Late Spring Crystal Coast Magic

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Spring waters of the White Oak River

Spring waters of the White Oak River

We are finally beyond the reluctant part of spring 2014.  Now we are enjoying those precious days here on the Crystal Coast when we can live with the windows open.

The spring windows-open season does not last as long as the one in the fall, but it seems to mean more.  Our winter weary souls survived a full frontal assault from the pine pollen just as winter’s cold winds tried to sucker punch us one last time.  Now we have warm days and cool nights. We owe the great weather to the surrounding waters which moderate our climate.  Our weather is often a riddle, but it can be kind to us in late spring as the waters warm slowly compared to the land.

We are to the point that we have gotten through to what many areas call the beginning of summer. Our local strawberries are ripe, the grass has been mowed, and the jumping mullet are airborne  and a few of the more desirable fish are even starting to bite. Air temperatures have reached the eighties a few days, but we cool off quickly at night. We had not heard a heat pump for several days until recently.  It has been a welcome break in noise that can disturb the peace in our quiet countryside.  In a warning shot of things to come, on April 28 our air conditioning came on late in the day for an hour or so. We can hope it was an isolated incident, but we know that warmer, more humid weather is on the horizon and likely will be here before we are ready for it.

The real magic of this time of year is that you can do almost anything that comes to mind. The only thing tempering my actions is the knowledge that the water will be much warmer very soon.  If you want to actually put your body in the water, it better to wait a few more weeks for the perfect dipping water.

If you live on the water like we do, you can get a little picky about going out even in a boat. Memories of perfect days keep you searching for the next perfect moment even when you are anxious to get on the water.

As April 2014 ends we are still seeing persistent winds so some of my favorite fishing holes would not be nearly as much fun now as they will be when the spring winds are more sporadic. I am figuring if the current weather trend holds that I should be fishing in the marshes to the south of Swansboro by end of the first week of May. I hope the bluefish will be there when I stop by for some drift fishing.

That is actually soon enough for me. I went fishing last week in my kayak on the White Oak River for the second time this month and still did not get a touch so I can be patient. The sound, the ocean, and the river are calling and sometimes it is an irresistible pull. There are days when the beauty of the water can sweep you off your feet. Then there is no choice. If the call is too strong,  you just have to find a way to fish either on foot by kayak or skiff. My surf rod is always ready for just such a contingency.

This is also a good time of year to visit those places which can get a little crowded during the peak season. Even with the very pleasant weather, few tourists are here. For that very reason we headed off to Beaufort, NC on Sunday afternoon, April 27, 2014. The charm of Beaufort is probably the reason that I am living on the Carolina coast. It is certainly one of my favorite places to visit.

We managed to enjoy a great Sunday lunch at Beaufort Grocery Company. We walked the docks, bought some fudge, spent $2 on ice cream for the both of us and stopped by Morehead City for a peak at the Nina replica sailing ship. It was a quick afternoon trip and it was only one of many options for folks along the Crystal Coast.

We could have taken the boat out to fish a sheltered spot or headed over to the beach for a long hike around the Point. I had a great walk with my granddaughter in the Emerald Woods park recently. It is a lovely park for a short walk down to the sound.

Spring has brought so much to do that I have yet to make it over to the Croatan Trails this spring but that is a function of living in a neighborhood where I get to walk two to five miles a day along our own marshes.

It is a pretty special spot. Just in the last two weeks, we have been visited numerous times by our neighboring ospreys and great egrets. We had a bald eagle land about thirty feet from our dock and I saw a red shouldered hawk. Today the two Canada geese that always visit in the spring showed up with their spring brood. Our green heron has also been in the neighborhood and our local turtle has been sunning himself for about a week.

It is spring on the Crystal Coast and the magic of our area is all around us. Azaleas are in full bloom and some of the old ones look like small barns. The spring wheat is looking good and my everything in my garden especially the tomatoes are growing well. It will not be long before being on the water happens almost every day. I already have my next hike on the Point planned. I will be carrying my surf rod and gear.

For more information you can 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.  You can find more information at Life Along The Crystal Coast.

We also publish a monthly email newsletter.  There are still a few days to sign up before the April edition gets emailed.

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Rescued By The Blue Skies & Waters

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Raymond's Gut on a perfect spring morning

Raymond’s Gut on a perfect spring morning

Spring does not usually come grudgingly to North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. Life and the weather here in Carteret County are usually tempered by the waters of Bogue Sound and the White Oak River.  While cool days are not unusual, we often get a nice taste of summer in March and some memorable April weeks.

Spring of 2014 has been a little less enticing from the chilly start to Easter weekend when we had our own private storm with three inches of rain, gusty winds, and temperatures hugging 50F for over two days.  Our only warm weather through the third week of April has been sporadic and short-lived.

As the third week in April started, I was beginning to think that we might head straight from our chilly early spring to summer. Fortunately Tuesday, April 22, turned out to be a stunning day as you can see from the blog picture.  The days that have followed have reminded me just how wonderful spring can be on the coast.

When I walked out on the dock on Tuesday morning, I was so struck by the beauty of the water and skies that it was hard to leave and head back to our house. It was such a treat after a spring that left me wondering when we were going to turn the corner.

Certainly Monday,  April 21, the day before, was a nice enough day especially considering most of our other not so nice spring weather this year. Monday’s wind and weather were manageable enough to get me in our open skiff for a ride down to Swansboro harbor. It is a short ride of little over three miles, but it is not one that is enjoyable if the wind is over 15 MPH and the temperature is below 70F.  While I did have to ride the tops of the waves for it to be a comfortable ride, it was nice be in the boat in t-shirt and shorts instead of bundled up with gloves.

Monday was just nice enough for a boat ride, but there is a big difference between a nice day and one that is so nice that it stops you in your tracks or makes you completely lose track of time out on the water.   With some eighties in the forecast for the mainland this weekend, we might just have one of those magical Crystal Coast kind of days.

Unfortunately like my day job kept me from taking our stunning Tuesday off, renewing my real estate license is going to keep me in the classroom on Saturday.  I don’t list or sell properties, but I do enjoy helping people find the right agent.  In spite of having to work on Tuesday, I took enough time out of the day to manage four walks including one over on the beach. (One walk before breakfast, one during lunch hour, one after work, and a final one just as dusk was arriving).

The walk on the beach reinforced my thoughts that the beach weather has a ways to go before it is nice enough to jump in the water, but it was fine for a long stroll along the surf. Certainly there were no crowds like we have found in the island grocery store this Easter weekend.

It is good to have arrived at the point in the year when spring has sprung.  Now we just have to wait out our normal spring windy weather pattern that makes fishing, boating, and kayaking a little challenging for a while. Of course there is no way to control when the winds will die down to manageable levels so we just wait.  It is some of the hardest waiting of the year.

A quick ride down the river on the top of the waves or a hike along one of the beaches helps pass the time until the real water season is upon us.  It is, however, a poor substitute.  Even if you left the dock when I snapped the picture in the post, you probably would have only enjoyed a couple of hours of fishing before the wind picked up and started pounding the hull of your boat. By the same token even if the sun was warm enough to make the beach marginally comfortable for a couple of hours before and after lunch this week, it certainly was not our typical summer sun that will cook you just enough to convince you to throw your warm body into the cool surf.

However, progress is progress.  Thankfully we are to the point that we can almost feel the great weather of past springs.  So far our victories are limited.  The local strawberries are here, but the water that is begging to be waded is about a month late. We just need to have a week or so of that great coastal spring weather to keep us going until summer really arrives. On the mainland we have one day of 80s in the forecast, but it will take more than that for the beach to really warm up.

For more information you can 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.  You can find more information at Life Along The Crystal Coast.

We also publish a monthly newsletter.  There is still a week to sign up before the April edition gets emailed.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Newsletter

The Call Of The River

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White Oak River, headed towards Raymond's Gut

White Oak River, headed towards Raymond’s Gut

We are approaching the middle of April and we are finally putting some distance between ourselves and the cold weather that hung around since early March 2014.

Now as we move into April my tomato plants are thriving near Raymond’s Gut which runs behind our home. With blooms on a couple of the tomato plants and the yard starting to look like I might have to mow it, my thoughts are turning to getting out on the water with my kayak.

On April 5, 2014, I took our skiff out in the river for its weekly run. The picture at the top of the post was taken as I headed back into Raymond’s Gut from the White Oak River. On my short trip I found that the water temperature in the White Oak River had risen to 69F. That compares to the 55.5F which I saw on my March 11 trip. The 69F is even more impressive considering that we had a temperature plunge not long after that as March gave us one last taste of cold weather.

While our area’s waters can look very enticing in spring, a good deal of caution is warranted at least in a kayak until we reach the magic water temperature of 70F.

That why I was very excited to find a water temperature of 74F inside Raymond’s Gut. That means if the wind will behave, it is time for the first kayak trip of the year. If the winds are  little much out on the main part of the river, I can stay in the small bay just outside of Raymond Gut or if it is really not nice on the river, I can fish the marsh grasses inside Raymond’s Gut.

I prefer to fish the oyster rocks out in the White Oak but I am a realist when it comes to wind and weather on the river. In the early spring, you sometimes have to be flexible or you stay at the dock.  It is not unusual for me to be seduced by the river but it is more likely to happen in the fall when the river still has some of summer’s warmth instead of a good dose of winter’s chill. This time of year, the important thing is to get that first taste of being close to the water in your kayak.

I will be surprised if I catch a fish this time of year since April usually is a slow fishing month and May is always a much better time for me.  Even that knowledge does not stop me from wanting to be out on the water. I readily admit that if you embrace living here, you have already decided that life is all about the water.

Now that the river is almost at 70F, the kayaks will not be the only craft venturing out. Usually as the waters start to warm,  we manage a trip in our skiff out to the big water by Bogue Inlet. The good thing about living by the river is that you can be on it and back home quickly if things turn nasty.

Most of the time the White Oak River is fairly deserted. The zig and zag of the channel that you need to follow to avoid the oyster rocks often limits traffic on the river. The lack of traffic on the river just makes it easier to embrace as a personal playground.

The White Oak has a lot of moods, but if you can find the time to catch a day when the surface is glassy smooth, it is hard to beat. I am hoping the winds are quiet enough that I might be able to slip the kayak in the water tomorrow.

For more information you can 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.

We also publish a monthly newsletter.  There are still a couple of weeks to sign up before the April edition gets emailed.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Newsletter