A Beach That Touches Everyone

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Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

I am truly blessed to live along North Carolina’s coast. The water of Raymond’s Gut is only twenty-five feet from our home. The journey to the White Oak River and through Bogue Sound out to the Atlantic ocean is not a long one as you can see from this map.

The river is only part of life on the water. We live about fifteen minutes by car on a good day from some of the most stunning beaches on the east coast. Living by the White Oak gives us access to many special places that are among some of the most unique places on the North Carolina coast.

However, one of my favorite spots is the Point, now a huge expanse of sand at the end of the Bogue Banks barrier island. Because the sand keeps moving, you never know what you will find until you get there. The Point almost disappeared in the fall of 2007. That same month I took this picture of a huge expanse water beginning at the foot of the vehicle ramp and covering all of the Point. Almost eight years later there is now three tenths of a mile of sand to walk before you reach the water.  The map shows me walking on water, but lots of people will attest to all the sand and it is clear that even Google cannot keep up with the Point.

The area around the Point is close to the heart of many locals. I am no newcomer to the Point. I first fished it in the summer of 1969 when I was a sophomore in college. The only way to get there then was to cross over the bridge at Morehead City and go by four wheel drive down the beach. I cannot remember how far we went by road before we got on the beach forty-six years ago, but I know it was a long haul of several miles down the beach. I still remember standing there by the water with a fishing pole in hand. The Point was a special place even back then.

I wish I knew back in 1969 what it took me until to 2006 to understand. Life is better at the coast. If I could have wrapped by head around that piece of wisdom, I might have saved myself a lot of miles. If I had just found a way to live at the beach back then, my life might have been very different. I would have missed a lot of snow from our years in Canada.

Likely I would never have built a herd of two hundred Angus here in Carteret County like we did in the Canadian Maritimes, but I am sure I would have figured out how to get my hands dirty in Carteret’s rock free soil. It is hard to say how much our lives might have changed if we had followed a different path. Still I am pleased  with all the times in the last nine years  that I have wiggled my toes in the sand at the Point. I head over there whenever there are a couple of hours when work can be put on the back burner for the more important things in life.

I have written over and over about how special the Point is and every time that I think that I have said all that can be said, I take another hike and find some more reasons to be in love with the Point.

My most recent trip over to the Point was on the stunningly beautiful early summer day of Sunday, June 7, 2015. I went late in the day hoping that perhaps the Station Street parking lot might have an empty space. When I got there, it was clear that the day was such a nice beach day that people were still enjoying the sand and surf even at 5 PM. Fortunately after waiting about ten minutes, I got a spot and headed off on my hike.

I planned on doing my short hike which is a little over two miles instead of the long one which can between four and five miles. It was a great time to hike as it was very close to low tide and the sun was low enough to be comfortable.

As always, I marveled at how much the beach has changed. It is humbling to see the power of wind, sand, and surf. But it also reassuring to walk a place like the Point. I have seen it big and small over the last four decades, and it has endured through all the storms that mother nature has thrown at it.  The Point is still that same wonderful, almost wild beach that I remember from my first visit. Your cannot say that about many places.  The changes in some of my favorite spots on the northern Outer Banks in the last forty years are hard to fathom.  We are lucky Point is just hard enough to hike that few people go beyond the easily accessed areas near the boardwalks.

I hope the Point stays almost wild and endures for at least another few decades.  It is a true treasure that is just a little over six hours (assuming there is no gridlock) from  Washington, DC.

While you might not be lucky enough to be close enough to hike the Point today, I can take you there virtually with some carefully chosen pictures from my June 7, 2015 hike.

If you are here and need a little more information about our piece of paradise, this link is a good starting point and subscribing to our newsletter is a great next step that will keep you up to date with what is happening in the area that stretches from Swansboro through Morehead  City, Beaufort and Down East up to Cedar Island.

Our most recent newsletter went out the end of May and can be seen at this link. Our next newsletter should be out by the end of June.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I always provide instructions on how to get the annual update in our newsletter.

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Memorial Day On The River

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White Oak River near Bluewater Cove

White Oak River near Bluewater Cove

Memorial Day 2015 has come and gone. By all reports it was an overwhelming success. The flag was out at our home and it was a great holiday.

By a twist of fate we were in Raleigh on the Friday before Memorial Day so we got to sample 34 miles of stop and go traffic on Interstate 40. It reaffirmed my belief that there are better ways to get to the Crystal Coast. We needed to stop in Beulaville so the better routes that we include in our travel guide did not make sense that day but it was a good reminder of how bad traffic can be on the wrong route.

My other measures of success are the volume of traffic heading over the bridge to Emerald Isle and the number of boats that I saw on the river.

By both those measures there were plenty of people visiting our piece of paradise during this amazing stretch of weather. Our “sunny forecast” looks like a broken record but everyone is enjoying the extended period of nothing but sunshine.

With Memorial Day being the official kick off for summer, there are plenty of choices of what to do all through the summer.  I took advantage of the holiday to catch up on my work around the yard, attend a subdivision cookout, and spend some quality time on the river.  My barrier island beds (because they are shaped like barrier islands) continue to get more and more interesting.  It has been a great season for spring flowers. Our amaryllis clump had over thirty-six blooms this year as it finished out the spring with these last few blooms.

The neighborhood pool while tempting even to the last moment was still a little cool for me and there was too much traffic to Emerald Isle on Saturday and Sunday to attempt a beach walk. Perhaps we could have slipped over late in the afternoon but that was just when the tides were right for kayaking and fishing on the White Oak and fishing comes first in my book.

I had high hopes of catching a drum out on the oyster rocks like I did last year in the same time frame but it was not to be. In two afternoons of fishing I hardly got a nibble but I did get all my gear in top shape and get my paddling muscles limbered up.

As is always the case, the river was stunningly beautiful. It was also fairly easy paddling. My new Old Town Dirigo kayak handles heavy chop better than my old Pungo 120. One thing you learn on a coastal river is that the water fifty yards away can be very different. Depending on the wind and tide, you can find some choppy water almost adjacent to smooth blue water. Sometimes I paddle over to the edge of the river and fish the water by the marsh grasses to get out of the wind and current. Still no matter which way you look, the water is always beautiful.

I usually spend a couple of hours out on the river exploring my favorite oyster rocks. People sometimes have a hard time visualizing an oyster rock but it is simply a pile of oyster shells that have come together like a rock. Oyster rocks are impressive at low tide and dangerous to boats when hidden by a high tide. However they are great spots to fish especially when there is a cut through the rock.

Though at the last moment our neighborhood pool was tempting, I stuck with my plan for fishing.  These days you have to earn your fish so sometimes I fish with the knowledge that I will not catch any today but I will likely start catching them soon. Paddling back happened to be very easy both days and we have a good system for getting my kayak up a little hill and out of the water. We actually pull the kayak in with my SUV. It builds trust with my wife since it would easy for her to do me in by pulling the kayak into our bulkhead.

All the traffic on the bridge and the many boats and jet skis zooming around the Intracoastal Waterway really mean very little when you are out on the river.  It is a different world on the White Oak River.  It is never very crowded.  My time on the river was very peaceful in spite of the crowds only a few miles away. The peace and quiet of the White Oak was just what I needed.  I also got to visit with an oystercatcher which is always a special treat.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be seen at this link. We are running a little on next newsletter, but it should be out by the end of May.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I always provide instructions on how to get the annual update in our newsletter.

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The Thin Line On The Blue Horizon

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Swansboro in the distance, taken from the White Oak River, May 3, 2015

Swansboro in the distance, taken from the White Oak River, May 3, 2015

Many of us live along the North Carolina coast because of the ease of access to water. The ability to enjoy all our special waters from rivers and sounds to the Atlantic Ocean in so many way is one of the reasons we have so many visitors to the Crystal Coast.  I love it when I am out in our skiff or my kayak and land is so far away that it is only a thin line.   The impressive thing is that you do not even have to be out by the big ocean water for that to happen here. The picture in the post was taken from our skiff coming down the White Oak with Swansboro in the distance.

Our wide coastal rivers like the White Oak offer numerous opportunities for kayaking and boating. All rivers go somewhere and the White Oak empties into Bogue Sound which by hook and a few crooks manages to make its way to the Atlantic Ocean.

There are so many different kinds of water to enjoy that sometimes you can end up in a quandary of what is the best pick on a given day. Many of the choices are driven by weather and some are just personal preferences.

If I have two or three hours, the winds are cooperative, the water is warm, the tides are right, and there is some sunshine, I will usually choose my kayak. I love the exercise, how peaceful it is, and the closeness to the water. Also if I am hungry for fresh fish, the kayak will win hands down since it takes me to my favorite fishing holes where the skiff mostly cannot go.

However, if I have just an hour or so I am more likely to pick the skiff. One of my favorite things to do is get up early on a summer morning and ride down to Swansboro Harbor and do some drift fishing in the marshes on the south side of the Intracoastal Waterway. I can often go fish for a few minutes and can be back before the day gets started for most people.

I am also not averse to sticking my toes in the surf along the edges of the town of Emerald Isle. While I have never been as successful fishing in the surf as I am in the kayak or skiff, there are some moments along the beaches when it does not even matter that you are not catching fish. I love walking the area that we call the Point and am not ashamed that my fishing rod is sometimes just a decoration. You do not have to catch fish to enjoy the water.

The waters in the area are stunning beautiful on a good day. Some days they are so spectacular that only a picture will suffice. Even with the tail end of tropical storm Ana trying to hang on here for a little longer, the area’s waters still touch my soul

If you are looking for a place, where being closer to nature can make a difference in your life, the Crystal Coast is great place to start.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be see at this link. We are running a little on next newsletter, but it should be out by the middle of May.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I alway provide instructions on how to get the update in our newsletter.

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A Boat Ride for the Birds

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Willets in Flight

Willets in Flight

If you have read many of my posts, you will know that it is no secret that I spend a lot of time watching birds and other inhabitants of the marsh.

I have written many posts about the feathered visitors to our marsh including this one, For the Love of Feathers. Most of our visitors are anonymous birds but we do have one celebrity, Frank 29X. This is the third winter that Frank 29X has joined us for the winter and early spring. While Frank 29X was reported less than two miles from us the week of April 15, 2015, most of our big birds seemed to have moved to the big marshes of Bogue Sound since the waters have warmed.

We still have birds around, but each spring there is a time when it is easier to seek out the birds instead of waiting for them to come to us. The task of getting to the birds turned out to be very easy this spring. I was working on luring the older of our two daughters down for a visit. She loves doing things on the water so I forwarded an email to her about a birding boat ride hosted by the North Carolina the Coastal Federation. It was not long before she took the bait. She even went ahead and booked the trip for us.

That was a few weeks before the event and as most people know, getting to spring on the coast can be a roller coaster. Even once you make it to spring, you can be teased by the warmth only to end up wondering what happened because you are having a hard time standing out in the wind and rain.

The spring of 2015, has not been like that. April was a relatively dry month on the coast and as you can see our temperatures have been moderate all month. Of course when you plan an outdoor event and someone drives seven hours to take part in it, you can almost guarantee the weather will not be perfect.

All week before the event we heard dire warnings of bad weather on the Sunday when we were scheduled for our boat bird trip. Knowing that our weather is so localized that it is often a riddle that only is solved as the weather unfolds kept us hopeful.

We managed to get over to Hammocks Beach Park in plenty of time on Sunday morning. There was blue sky when I went for my early morning walk, but it was gone an hour later when we arrived at the dock. I love blue skies, but I also enjoy seeing birds so I remained hopeful. It was not long before we boarded the Lady Swan with Captain Tim at the helm and local birding expert Joann Powell scanning the skies, marsh grass and oyster rocks.

We were not even away from the dock before some birds were sighted, but they were not nearly as exciting as the oyster catchers that we saw a few minutes after pulling away from the dock. We took a little different route getting over to Cow channel and the backside of Bear Island and then headed over towards the Point at Emerald Isle. We just got past the trees on Bear Island when we headed down what I have heard called the West Channel. It is one of the few places in the area that I have not explored.

The list of birds that we saw is long. We sighted Yellowlegs, Oystercatchers, Blackbellied Plovers, Royal Terns, Lesser Terns, Great Egrets, Canada Geese, immature Ibises,Snowy Egrets, Laughing Gulls, Willets, Sanderlings, Red-Headed Mergansers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and a pair of Ospreys. There are some pictures of them at this link.

While the weather was not perfect, we still had a blast. When we were on the back side of Huggins Island, I did remember to turn on MyTracks on my phone so you can see a tiny portion of our trip at this URL.

The area behind Bear Island is an area that I visit regularly, so I have plenty of blue sky pictures of the area. I was most impressed with our guide’s knowledge and with Captain Tim’s handling of the Lady Swan. I hardly missed the blue skies and we got to see many more birds than I expected.

Actually our timing turned out nearly perfect. I wandered down to the kayak ramp at the park to ask the kayak rental agent what their hours were. Just as we were finishing our chat, I felt some drops of rain and headed to the car to keep my cameras dry. We made it to the car without any problems and headed off to lunch at Highway 55 in Swansboro where I enjoyed a shrimp Po’Boy. What a great way to finish a great morning.

I doubt it will take much arm twisting to get me to register for the next cruise in May. Also my daughter now wants to visit the beach part of Hammocks Beach State Park. It is one of my favorite places and its beaches rival any along the coast.

We managed to get in an afternoon visit to Morehead City to see the Nina and Pinta docked and a quick cruise along Front Street in Beaufort before the rains started. We got a little over an inch of rain that Sunday night, but it did not matter since we had already enjoyed another great Crystal Coast day.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be see at this link. We will be getting another newsletter out around the end of April.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I alway provide instructions on how to get the update in our newsletter.

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The Water is Ready

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White Oak River, April 2015

White Oak River, April 2015

Boating happens twelve months of the year along the Crystal Coast. However, January, February, and March are not months for lingering on the water.

Sometimes the water warms by the end of March and then there are years like 2015 when we have to wait until early April before the water temperature is right. While going out on the river in our skiff is safe when the water temperature is under fifty degrees, I would rather not be on the river in my kayak until the water temperature is in the mid-sixties.

When I took my skiff out on the river on March 8, 2015, I found the water temperature to be 51.5F. I was unable to sneak any time for a trip on the river later in the month. However, based on the March water temperatures collected by Dr. Bogus and his daily posts which also include the sound which is always similar to the river, I knew the water was very slow to warm this year.

According to Dr. Bogus we have had an “Unusually cold start to 2015 with both February and March ocean temps at Bogue Pier averaging below 50 degrees.”

Easter week here on the Crystal Coast was nearly perfect and we finally started getting some warm nights instead of the thirties and forties that were typical of March. It was with great anticipation on Saturday, April 11, that I finally got some time to exercise the skiff and get out on the water for a few minutes.

What really surprised me was how high the river water temperature has risen in such a short time. My reading in the middle of the White Oak was 71.8F. That rise of over twenty degrees Fahrenheit in less than a month is something that I have not seen recently.

Last year on March 22, 2014, the White Oak was at 62.9F. I went kayaking for the first time of the season on April 12, but by April 21, the river temperature had plunged back to 58F.

Water temperatures like the weather can be very unpredictable in early spring. The good news is that it is spring and with the recent warm-up, we are more likely to have some relatively stable temperatures especially since the forecast for the balance of April looks pretty normal.

The marsh is coming alive and it looks pretty nice out on the river even when making a wave or two. We are going through our spring low tides as you can see from this high-tide picture of an oyster rock that is normally well covered by our summer high tides.

If the wind will just die down a little this afternoon, I am hoping to make my April 12 first kayak trip an annual tradition.  It would be nice to look forward to that every year.

Unfortunately weather impacts ofter things besides water temperature.  The cold February and March created many problems.

While the water temperature has recovered nicely, lots of things have not. Last year at this we had already picked strawberries twice. Weather here on the Crystal Coast is always interesting and sometimes memorable. I will not forget the ten hours of below freezing weather on March 28, 2015. I lost several tomato plants that night even though they were all covered.

If I can catch a fish or two this April, that will remove the sting of having to wait for strawberries and losing some tomato plants.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be see at this link.  We will be getting another newsletter out around the end of April.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle.  If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99.  We update it each year and I alway provide instructions on how to get the update in our newsletter.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Teased by Spring’s Warmth

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Beach near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC- March 2015

Beach near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC- March 2015

Spring is always an interesting season on the coast. I feel lucky if I only go through two sets of clothing during a spring day. You can wake up to temperatures under 40F only to find yourself quickly looking for shorts and a t-shirt before lunch.

Sometimes instead of getting cool at night, it get warmer. Then there are the persistent spring winds. Often you can be quite comfortable out of the wind only to find yourself needing another layer or two of clothing when you step into the wind.

The most challenging aspect of spring for me is the sun. When it hides behind clouds, you can get cool pretty quick. However, when the sun is out, the wind dies down, and you are in just the right place, things can warm up quickly. I have gone on some beach walks only to regret that I wore too many clothes.

On a recent afternoon walk around the marsh I started out with a long-sleeved t-shirt and shorts. There was a cool breeze hitting me as I walked out our driveway. The breeze was still strong as I walked around the docks near our home. As I got even with the inlet that runs out to the White Oak River, the wind dropped and the sun had me directly in its sights.

The temperature seem to climb quickly and I started wishing for a short-sleeved t-shirt. I solved the problem by getting on the move again. I quickly transitioned to the shade of some large pines and as I rounded the next corner, I was once again facing a cool breeze.

I recently wrote about the roller coaster of early spring weather. Sometimes March can also be unpredictable. March of 2015 has been pretty nice to us. The only night we have dropped below freezing so far was March 6. It is no surprise to me that the forecast is for us to again go below freezing on Sunday, March 29.

We had a frost all the way down to the water on March 29, 2011. It is not unusual to get a frost that late in the year, but we also have had tomatoes blooming at that date. We stay prepared and have some nice Easter egg buckets in pastel colors all prepared to cover our plants.

Probably the most challenging part of our 2015 spring is having nice days but very cool nights. Cool nights make it hard for the water to warm up and most of us live here because of the water.

This time of year the beach can be irresistible and the waters very enticing. However, there are not many years when the waters are begging to be waded even by the end of March.

Seeing the blue skies and blue waters will help us get over winter, but only true warm will pull us out of spring into water season. I might enjoy walking to the ends of the sand on the beach but what I really love is answering the call of the river in my kayak or my skiff.

If you want to find out more about this special area, we send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out just after Valentine’s Day.   Our first newsletter of  2015 can be found at this link.  Our last newsletter of 2014 is still available on the web.

We will be getting another newsletter out around the end of March after the first of the season’s festivals.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle.

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