Thank Goodness for Fog

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Fog on Bluewater Cove

Fog on Raymond's Gut

In a coastal summer full of surprises like drought and wildfires, you never know what you are going to see outside your bedroom window when you wake up in the morning.   Lately it is even hard to tell what you are seeing.

The only way know what is greeting you in the morning is to go outside and smell it.  Thursday, June 30, I got up to a scene that looked remarkably like what I saw the day before.  There were no blue skies, and I could hardly see the water.

That Wednesday, it did not take long for my nose to figure out that we were getting a good dose of smoke from the wildfire southwest of us near Holly Ridge.  The acrid smell when I went on my morning walk around the dock was unmistakable.   After I mowed the yard, my wife even commented that my clothes smelled of smoke.

Thursday morning, one thing raised some hope that I might be looking at fog instead of smoke.  There was moisture condensed on the outside of the upper parts of our windows.  You usually don’t see that unless we are near 100% humidity, and there is no wind.

When wind from the southwest has become your enemy, no wind is a good thing.  I actually rushed through my morning coffee so I could go for my weather check walk.  Usually as soon as I walk into the garage, I can smell smoke if we are actually being hit by the wildfire smoke.  June 30, I was pleased to open the garage door to dampness but no smell of smoke.

As I walked around the dock and took the picture in the post, I was close to convincing myself that we were indeed experiencing fog without the nastiness of smoke mixed in with it.  On my way back home I could see the sun trying to penetrate the fog.  When we have smoke, the sun rarely rises above it like it does for fog.

Just as I walked back into my driveway I looked above my head and could see the hint of blue sky.  Almost at the same time I could feel a light breeze from the north.  At that point, I knew we were going to enjoy some fog which likely would burn away early in the morning.

It is a relief to have fog and no smoke.  Perhaps for the holiday week we can count on some smoke free blue skies like we normally have here on the Southern Outer Banks.  My hope is that our skies will clear, the sun will shine, the winds stay from the north, and I will be able to do a little zigging and zagging down the White Oak to Swansboro later in the morning

Rescued Once Again by Third Street Beach

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Third Street Beach

Third Street Beach

Wednesday, June 22, I felt bedeviled by the smoke and heat.  The smoke was really bad in the morning until a favorable breeze pushed it back a little, but even then there were no blue skies to be had along the shores of the White Oak River.

To compound my problems, a long hike the day before at the Point in Emerald Isle had brought little relief.

While there was no smell of smoke,  our normally blue skies were hidden from view by smoke streaming in from the southwest, and the sunset was obscured by clouds.

Carteret County is known for its clear skies, and I, like many of those living here, hang  my star on those blue skies.  While I am no longer a fan of cold weather, I can endure it as long as the sky is a pristine blue instead of a dull gray.   The summer heat is usually easier for me to survuve since normally it comes with puffy white clouds and a blue sky.

However, when the weather dishes up hot stagnant air filled with smoke and a sky that seems never to have been blue, it is hard for me to remain motivated and on an even keel.  The dull weather just sucks the life out of me.

With Wednesday’s weather delivering an almost monochrome sky and serious nasty heat, I knew that I had to escape, but the question was where?  It was then that I decided that if we headed east,  we might have a fighting chance of escaping much of the smoke.

When things get nasty sometime you just go to those places where you have found pleasure before even if you only have a glimmer of hope.  Third Street Beach around nine miles up the beach from the bridge is one of those places for me.

I can often go there even in the summer and find the parking lot nearly empty and perhaps only one or two groups of people on the beach.  I often find some quiet time at 3rd Street when it is hard to find anywhere else.

Also I have been known to grab half a dozen shrimp and lose myself in the surf while fishing for a few minutes at Third Street.

On June 22, I didn’t know if we could escape any of the smoke by just driving east, but as you can see from the picture, Third Street was a welcome improvement from the smoke that we saw in Bluewater Cove.

While I didn’t go for a long walk, I did enjoy the relatively smoke free air and the blue skies.  It was nice to see things look the way they normally are in Carteret County.

I am hoping we get some soaking rains soon so everyone can get back to sunny skies.

Out on the water

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A favorite spot in Bogue Inlet

A favorite spot in Bogue Inlet

We had some unexpected company over the weekend.   My youngest daughter’s spousal equivalent (my wife’s favorite description) went camping at Oregon Inlet late last week.

He and a friend were headed home when the left rear wheel on his truck passed them just after getting off the Alligator River Bridge.

He managed to safely get his three wheeled truck off the road and eventually get it hauled to Plymouth, NC on Sunday afternoon.  I drove up from our house to rescue him and his camping buddy from spending a night or two at the Sportsman’s Inn.

The drive was enjoyable for me since it takes you through some very scenic farming country.  However, I think my two passengers were glad to see some ocean water when we got back to Carteret County.

Monday while we were waiting for the pickup truck to be repaired, I took them on a quick fishing trip.  We went down the White Oak River to the Intracoastal Waterway and followed it to Cow Channel which leads over to Hammock Beach or Bear Island.

I happen to think the area from Cow Channel over to Bogue Inlet is one of the prettiest spots on earth, and I wanted to show our visitors just how beautiful the waters are here along the Crystal Coast.  It was a stunning day even though we got started a little late for my taste.

We anchored behind Bear Island, and they caught their fill of small bottom fish.  We then headed over to the Point.  I have made that journey enough now that I am pretty familiar with the route, and as long as the light isn’t too bright, I have a good track to follow on my GPS.

There were a couple of spots we tried over by the Inlet, but we only got a couple of small sharks.  Then we made a quick trip back through the Bogue Inlet channel to the Intracoastal.  Before we headed up the White Oak, we made a stop at Dudley’s to fuel up with some of their ethanol free boat gas.

The trip up the White Oak was spectacular, and we were home by 12:30 PM just in time to grill some hamburgers.  It turned out to be another great morning here on the Crystal Coast.

If you are interested in seeing our journey on a map, this link will get you to a picture of the map of the trip that I recorded using my Android phone and the MyTracks app.  This is a link to an interactive Google map.

I also posted a few pictures taken on the trip on my Picasa Web Album site.  You should be mindful that the Point looks a lot different than in does on Google maps.  This is a link to a recent hike of mine along the shore of the Point.  There is a lot more sand there than Google would have you believe.

There aren’t many places that you can see that much beauty in a morning.

Water Just as God Made It

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The Channel Behind Bear Island

The Channel Behind Bear Island

I feel blessed to live along North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.  We could have lived almost anywhere on the coast, including the better known area from Duck to Cape Hatteras.

Actually we even briefly considered Ocracoke Island, but my wife said I would have to live there without her.

However, we ended up on the western side of Carteret County along the White Oak River for a number of reasons, but access to great boating water was a big part of the decision.

Our home gives us easy access to some waters which remind you of just how beautiful this earth can be without human interference.  Two places on the area’s waters remind me just how stunning water views can be.  One is up the White Oak River beyond the railroad trestle.  The other stretches along an area on the back side of Bear Island east towards the Point at Emerald Isle.

The picture in the post comes from that second area, the one behind Bear Island.  The first area up beyond the Stella railroad trestle is probably a little wilder area than the waters behind Bear Island, but I love the oceans breezes in the Bear Island channel and the panoramic marshes that stretch as far as the eye can see.  Another plus for Bear Island is that you are only a little ways from the Point where Mother Nature holds sway no matter what man tries to do.  The Point is where all the waters meet.

Actually many of the waters along the Carteret-Onslow borders are lightly used except on weekends even during the summer, but both of these are a little less traveled than most.  If you want to  really enjoy them at their best, get up early one weekday morning and make your trip.

For me the trip starts in Bluewater Cove and follows the well-market channel south down the White Oak River to where it meets Bogue Sound just beyond the Highway 24 bridges at Swansboro.

Then we take a right turn out of Swansboro Harbor and follow the Intracoastal until we get to what is known as Cow Channel.  Today it is a well marked channel to Hammocks Beach State Park which contains Bear Island.

The first time I went out to Bear Island in the summer of 2007, there were no markers in the channel.  These days it is one of the best marked channels in the area, but you still have to pay attention because if you get out of the channel there is plenty of shallow water as I found out on a recent trip.

Once you get over to Bear Island by the ferry dock, a turn to left will take you east behind Bear Island to my favorite waters.  There is plenty of water until you get to the point where the trees disappear.  Then finding the best channel is a little challenging, and if you are unfamiliar with the area waters, the best thing to do is hope that another boat comes by so you can follow them.

It is not a long trip over to the Point, but there are some places where the water can get a little shallow.  Once we are over at the Point, we usually take the quicker route back through the Bogue Inlet channel to the ICW and then Swansboro before going home.

The circuit over to Bear Island to the Point back to Swansboro is one of my favorite trips.

Every time that I make the trip to the waters behind Bear Island, I come back glad to be alive and feeling privileged to have enjoyed a moment on the water where I have to believe that God was well pleased with his work.

You can view some photos of a trip to the area that I took last summer at this Picasa web album.  There are a lot of pictures as it was intended to be a navigational aid to those wanting to make the trip.

If you don’t have a boat and happen to be in the area this fall, you can almost get there via the Marsh Cruises for Toys for Tots run by the state park.

No matter how you get to the area, make sure you don’t miss it.  I suspect you will be just as much in awe of its beauty as I am.