An Irresistible Beach

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Near the Point at Emerald Isle, NC

Near the Point at Emerald Isle, NC

Perhaps I just could not wait any longer. Maybe my beach senses operate on the number of hours of sunlight. It could be a combination of blue skies, little wind, and warm temperatures.

Whatever the reason, I made my way over to the Point on March 27, 2014. The Point is a special place but few people take the time to thoroughly explore its most distant sands.  It is typical in the modern world for people to hit the convenient areas and miss the places which require a few miles walking.

The Point never stops changing and is always just one storm from returning to its wild state. It is a great place to explore what even to locals is a somewhat mysterious place. A lot of people walk the areas of the point between the access ramps but only a relative few go beyond the yellow house.

Even in the summer time I can escape our limited crowds by hiking just a couple of miles farther along the beach. While I often find peace on the water in my kayak, the Point is also one of those unique spots where nature makes it possible to be alone with myself.

By the end of March, it is not unusual to find that the waters of Bogue Inlet which flow along the Point are begging to be waded. That was not the case on my recent trip. Our area waters are still very cold after a winter that has refused to let go and a spring that started with lingering cold. Still I was anxious to get out and see the changes on the Point.

I always make the trip with idea that the sands there are always changing and that I will find some feature that has disappeared or been added.  In the fall of 2007, the sands at the Point were gone as you can see from this picture. Today there is well over a quarter of a mile of sand from the vehicle access ramp west to the edge of the sand by the inlet and the water closest to Bear Island.

My first 2014 hike was a leisurely hour and one half walk of a little over three miles. It took me from the parking lot at Coast Guard Road and Station Street to the eastern most access on Wyndtree Drive and then west and north to where the beach gets very narrow by Coast Guard/Bird Island.  Then I took the shortcut back across the now dry part of Coast Guard Channel.  I made my exit from the beach at the vehicle ramp. You can follow my hike with this map. If you switch the map to satellite view, it is pretty obvious that even Google cannot keep up with the changes at the Point.  When I have more time, I usually walk all the way back up the beach.  It adds almost another two miles to the hike and brings the total walk close to five miles.

The weather on this first trip of the year was much better than I expected. If I had gone a day or two earlier, I would have been sand blasted so I pleased with the lack of wind. By the time I reached the most western point of sand , I had to shed my jacket. When I turned and headed north, I seemed to lose any hint of a breeze. I was actually happy to pick it up again as I headed back across the Point to the vehicle ramp.  There was a great view of Bear Island today as I turned the corner and headed north where I shed my jacket.  When I looked closely at my pictures in the evening, I could see the roof of one of the pavilions on Bear Island.

Perhaps the only place by the water in our area where you might get an even more complete detachment from the world is over at Hammocks Beach on Bear Island.  It is another one of my spots where I find some space that lets me unwind from the challenges of the world.

I have been coming to the Point since the summer of 1969 when the only way to get there was a four wheel drive ride down the beach. A lot has changed like roads being added hundreds of houses being built in Emerald Isle since then but the Point is still a magical place that has the power to draw me when the wind and temperature are right.

There were some wonderful evenings that I waded the warm fall waters at the Point in the fall of 2013. Most years we have a few really great days that let me visit even in January. That was not the case in 2014 and might be the reason that I was so anxious to have my first real visit of the season.

You can have a look at the pictures I took on my hike in this album and see how things have changed since I wrote this post, The End of the Sand, nearly a year ago on April 8, 2013.  That beautiful body of the water featured in that post picture no longer exists. If you want to see the pictures on a map, this Picasa web albums link should do the trick though you have to watch closely for the “Go back to Picasa web albums” message or you will end up in the Google+ album with no map.

You can read more posts about why we live on the Crystal Coast at this selection of older posts.

If you would like to see some pictures of the spectacular scenery in our area including some really great pictures of things at the Point which have disappeared, check out our recently published $2.99 Kindle reader book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year.  It is worth clicking on the link just to see the free sample of seven pictures.  Kindle reader software works on just about every platform including iPads and iPhones.

A little over a month ago we sent out our first newsletter of the season.  We will be sending  the next edition about the upcoming season on the Crystal Coast around the end of the March. Our first festival of the season, Emerald Isle’s Saint Patrick’s Festival, managed to have great weather and kick the season off with impressive crowds.

Some perfect steamed oysters have helped me get into the mood for beach season.  I have already had my boat serviced for the year and my kayak is patiently waiting on the bulkhead just a few feet from the water so I am ready for the warm weather and some serious time on the water now that I have had my first beach hike of the season under my belt.

You can also get our comprehensive travel guide to the area.  We will be publishing a free electronic update for people who buy the 2013 edition.  There is no greater place to vacation with a family than North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Newsletter

Some dream in color, I dream in saltwater

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A wave near the Point at Emerald Isle

A wave near the Point at Emerald Isle

There is no doubt that the Crystal Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of the North Carolina coast. Considering that much of the area is protected from development by the Croatan National Forest and the Cape Lookout National Seashore, we have much to be thankful for when we head out on our pristine waters.

Many residents in the area live for the water. We actually have so many types of water and so much water that water is something of a puzzle to newcomers. Usually everyone finds some water to love in our county which actually has nearly 60% more water than land.

Even with all the water to protect us from the worst cold, we have faced some winter challenges like much of the east coast this winter. Spring has been reluctant to provide our accustomed warmth.

Sometimes as March draws to a close we have waters that are begging to be waded. We will have to see a huge spike in temperatures for that to happen in the spring of 2014 so I am not holding my breath.

Certainly many of us who live here on the coast have one great advantage over our inland cousins. Our dreams are often focused on those magic moments on the beaches or waters of the area. Moments on the beach like what I enjoyed last fall often make me think about summer in October and easily drift into my dreams. Those dreams are a great way to forget this winter that has us seemingly waiting forever for spring.

Even in a tough spring, we know that we have a lot to look forward to as the weather inevitably warms up. First will come the time for early gardening. I already have some peas, kale, and lettuce in the ground. My first radish of the year was harvested before the ides of March.

By the middle of April even in a cold spring, it will be time for local strawberries. Not long after that we will be out on the water. I boat all year, but it is not until the water warms that I focus on boating. If it is a windy year, it is possible my first kayaking will precede my first serious trip in our skiff. Spring waters can be enticing but dangerous so I usually wait until they warm up before I spent a lot of time out on the water.

Many springs when the water is still too cold for boating, I spend my time hiking the beaches and looking for that first day when it is warm enough to stick my feet in the water.

I never mind delaying my time actually out on the water since we have a very long boating season in the fall. It is not unusual for us to be out in the ocean or the big water even as late as the end of November.

November is also a great kayaking month. We sometimes kayak well into December but eventually we give over our waters to our winter visitors.

With all the choices of  how to enjoy the water, it is no wonder that I dream in saltwater. It is just one of those things that happens to those us who live where it is best to leave only footprints and take only pictures.

You can read more posts about why we live on the Crystal Coast at this selection of older posts.

If you would like to see some pictures of the spectacular scenery in our area during warmer times, check out our just published $2.99 Kindle reader book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year.  It is worth clicking on the link just to see the free sample of seven pictures.  Kindle reader software works on just about every platform including iPads and iPhones.

We recently sent out our first newsletter of the season.  We will be sending  the next edition about the upcoming season on the Crystal Coast just before the end of the month after we have enjoyed the first outside festival of the season, Emerald Isle’s Saint Patrick’s Festival. I have already had a great dose of some perfect steamed oysters to start the season.

You can also get our comprehensive travel guide to the area.  We will be publishing a free electronic update for people who buy the 2013 edition.  There is no greater place to vacation with a family than North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Newsletter

The Enticing Waters of Spring

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Spring View of Bogue Sound

Spring View of Bogue Sound

After what seems like an interminable winter and lots of waiting, it appears spring is beginning to work its magic on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. It has been an unusual winter in an area that often scoffs at the ice, snow and cold.

The warmer temperatures and beautiful spring blue skies are welcome. Many of us who live here chose this area because blue skies and warm temperatures can be counted on most years.

It is not that we don’t get a little cold or nasty weather and some snow every three to five years, we just are not accustomed to weather like we have endured in January and February of 2014. After the third siege of nasty weather, most of our birds and fish disappeared.

As the weather has improved with the strengthening sun, the killifish, a favorite forage food of the great egrets has come back and in the first ten days of March I have even seen some mullet in our inlet which is called Raymond’s Gut.

When the food for the egrets and herons shows up, the big birds are not far behind. Most winters they stay all winter with us especially when it is stormy and cold out on the big marshes of Bogue Sound. Raymond’s Gut has enough pine forest in and around it that most days, a smart bird can find a spot that is sheltered from the wind. Great blue herons are especially tough birds and sometimes they just do not seem to care and will find a perch in a strong wind. Since we have our bait back, we have enjoyed recent visits by a great blue heron and a great egret as the first week in March draws to a close.

There are other signs of spring like daffodils in bloom and water that looks so blue and enticing that it is almost magical. The picture of the water in Bogue Sound at the top of the post is similar in its allure. We have a lot of beautiful water down here in the spring. Often we will have fog or mists hanging over the sounds and forests early in the morning this time of year.

As you can see from the post picture of Bogue Sound taken from the Emerald Isle Bridge, there is also not much traffic in the Intracoastal Waterway in early March. What more could you ask for? The air temperature has warmed and sometimes is well into the seventies.  The blue sky and blue waters look hard to beat, but it is deceiving. Bogue Sound had a water temperature of 49F on the morning of March 9 when I snapped that picture.  This time of year the fog usually is a good sign that the water is much cooler than the air.

Very cool water is a hazard for those of use who are desperate to get back in our skiffs and kayaks. Water that is below 50F is actually very dangerous if you fall into it. Reading some cold water facts can be very sobering. 60% of people drown in water that is 50F or less. Even scarier 66% of people drown less than 50 feet from shore. So while the water looks beautiful and the air feels warm, do not forget that the water is actually cold and dangerous for a few weeks in the spring.

Our early spring waters are very different than what we find around here in late spring or summer. Most of us with skiffs or kayaks hop in and out of the water all the time and think nothing of it. Sometimes well before late June or early July the water can be in the upper seventies or low eighties and the air temperature approaches or even exceeds ninety.  When it is like that,  a dip in the cool water is refreshing. When the water is 50F or lower, the water is not your friend.  50F water will put you in shock, not refresh you.

Many people think that because the air temperature is warm near their home that it will be warm out on the water. One of the things you learn quickly is that humans experience something pretty close to the water temperature when they are out on the water. That cool spring air that is close to the water has nothing to moderate it like some warm ground can do to the air near your home.

One of the quickest ways to prove this to yourself is go for a walk over on the beach in the spring time. I am always ever hopeful that I can wear shorts while hiking on the beach. I stay in them as long as I can in the fall and get in them as quickly as possible in the spring.  However, it usually only takes one early spring trip over in shorts to remind me that it almost has to be hot in the spring for it to be comfortable in shorts on our beaches in spring.  Actually you do not even have to go to the beach, walk near the marshes on an early spring day and you can feel the coolness of the water when you are close to it.  It will be warm in the woods and much cooler by the water.

As the air temperatures warm inland, the cooler waters help greatly to moderate our temperatures as we head into early summer, but there are few weeks during early spring when you can be quite comfortable in shorts on the mainland and freeze in shorts over on the beach or on the water. It is the opposite of the seasonal reversal that we see in the fall when the beaches are warmer than the mainland.

Usually it sometime in April before I venture out in spring waters in my kayak but the date of that trip requires almost as much speculation as when we will see our first strawberries.   We are used the weather being fickle on the coast.  As the water warms and the winds subside,  it is only a matter of time before we get out on the water.  Not long after that we will look forward to beach walk weather when those of us who switch to shorts by April will be consistently rewarded with great beach walking weather.

You can read more posts about why we live on the Crystal Coast at this selection of older posts.

If you would like to see some pictures of the spectacular scenery in our area during warmer times, check out our just published $2.99 Kindle reader book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year.  It is worth clicking on the link just to see the free sample of seven pictures.  Kindle reader software works on just about every platform including iPads and iPhones.

We recently sent out our first newsletter of the season.  We will be sending  the next edition about the upcoming season on the Crystal Coast just after the middle of the months after we have enjoyed the first outside festival of the season, Emerald Isle’s Saint Patrick’s Festival.

You can also get our comprehensive travel guide to the area.  We will be publishing a free electronic update for people who buy the 2013 edition.  There is no greater place to vacation with a family than North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Newsletter