has been a while since I have heard a heat pump, but that is a good thing.
Around a quarter til four, I headed off to Emerald Isle for a beach walk. I am gradually walking all the beach within the town limits of Emerald Isle so I planned a walk from James Street to Heverly Drive. My beach walk took me from the beach access at James Drive down the beach and under Bogue Inlet Pier to a point just opposite 129 Heverly Drive which is a property that I used to have as a listing.
Close to the Pier, there were a fair number of people on the beach. In the isolated sections of the walk, I got to enjoy a Labrador Retriever showing the world how to fetch a tennis ball from the surf and some very active birds including a Whimbrel who is probably on his way north for the summer.
After finishing my hike which totaled 4.22 miles, I stopped by Food Lion for a few items. It won’t be long before stopping on Sunday afternoon at the grocery store will be a completely different experience. On Saturday, May 7, at 6:30 PM, there were just a handful of cars in the parking lot. I got some fresh ginger for the local Bok Choi that my wife planned to cook to go with the pork chops I was in charge of grilling.
My last stop was the Walgreen’s Drug Store in Cape Carteret. I got to park by one of local police cruisers. My beach walk had finished off my supply of zinc oxide so I picked up a pack before heading home.
I got to pause at the stoplight at the intersection of Highways 24 and 58. It was a good place to stop because the sun was shining on the wildflowers the state has planted on either side of Highway 58. It is that time of year when we start seeing folks taking wedding pictures out in the wildflowers. If the weather stays cool, there will be good pictures until early June.
The trip home took seven or eight minutes, and I arrived just in time to help with dinner. As I was grilling the pork chops, I happened to look up and saw two great egrets flying high in the evening sunlight. They’re favorite white herons of mine, but you don’t often get to see them flying up so high. They were a beautiful sight and a nice finish to a great Crystal Coast kind of day. Our rain on Friday afternoon just seemed to make Saturday that much more beautiful.
Lots more pictures and links to information about the area are available at this link.