The season is officially open and our first visitors are here on the coast. All of us would be happier with better weather but you take what you get with weather. Fortunately this cooler than normal first day of the beach season did not scare away our early season visitors. This last weekend of March, 2013, was actually one of the warmer set of days during the last half of the month. Sunday would have been a very nice day without the constant wind blowing at ten to twenty miles per hour.
We have enjoyed only a few really nice days in March including the Saturday of the annual Emerald Isle Saint Patrick’s Day festival. However, even the nice days have been cooler than normal. In March of 2012 most of our temperatures were above normal. This year most of the temperatures have been ten to twenty degrees below normal. We did get a cool spell in early April of last year. Maybe this year we will get a warm spell.
Spring 2013, has not given us a consistent period of warm temperatures like we got in the spring of 2012. The result is that the area’s waters remain relatively cold and when the wind is blowing off the water like it is today, it feels cold even when the thermometer tells you that it is not particularly cold.
My tomatoes went into the ground just one day earlier this year, March 18, 2013, than they did in 2012 when I planted them on March 19. However, they have grown very little and today’s constant wind will not help them any.
Last year, the final week of March was so warm that the water was begging to be waded. This year, we had three days that started with frost. It took until the end of the week before we managed to barely work our way into the sixties. The water just does not looking inviting yet.
Still spring is moving along at its own pace while Carteret County and its beach towns are getting the last few details ironed out before a new beach season. The beaches look to be in great shape to start the season. Just a few days ago there were still pipes on the beach from the winter beach nourishment projects.
Given the less than desirable weather, I was wondering if the crowds would still come. Finding an answer was almost easy. I was doing some mapping of trails late on Friday afternoon so I was across the bridge a couple of times. Fortunately the bridge repair project is on hold for a few days because there was a lot of traffic coming across from the mainland. Traffic on the bridge is always a good way to judge the number of beach visitors.
I took the time to drive down to heart of the town of Emerald Isle, the stoplight by Bogue Inlet Drive which leads to the fishing pier. On my short trip there I noticed all the signs of a good early season crowd. Jordan’s Seafood looked to be packed and the Food Lion parking lot also had only a few unoccupied spaces and it was busier than I have seen it since the holidays. When I drove over on the mainland to T&W’s Oyster Bar and circled through their parking lot, there were no open parking spots and plenty of cars were parked on the grass.
While the trails at both the Croatan Recreation area in Cedar Point and the ones in Emerald Woods were not crowed, they are in great shape for the season. I walked the big loop trail at Croatan and the Emerald Woods trail late Friday afternoon. They are two of my favorite trails. I love the bridges across the marshes on the Croatan Trails and The Emerald Isle Bridge also looks nice in the afternoon sun from the little pier at Emerald Woods.
The Food Lion grocery store on Emerald Isle might be a little crowded, but I suspect all the grocery stories are busy with all the holiday meals being planned. I know the stores in Morehead City were packed on this holiday weekend. Saturday I picked up a toner cartridge at Staples and we drove over to Belk’s but decided not to stop when we saw the packed parking lot.
The vast majority of us welcome the tourists back with open arms each year. Tourists are our area’s lifeblood and help justify some of the stores and services that we enjoy all year. Our visitors are not here very long. At best they have three months or so to enjoy the beaches and area waters before they leave everything to us. Those of us who live here enjoy the beaches and water almost all year.
Even during the peak season it is pretty easy to get away from the crowds here on the Crystal Coast. All you have to do is walk out on the Point and go beyond the houses. The number of people drops off dramatically.
I am hoping to have the 2013 version of our Emerald Isle Travel Guide ready in the next week to ten days so a cooler than normal start to the season just gives me a little more time to finish. Even with the cooler weather it is still beautiful here on the coast along North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks. The picture at the top of the post was taken from the pier at Emerald Woods looking east along Bogue Sound. Consider it a welcome to the beach picture.
I hope our visitors will love the area enough to want to know more about it and perhaps even get one of our travel guides for 2013. The new one will be available before the middle of April and will be priced at $4.99.