Fall Afternoon in Raymond’s Gut
On December 1, 2016, in my post, Life by the Waters of the White Oak, I wrote “Our temperatures were well into the seventies on this year’s first day of December.” Here we are a year later and we have enjoyed an even nicer fall.
At our dock, three miles up the White Oak from Swansboro, the temperature hit 70F on December 5, 2017. Wearing shorts and t-shirt I spread mulch and put down pine straw for a few hours. I never got cold. The weather has been great for the last month or so. We only got three-quarters of an inch of rain during November. There has been no killing frost at our place as of December 6.
Yesterday, we picked green beans and the last of our tomatoes. Over the weekend I picked most of our pepper crop. Earlier last week, I pulled out most of our persistent tomatoes. We have enjoyed a ripe tomato from our plants every month for the last sixteen months and we have some green ones that will likely carry us into January. We can give the homegrown tomatoes a few-months break.
The weather forecast for the next few days paints a different picture for us. It has highs in the upper forties and some lows in the lower thirties. There is a chance that we might even get a frost. A winter day on the Crystal Coast is one when we barely get over fifty Fahrenheit.
However, this change to cooler temperatures is not like that first snow in Canada which comes in November and potentially hides the ground for the next six months. This is North Carolina’s Crystal Coast and we spend a lot more time thinking about beaches and warm waters than we do about snow. Summer in October is pretty standard, some beach weather is normal in November, and shorts weather is not that unusal in December. January beach days are not out of the realm of possibility here.
Living by the water tempers our weather and we take advantage of it whether in summer or winter. I usually take a few boat rides in December. Winter as we know it gives us some great opportunities to enjoy the natural paradise around us. We might see some frozen water but it will likely not be until January. Then we only have to live through February before thoughts of spring can provide some welcome relief and even the opportunity for wading in the water on a warm day.
If you need a break from serious winter, give the Crystal Coast and the beaches of Emerald Isle a try. You will find lots of guidance on having a great time here in Emerald Isle in our book, A Week at the Beach – The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The 2017-18 print editions were just published on August 15 and are Prime eligible at Amazon. the Kindle version went live on September 20. If you are in Emerald Isle, you can pick up a black and white copy at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation. The Emerald Isle Town Office carries the color version.
The sign-up form the Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter is below. Our last newsletter went out just before the middle of October. This is a link to A Balmy Beginning To Fall, our October 2017 edition of the newsletter. I should have another newsletter out before the end of December. Happy Holidays!
Even with the lingering warmth, we cannot ignore the change of the seasons on the horizon any longer. Summer finished nicely and some of its warmth has stayed with us well into November. However, with standard time and shorter days, it feels like fall is finally slipping away from us. We all know what comes next.
Sunsets like the one pictured are not as rare as one might imagine but they also signal the passage into the season that passes for winter here on the Crystal Coast. When I see a series of these beautiful sunsets, I know some cold weather is not far from us.
I say cold weather with a slight smile on my face. We are still getting a few tomatoes from our garden and my wife picked enough green beans today for us to enjoy them with Thanksgiving dinner. Our red pepper harvest is still mostly hanging on the plants. It has been a good gardening season.
A cold winter day on the Crystal Coast is one where we do not break forty degrees Fahrenheit. We can usually count on the fingers of one hand the number of those days that we see in December. February is our coldest month and sometimes we even have a day when we barely get above freezing. Every few years we get a dusting of snow.
Fortunately all of that is in the future and we are still at that time of year when the water that surrounds us in Carteret County moderates the temperatures. With the water temperature still above sixty degrees Fahrenheit, we usually get a break from the early frosts and extended cold spells. However, we are past the middle of November so we know the gardens are living on borrowed time. The grass in our yards has stopped growing and we are seeing a slight burst of fall color that sometimes eludes us completely.
Thanksgiving will roll around this week and while it will be a festive time with the beginning of the flotilla season, the truth is that the Crystal Coast has a history of being a calm spot in the storm that often defines the holidays in more populated areas. While most areas seem to rev up during the holidays, the Crystal Coast throttles down.
There are still some surf fishermen around, but most of our beach-loving visitors have made their way back home. In recent years, our beaches have become something of a refuge from holiday madness for those seeking an escape. We do have the excitement of the Emerald Isle Christmas Parade on Saturday, November 25 at 3PM, but I sometimes think there are almost as many people in the parade as are watching. It is a fun, old-fashioned Christmas parade that everyone enjoys.
November remains a great time to visit the beach. It is not too late to enjoy the sound and smell of the surf. Fish are still biting. You just have to fish a lot slower than you normally would. The beaches are just as beautiful as ever and if you are lucky, you might catch one of our wonderful late-fall sunsets. The restaurants, grocery stores, and beaches are all uncrowded. There are even a few restaurants open for Thanksgiving feasts.
If you need a break from holiday madness, give the Crystal Coast and the beaches of Emerald Isle a try. You will find lots of guidance on having a great time here in Emerald Isle in our book, A Week at the Beach – The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The 2017-18 print editions were just published on August 15 and are Prime eligible at Amazon. the Kindle version went live on September 20. If you are in Emerald Isle, you can pick up a black and white copy at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation. The Emerald Isle Town Office carries the color version.
The sign-up form the Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter is below. Our last newsletter went out just before the middle of October. I am going to try to publish once every three months during this winter. This is a link to A Balmy Beginning To Fall, our October 2017 edition of the newsletter.
An overwash at the Point, September 16, 2017
You cannot live near the beach without being aware of the impact of wind and water. Our sandy shores are constantly being reshaped. It is the rare occasion when you go to a beach and it has not changed since your last visit.
Strong waves backed by high tides and strong winds can easily carve a bench into a beach like the one near the Point pictured here. I took that picture on a high tide walk at the Point on September 16. For the first fifty yards there was hardly enough beach for walking. The high water was coming from Jose and mostly covered an area that normally has plenty of beach.
Ten days later I walked at Third Street Beach at the eastern end of the Town of Emerald Isle. All summer there had been a bench there with a steeply sloped beach. Maria did not come close to us but her waves and winds took the bench away at Third Street and gave the beach a gentle slope as you can see in this picture.
Changes from moving sands can be even more dramatic at the Point, an area on the westernmost tip of Bogue Banks Island where Emerald Isle is located. I regularly walk the Point but I never pay any attention to the maps that Google and Bing create for the area. Even with the miracles of the Internet, the Point can change faster than you can post a map.
The picture of the top of the post is an area being washed over by the same high tides that carved the bench. It is hard to believe the changes at the Point in the last ten years. This picture which shows the Point under water was snapped on November 4, 2007. Since that time the sands of the Point have made a remarkable recovery. Where there was once water I have measured sand stretching .313 miles in 2013 to .261 in September of 2017. Today looking out from the same vehicle ramp, there are acres and acres of sand that seem to stretch almost to the horizon.
If you pull up this map of hikes on the Point, you can begin to imagine how it has changed especially if you remember that water covered most of the Point in 2007. I did not fully complete my recent hike and make it to the end of Bird Island near Coast Guard Channel but from the angle of the shore when I turned back towards the ramp, I am expecting drastic changes.
The good news is that the Point seems to be very resilient. Many beaches are not that lucky. We are fortunate to have beaches here on the Crystal Coast that are not as endangered as those out on Hatteras Island.
If you need some guidance on having a great time here in Emerald Isle, please remember to check out our book, A Week at the Beach – The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The 2017-18 print editions were published on August 15 and are Prime eligible at Amazon. the Kindle version went live on September 20. If you are in Emerald Isle you can pick up a black and white copy at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation. The Emerald Isle Town Office carries the color version.
The sign-up form the Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter is below. I have to apologize that I have been unable to get out a newsletter this summer but if all goes well I will have a news-filled one out the first week of October. I am going to try to publish once every three months during the winner. Next year we will not be remodeling our home so maybe time will not be so precious in the summer months. The most recent edition of the newsletter can be read at this link.
Once every year or so I end up writing about beach evenings. The reason is a simple. I have many pleasant memories of beach evenings here on the North Carolina coast. I was fortunate as a child. Even though my mother was a single parent, she managed to carve out a couple of weeks each summer when we took a vacation. Being true North Carolinians, we either went to the mountains or the beach. I remember the beach winning about three quarters of the time.
Mother would pile whatever nieces and me that would fit in her old 1953 Ford and off we would go to the beach. Somehow she found the time to pack a picnic lunch of fried chicken and country ham biscuits and there would be a cooler full of Coca-Cola. The roads were all two lanes but she never failed to get us there safely. She was a better driver than many men. The beach cottages we found were always simple and a few blocks off the beach but it was still heaven to a car full of kids from the North Carolina Piedmont.
There were tomato sandwiches for lunch and at least a couple of seafood dinners out during the week. Most memorable were those long evening walks on the beach. Some nights were perfect beach evenings. As I wrote in my post, A Beach Evening, in June 2014. You have to feel a beach evening.
You are more likely to walk outside and feel a beach evening than you are to know that it is outside waiting for you. A beach evening is more about the air and breeze than it is about how it looks outside. You can go outside in the complete dark and know by how the air feels on your skin that it is great evening to be at the coast.
When you have a beach evening, you feel embraced by the warm, moist air. Maybe it is a tropical evening with a touch less heat but the warmth is crucial to the sense of comfort that makes you wish that your time outside might never end.
A couple of nights ago I was out enjoying a late night walk and it slowly dawned on me that I had stumbled into a perfect beach evening. There was no shortage of warmth but I was not hot. The air was moving and it smelled of the beach. The humidity was not overpowering and except for walking on a street among pine streets, I could easily have been on the beach in the mid-fifties in Nags Head. The walk brought back lots of great memories of trying to keep up with my teenage cousins along the dark sand dunes and crashing surf of those long ago trips.
A couple of weeks ago I met a couple from Nags Head on an evening walk at Third Street Beach. I asked them why people who lived at the beach had driven the three hours or so to our beaches. The husband quickly replied that Nags Head had gotten so crowded that it was hard to enjoy his hometown beach. It reminded me of how blessed we are to live in a beach area that is not over crowded. With some luck I might get in a walk on the beach this evening. From past experiences I know that the beach will have few people even with this being the week of July 4.
It is good that there are still some beaches where you can have your own space and hear the waves if you choose to do so. It is nice that there is room for families, fishermen, and even our canine friends. While it might seem a little crowded on the streets of Emerald Isle, it is unlikely that you will have trouble making a left turn. Someone will stop and let you make that turn or even let you into the line of traffic if you are waiting. That is just the way it is here on the Crystal Coast where the family beach is still alive and well and you just might find a few perfect beach evenings to enjoy our remarkable shores. Do not be surprised if you see more stars in the sky than you ever have.
If you need some guidance on having a great time here in Emerald Isle, please remember to check out our book, A Week at the Beach – The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The 2017 edition should be out before the end of July.
The sign-up form the Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter is below. The next edition will be out later in July. The most recent edition can be read at this link.
It was only as the last weekend in March arrived that winter seemed to release its hold on the Crystal Coast. After a relatively warm February, we had serious visits back into winter-like weather.
We saw our first snowflakes in three or four years on March 12. On March 15 we began a series of three days when the temperatures fell into the mid to upper twenties. One day it only got into the mid-thirties and was so cold that some of my tomato plants that were hardening off inside the garage ended up with some damaged leaves.
Fortunately April has been a wonderful month so far. Sunshine, blue skies and warming temperatures have defined April 2017. Our grandchildren were on spring break the second week in April and it was a dandy with no precipitation, nearly perfect beach temperatures and no extreme wind.
The next week has been almost as nice with a couple of windy days and some clouds thrown in for variety. On April 21, we got to 84F by 11:30 AM. It feels summer-like outside and everyone has been enjoying outdoor activities. The winds continue to be more than the previous week and we are getting dry. The forecast for this weekend may solve the early dryness of our growing season.
Our garden plants which get water as needed are doing great. The Romaine lettuce, spinach, green onions and broccoli are some of the best we have ever grown.
Based on a few trips to Emerald Isle during Easter week, I would say that the tourist traffic was brisk. Food Lion was a bit of zoo at times when I ventured over.
This week we have enjoyed a few nights when the temperature stayed close to 70F which seems to be the magical number for warming the water up. The surf is already in the mid-sixties and the river is above 70F. Right on cue, someone in our neighborhood landed a short red drum. Our spring birds like the killdeer are also showing up.
I was out earlier in the spring in my kayak but since then my free time has coincided with the stronger winds so I have not made a second trip but I am more persistent than the winds so I will be back on the water soon. This is also the time of year when you will find the beach substantially cooler than inland areas. You certainly will not be cold but winds, cooler temperatures, and still chilly water can make a big difference if you get wet.
Certainly you can wade a little in the water but I would wait a little longer before getting seriously wet. It will not be long and the water will be really nice. The Crystal Coast is as nice a family beach as you can find and early spring is a great time for a practice visit to line up your summer vacation. Almost everything stays open all year on Emerald Isle.
If you are new to the area, do not forget to check out our books including, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. It is available in print or as a Kindle book.
After two rainy but still nice summers, we have enjoyed a stretch of remarkable dry weather. In the last twenty-six days we have only gotten two tenths of an inch of rain. Before that we measured 38.5 inches of rain since June 1 or a little over 2.1 inches per week during the whole summer. Even that pales to 2015 when our rain total by early October was 43.25 inches or 2.4 inches per week.
Even as the light rain comes down early on the morning of November 4, the expectation is that it will clear this morning after minimal precipitation. Then there will be another week of dry weather for everyone to enjoy.
Fall of 2015 ended up being great but so far this year’s fall weather has been even better. I suspect it has surpassed almost everyone’s dreams. While it was summer-like and almost too warm for a while, the last week of weather was perfect. The fall gardens which were doing well early have recovered from Mathew and we are even catching fish which puts everyone on the Crystal Coast in a good mood.
I have been out on the river twice in the last five days and both times have been a joy. Saturday I brought home a nice black drum and a speckled sea trout eighteen inches long. I also returned to the river two fifteen to sixteen inch red drum. Thursday, November 3, I did not even get in my kayak until 4:45 PM and after twenty minutes of paddling I dropped anchor. I caught another sixteen inch red drum on my first cast. In a few minutes, I caught another slightly shorter one and on my way in, I caught one that was close to twenty inches. The net in the picture with the drum is sixteen inches across. Of course I caught the drum in my favorite spot out on the oyster rocks in the White Oak River. The only reason I stopped fishing was that I was running out of daylight.
Most of us living here on the coast move here to be close to the water. Still the great weather, abundance of blue skies and sunshine are also factors. Some folks come for the beach and there are others who come for either boating, kayaking, fishing or all of the above. I often joke that we should bottle our fall weather on the coast and bring it out in February during our short winter. The reality is that usually we get enough nice weather that it is not too hard to survive until spring warmth finds us. Nice weather in October and into November is not unusual. We even get shorts weather sometimes in December. I usually find some warm weather for a January beach hike and some January boating. It does not take much magic winter warmth to get us through the sometimes icy end of winter.
Thoughts cold weather are still a long time off if you live here on the North Carolina coast. We have plenty of time to enjoy the beach before the winter winds. My more recent long hike over on the Point at Emerald Isle was October 20. The water was crystal clear and the air was summer-like. Crystal clear waters are part of the heritage of the Crystal Coast. Waters like I saw on my last hike give credence to the area’s nickname.
If you have made it this far in the article, you likely have figured out that the best part of the beach season is far from over. If you find the time, do your body and soul a favor and plan a fall trip to the Crystal Coast. There are no crowds, the humidity is gone and the water is perfect for fishing or even sticking your toes into it. There will still be some warm days, so enjoy them like those of us who live here do.
Our last newsletter, Back to the Beach, went out on September 12. The one before that was August Warmth. We hope to have our next newsletter early in November.
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