Peace along the Crystal Coast waters

Peace on the Beach

Peace on the Beach

Many places seem about to explode with activity as Christmas nears.  That is not the case along the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.

As we get close to the end of the year, we actually enter the quietest season here on the coast.  A few of the restaurants take advantage of the smaller crowds and close for a few weeks to give their staff time with their families.

Still there are plenty that are open and happy to have customers.  When we were over at Mike’s on Emerald Isle this Saturday, December 17, at 1 PM, we were only the eighth or ninth couple to come in all day.  Sunday, they have a breakfast buffet starting at 7 AM.  I am willing to bet there will not be any waiting for a table.

Many area residents actually get on the road themselves during the holiday season and go to visit their families.  In the summer people are anxious to come to the beach. When winter rolls around, the beach isn’t as much of an attraction as it is in the heart of summer when the water is warm enough for swimming.  For our area’s slightly older group of residents, it is often easier to pack up and go see the kids than it is to try to bring the kids to the beach and help Santa find them here.

That few people come to the beach in December is actually unfortunate since this is one of the nicest times of the year. That is especially true when we are having weather that makes it seem like Indian summer has never disappeared. It has been shorts weather for a long time.

I had a stellar day over on the beach on Friday, December 16.  My 2.7 mile hike on the beach was enough that I wished that I had listened to my own advice.  Having shorts on during my hike would have been much more comfortable than the blue jeans that I was sure I would need.  The water and the sky that I found over on the beach were amazing as you can see from these pictures.

While the fishing has slowed except for some trout holes on the White Oak and other rivers, the waters have been calm this week, and they are still relatively warm. It has been a good time to go kayaking or boating.

I had my kayak in the White Oak once this week.  I have been down to Swansboro a couple of times in our skiff.  It has been just as beautiful on the rivers as it has been on the beaches.  There are some White Oak River pictures mixed in with this album I posted from some adventures earlier in the week.  It is pretty nice when you can go out for a sunset cruise with just a light jacket on in the middle of December.

The White Oak cooled from 60F the previous week to 50F on December 14. That happened  before we had two days when we were at or very close to 70F during the day.  I am sure the river warmed a little but has now cooled some this weekend.

Still the water isn’t cool enough to chill the sun warmed air that has been in place with our mostly cloudless skies.  Wearing a coat has not been a necessity this week.  Saturday was cloudy and cool, but it looks like we will recover from this weekend cool snap.

December 20 through December 24, the temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-sixties.  The mid-sixties are my favorite temperatures most of the year. When I can get them in December, it does not get much better than that.

Besides the great weather, shopping is never as hectic here on the coast as it is in places like Northern Virginia.  I have a long history of avoiding shopping in places which end up on the national news like Reston, Va did on Friday night.

There are plenty of small shops along the coast here.  There is also something reassuring about knowing that your shopping cannot get much more exotic than Belk’s, Best Buy, Ace, or Walgreen’s.  After all, some recent studies show that most people are not impressed by expensive gifts and are just as happy with thoughtful inexpensive ones.

We also have the added benefit that most of our parking spaces are designed for extended cab trucks instead of your average Toyota Prius.  It is not unusual to see a pickup truck with a boat trailer behind it in one of our mall parking lots.  I bet there has never been a truck with a boat trailer in a parking lot in Reston, Virginia.  If one managed to get into the parking lot, it would likely be there forever.

With great weather, peaceful beaches, cute shops, great parking, and inviting waters, there is not a better place to spend the holidays than the Crystal Coast if you can get away with it.  You just have to get people to understand that palm trees make good Christmas trees, and the best tree of all is a Crab Pot Christmas tree.

We really enjoyed Christmas here on the White Oak last year even with the snow the day after Christmas.  This year the snow will likely stay away, but that should make the area even more attractive for a holiday visit.



Shorts weather in December

Last light on the White Oak River

Last light on the White Oak River

If you don’t like the weather that NC’s Southern Outer Banks has enjoyed this fall, please don’t bother talking to me because it is obvious that you are impossible to please.

It is hard to believe that I was only wearing shorts and a tee-shirt when we went walking on the beach the afternoon of December 6.  It was as pleasant on the beach as any October day. October days on the Crystal Coast are often spectacular.  December can be nice, but this year is a good one to banish the memories of last year when we even got some very rare snow just after Christmas.

By the time we got home from our December 6, errands and beach walk,  it was 4:30 PM which is well past the warmest time of the day.  Even at that late hour, I stayed with my shorts and only put on a light wind breaker over my tee shirt and life-suspenders for my evening ride on the river.

It was so nice out on the river, that I almost had to force myself to head home. I am still pinching myself over the fantastic weather that evening when I stood in our skiff and enjoyed the beautiful sunset that is the picture for this post.

There was almost no wind, and the tide was coming in as the sun slipped down behind the trees and spilled some amazingly colorful light across the White Oak River.  My mind knows that winter is coming, but my heart doesn’t want to let go of this lingering warmth from fall 2011.

This year’s December 6, was a great day to be outside even for yard work.  I finally pulled up the last of my tomato plants.  Damage from Hurricane Irene kept them from breaking my December 19, last-tomato-picked record, but it was still a fantastic year for tomatoes.

This weather is not atypical for North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.  We’ve seen great weather like this for four of the six winters that we have lived here.  However, this is an especially nice early December that Mother Nature has given us.  Last year, December of 2010,  was certainly not like this year or even one of those earlier warm years.

A year ago we fell into a deep freeze early in December, and the upside down weather gave us some cold temperatures that are very rare here on the coast even in the depths of winter much less before the official start of winter.  Actually by December 8, 2010, the water behind our house was frozen, as I wrote about in my post, Nothing but Ice.

When I dropped my skiff in the water for my December 6, sunset cruise this year, the water temperature in Raymond’s Gut behind our house was 62.5 Fahrenheit.  It was really no surprise since the air temperature on our deck that same afternoon reached almost 78 Fahrenheit.  It will take a while before we see any ice in the gut this year.

Back in 2009, after we came through a very rainy fall, it only took us until December 11, to get down to 34 Fahrenheit and start looking like winter.  Even then I still had hopes of breaking my December tomato record.  That last-picked-tomato record of December 19, just might last a while.

As I go back even farther to December 2008, I find that we had a siege of cold weather which resulted in temperatures falling into the twenties on December 8.  The cooler temperatures didn’t keep me a way from the beach, but I do remember thinking that I might have to start wearing gloves, but the only problem is that I have yet to find them.

As long as we don’t have the December snows like we did last year, I will be a happy camper.  Every day that I get to walk on the beach in shorts is one day less of winter, and after all, most of us moved to the coast to avoid winter and enjoy the beach.

Just maybe this year will be like January of 2007 when we only had nineteen hours of below freezing temperatures, and we had eleven January days when the high got above seventy degrees.  We can always hope.  I wouldn’t  mind breaking those records.

More pictures from the beach and river taken on December 6, 2011 are posted on the web.