Nature’s Peace Will Flow Into You

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Fall in the Raymond's Gut Marsh

Fall in the Raymond’s Gut Marsh

John Muir once said the following.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

I wish that I could have invited John Muir to join me in a walk along the salt marshes of North Carolina. I have seen my share of mountains from those in Alaska to the Canadian Rockies, the Tetons, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and the Alps of Austria and Switzerland.

No mountain has ever brought me the peace that I feel walking or paddling the edges of the salt marshes. The sounds and beaches of North Carolina that surround the marshes are part of that world that I love so much. It is a world that has helped me renew my soul and achieve a balance in life that had escaped me for so many years.

I do not disagree that the redwoods and the tall mountains of the world are wonderful cathedrals to nature. However, I think marshes are even more important to our lives and what they give back to those who treasure them is priceless.  The marshes have certainly given me a new outlook on life.

The wonderful thing about the salt marshes and the waters that touch them is that they are alive with creatures that touch our existence in so many ways.

It is easy to fall in love with the beautiful feathered friends that I find on my trips through the marshes. However, it goes far beyond that. The other day I saw a fox chasing something along a marsh pond. I have watched river otters play on the shores of the marsh. I have been lucky enough to have an osprey dive straight into the water just yards from my kayak. I have caught fish in the marsh. I have seen an osprey  eat mullet in the trees along the marsh edges and watched great blue herons and great egrets stalk their prey in the shallows. I have stood in awe as fish and crabs fight over scraps we feed them.

The marsh is a world in itself. Birds and fishes live and die in the marsh. Nothing is wasted in the marsh. Whatever falls there is always recycled. An area of marsh which has been either undisturbed or repaired is a powerful source of life, food, and even healing for the soul.

Walking through the marsh, I see swirls of bait fish, ducks and other birds feeding in the marsh, hawks and osprey hunting for food, and sometimes from the edge of the marsh, I can even see bottle nosed dolphins feeding on fish that were born in the marsh.

The marsh can be covered with ice, stirred up by a strong wind, or nearly sucked dry by a strong storm, but given time it will recover. I have seen it flooded with over twenty inches of rain. Hurricanes have whipped it with winds, but the marsh is always there unless man attacks it and tries to drain it.

While I will always enjoying seeing mountains, I will always feel at home in the marsh. The salt marsh is a much more hospitable place even when winter finds us. You can live on top of a mountain, but you have to work very hard during three months to survive the next nine months. In the marsh there are only a couple of months a year when life is difficult. Much of the year our salt marshes are producing food that we can take advantage of relatively easily. Some years we have harvested vegetables from the salt marsh almost twelve months out of the year.

So if I had to pick a place to live, it would be here on the salt marsh. My odds of survival are much better and the peace that I have found is better than I have found on any high mountain.

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 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It is available here on the web. You can read our October newsletter online at this link.

We hope to get our next newsletter around New Year’s Day.

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

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Not Our Usual November Day In The Marsh

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Bright November Morning On Raymond's Gut

Bright November Morning On Raymond’s Gut

There are lots of things perfectly normal and even very nice about the picture that adorns this post. The clear skies, the blue waters, and the golden fall colors of the marsh are all treats we count on here along the southern coast of North Carolina

However, what you cannot tell from the picture is the air temperature which had dropped to 23F on the morning of November 19, 2014, when my camera captured the image. That cold walk on the boardwalk was a frigid reminder of the power of nature. Even those of us living by the water know that while it is unusual, arctic air can travel all the way to our coastal paradise along the North Carolina coast even in the fall months.

With a November average high temperature of around 65F and an average low temperature of 45F, our November 18-19 weather this year has come as something of a shock. Our high temperature on November 18, 2014, was 44F and our low the next morning was 24F. The high on November 19, was 42F.

While these temperatures might seem like a heat wave to some friends to the north, they are very cold to us and not even typical of our winter temperatures. Our average high in January is 50F and the average low is 33F.  Our first fall here back in 2006 I managed to get back in shorts at the end of November.

Obviously this surprise cold wave brought an end to what was a very glorious fall. While we had some hints that our fall was ending, no one expected it to be such a cold end. Our November transformation is usually a little more subtle.

Usually we have plenty of November beach days and lots of time to look for fish in my watery backyard. This year it has been a little harder to enjoy the water as much and while it would be easy to blame the weather, I have to shoulder some of the blame myself since I have been busier at work. However, it is harder to get on the water when we are missing those long stretches of don’t pinch me weather. However, we are accustomed to periods of challenging weather with lots of great weather mixed in to keep us happy.

The cold brought an abrupt end to my quest to get another ripe December tomato. We have had a couple of years when that was not much of challenge. Then there was 2008 when we had a frost on October 30. This year we were on track this year for a beautiful December tomato crop but with it getting so cold, we gave up and now have a couple of buckets of  green tomatoes ripening in our home.

We did have a great early November harvest of beans and broccoli. In fact we are still eating broccoli that we grew and some that came from a neighbor. To lessen the impact of the unusual cold, I built a frame to cover my lettuce and chard and keep it warm with a light bulb. We should have three or four heads of Romaine lettuce in the next couple of weeks. We have more lots more tiny lettuce seedlings growing in a raised bed. If we are lucky we will get some nice weather in December and we might harvest lettuce in January.

Gardening in December is something of a tradition for us. This is a link to a January 13, 2013, picture of lettuce growing in our garden so our efforts to harvest January lettuce are not signs of insanity.  Hopefully we will be even more successful this year than we were in 2013.  The polar vortex got us last year, but I am ready my light bulb this year. We also have kale and Swiss Chard growing and expect to enjoy them into the new year. They are doing very well.  Last year we also harvested a few rutabagas in January. Our crop this year looks even better.

So while the weather is a little unusual in the marsh this year. We will make the best of it and hope that we still get some special treats from our efforts. The fishing might even get exciting again. It can end up being pretty nice out on the water in November.  There are days when even the trip home from the big water is very nice.  Sometimes you can bring home a cooler full of bluefish or even better a cooler with trout and drum.

If nothing else, the cold weather has been a great time for baking bread, making soup, and enjoying our winter visitors to the marsh.

This picture is of my homemade sourdough bread with some of our home grown lettuce. It made for a delicious tuna fish sandwich especially when accompanied by some of my wife’s homemade chicken noodle soup. It is hard to complain about the weather when you are enjoying delicious food inspired by the cold weather.

You can read more about life here at this archive of recent articles. If you are ready to visit, you will find some great information in our free online guide to Emerald Isle.  It is a great time of year to visit and enjoy the peace that comes to our Crystal Coast waters.

We also send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out on October 8.  You can read it online at this link.  We will be sending out our next newsletter next week just before Thanksgiving.

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Our November Transformation

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November Sunset On The White Oak River

November Sunset On The White Oak River

We have lived in some spots that transition early to winter. At our home in Tay Creek, New Brunswick, where we lived during the seventies and early eighties, the ground was often white by the first week in November.

It was white when we moved there in November of 1974 and the snow never left that year until May. I was not surprised when I recently got some snow pictures from friends who still live near our old Tay Ridge Angus farm. They were taken on November 3, 2014. Tay Creek was not the only place that winter came early in our lives. Even our home in the mountains of Southwest Virginia got snow before Thanksgiving in 1989. The snow stayed on the ground until Christmas that year.

Snow and cold were a fact of life in Tay Creek. Here along the Crystal Coast, warmth graces our area usually from March until October. Sometimes the warmth is actually pretty hot. Even in the November to February timeframe, we can have some wonderful days including days in December when we still enjoy the water and sometimes end up in shorts because of the surprising warmth.

Still November is a time of change. The beautiful sunsets out on our river often have a crispness that we do not see earlier in the fall. I usually have to pull out my blue jeans a few times during November. Sometimes we even have to turn on the heat as we did this first weekend of November 2014. Fortunately we have not had a frost and we have tomatoes and beans growing in our garden. Water temperatures which can be in the upper seventies in September often plummet to the sixties in early November. That is great for those of who enjoy fishing and sometime get seduced by the water around us.

November usually marks the time when we no longer worry about hurricanes as much. We can have periods of very quiet weather only to watch Nor’easters spin up off our coast and deliver some of the those early snows up north.

We often get to enjoy our last fishing trips out to the big water in November. However, as November slides away from us, the time comes to start enjoying the quiet waters near home. November takes us from that weather which is good enough to bottle to weather which actually requires some outerwear to enjoy.

Fortunately winter takes a while to find us and we usually have a gentle rather than an abrupt transformation. Some years we almost escape it, but there are years like 2014 when even our little paradise gets frozen. We do usually get some January beach days and by the end of February the power of the North Carolina sunshine almost always gives us an early taste of spring.

Still November marks the time when even the most rugged of our visitors start thinking about heading home. By December, most of the people here are full time residents or  those looking for peaceful waters and an escape from the madness of the holidays in the city. Sometime before December we have a seasonal reversal when the beach areas are warmer than the mainland where we live. By spring that flips again and the beach areas are cooler than the mainland. It all depends on the water and the riddle of our coastal weather.

We really do get to enjoy all the seasons here on the Crystal Coast. Our fall seems to last forever and is the favorite time of year for most of us. We get just a taste of winter which sometimes means we have snow that usually melts in the morning sun. While our spring is often cool and extended, summer never lets us down.

When you put all the November changes into perspective, the odds are still pretty good that you will have some very nice days if you come for a November visit here along the North Carolina coast.

You can read more about life here at this archive of recent articles. If you are ready to visit, you will find some great information in our free online guide to Emerald Isle.

We also send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out on October 8.  You can read it online at this link.  We will be sending out our next newsletter just before Thanksgiving.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

September Summer Beach Days

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Beach at the Point, September 2014

Beach at the Point, September 2014

Late September is a time of anticipation here along the beaches of North Carolina. We know that the odds are in our favor. It is likely the next eight to ten weeks will bring us some exceptional weather that is sometimes fantastic even into November. Sometimes the weather is so nice that I think we should try to bottle it.

Even with the great days we accept that fall weather can be even more variable than the riddle that is often called coastal weather. Fall weather systems, storms and fronts come and go along the coast and the weather can go from nice to not so nice rather quickly like it did on a long ago fishing trip to Beaufort.

Late September and early October are more likely to be plenty warm as I found it when I worked up a good sweat hiking the beaches at the Point on Sunday, September 21, 2014. The air temperature was in the low eighties and the surf had probably warmed to close to 80F by the time I got to the beach just before 4PM.

Forty-eight hours later, we have just experienced the coolest day along the coast in the last five months. Our high temperature did not get past 64F. Today, one day later, things are a little warmer and the potential of one to two inches of rain turned out to only be an idle threat. With as much rain as we have seen in this somewhat wet summer, it is understandable that the weather folks are not in the mood to under forecast rainy weather.

By this weekend, the last one in September 2014, we will be back to high temperatures just over eighty degrees Fahrenheit while the air will cool to the upper sixties at night. That is nearly perfect weather to enjoy the water except in unheated swimming pools here along the Crystal Coast. It is the kind of weather that we count on in the fall.

Beyond beaches, the one thing we really excel at here is having plenty of choices when it comes to enjoying the water. Fall it turns out is also the best time to take advantage of all those water activities.

I doubt that are many places which can rival the variety of water that we experience on a daily basis. We are fortunate to live by rivers, sounds, and the ocean here in Carteret County and adjoining Onslow County. The White Oak, one of the area’s big coastal rivers, is right on our doorstep. Bogue Sound, which runs behind Bogue Banks, the home of Emerald Isle and its beaches, looks enticing in early spring but in the fall it becomes one of the most beautiful places on earth and the water temperature is very pleasant compared to early spring.

Our big trump card is the ocean and its surf. No one forgets the inlet and the beaches along and east of it. Uncrowded beaches make our area very popular during summer and in fall the fishermen come in addition to other late season visitors.

I will never forget walking along the beach in October 2010 and seeing a bride in her wedding dress and groom in his suit standing in the surf. While the beaches can cast a spell over anyone, the water just off shore can be amazing for those who get to experience it. I will never forget the remarkable day we spent catching bluefish just outside Bogue Inlet.

Of course the White Oak, my home water, which often seduces me or Raymond’s Gut, the Inlet, which runs behind our home are both always on my mind in the fall. As this fall season starts, I have managed four keeper flounders in the last month including a real doormat that topped the scales at three pounds and nearly five ounces. He was wide and thick as big flounder should be. It is easy to get excited about fall when fish are in your backyard.

As you walk along area waters this time of year, even if the air is cool like it was yesterday, you will likely not notice since our waters are still warm and acting to keep real cold away from us.

Whether you are looking for fishing, boating, or kayaking, you will find water that matches your needs and is easy to enjoy here in our piece of paradise. If you need a time and a place to get away from stress, fall is the ideal time and our special area is the perfect spot.

You can also read what has been happening during the middle of summer at our Southern Outer Banks site or visit my my homepage for more links.  Our next newsletter will be out by October 1.

If you need some quick and free travel advice, try our free quick guide to Emerald Isle.

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A Return to the Beach

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Beach at Third Street on Emerald Isle

Beach at Third Street on Emerald Isle

Summer is ever so gradually sliding away from the North Carolina beach. It is not that the weather has changed that much. Actually we have had some of the hottest weather of the season in late August and early September 2014. Summer’s grip on us has been impressive.

What has changed is that most of the tourists are gone. While an evening like the one when I snapped the sunset on the beach picture is all the reason I need to go to the beach, there are more practical reasons to return to the beach after Labor Day.

First as all residents will tell you, when the children go back to school, most of our visitors go home. There are still folks around with younger than school-age children, but Labor Day marks to the back-to-work season and most people head home while we start getting serious about enjoying the beaches once again.

With our visitors gone, traffic over the bridge becomes a non-issue even during Saturday and Sunday check-in hours that sometimes bedevil us during the summer. The change is dramatic. No longer is the Food Lion parking lot a game of musical parking spaces. Coastal residents who have learned to do their grocery shopping from Mondays through Thursdays now have the option of going to the grocery store for more than a handful of items on the weekend.

We also get to visit restaurants that we have carefully avoided for most of July and August. Usually the owners, waitresses and waiters are happy to see us since local traffic is what will keep them in business until next summer.

More important to me is that I can now count on getting a parking place on weekdays when I want to do my frequent fall beach hikes. The last time I tried to go for a hike on the Point, I found the Station Street parking lot filled and others already circling for the next parking spot.

Almost everyone who lives here on the coast enjoys seeing the visitors come in the summer. Life is pretty quiet on the beaches during the winter. We also enjoy seeing our visitors leave. A few months a year is enough to share our coastal paradise. We become accustomed to a quiet existence for over nine months out of the year. That makes it natural to look forward to getting back to the normal peace and quiet of our natural paradise. No one complains as the area becomes so quiet that a great blue heron squawking at night is almost a disturbance.

The beach does not become a ghost town in the fall. There are plenty of people who realize that fall is often the best time to enjoy the beach. As I am writing this at the end of the first week of September 2014, we have just finished our warmest weather of the season. Our summer waters are still with us and the surf temperatures have remained in the mid-eighties. It looks like during the next ten days our air temperatures will be in the mid-eighties during the day and in the low seventies early in the morning. Those are perfect temperatures for playing around on the water. Many of the area swimming pools were a bit warm last week, they should be nearly perfect for the next week.  That will make the pool or beach day decision very difficult.

In addition to air temperature becoming cooler, there is no doubt that our water temperatures will start to cool off and most years that means that the fishing starts to heat up. We do get a fair number of fishermen here along the Crystal Coast, but they rarely spend much time in grocery stores and most of them do not show up until the end of September. Even when the fishermen are here, their numbers are nothing like the number of visitors that we get in the summer. There is plenty of room for fisherman and lots of time left for everyone to enjoy some summer boating.

So if you hear folks talking about returning to the beach in September, you are likely listening to people who understand the area well. Many of us who live just off the beach on the mainland are careful of our summer beach trips. We make them mostly late in the afternoon when the beaches start to empty.

Now that the season is past its peak, it is easy once again to enjoy the beaches whenever the mood strikes. With the cooler air, we do not have to worry about being a prisoner of the summer heat or summer traffic.  We can forget about that short period of the year when it gets a little busy around here during the Fourth of July week at the beach.

It is pretty easy to escape the crowds with a little walking anytime here along the beaches of Emerald Isle, but now instead of fleeing a busy stretch of beach for some isolation, it is comforting to see a see a few people on our remote beaches which can be a little deserted until the fall fishermen show up.  Having people even widely spread along the beaches keeps the spirit of summer alive.

Our August Crystal Coast newsletter went a week or so ago.  It can be read at this link, Still Great Wading Water.  Stunning Weather and Summer Is Here were the newsletters for July and June.

You can also read what has been happening during the middle of summer at our Southern Outer Banks site or visit my my homepage for more links.  Our next newsletter will be out by October 1.

If you need some quick and free travel advice, try our free quick guide to Emerald Isle.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Summer Waters Are Still With Us

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The shores of the White Oak River

The shores of the White Oak River

While many areas consider Labor Day the last gasp for boating, here in Eastern North Carolina, we expect to enjoy summer waters for another two to three months. Summer still has a grip on us and many of us will continue boating all through the winter.  I will probably skip kayaking in January and February, but I will in out in our skiff almost every week this coastal winter unless we get iced in for a while.

The waters in our big rivers like the White Oak will take a long time to cool down from their mid-eighty temperatures. Just to make sure the cool waters do not come quickly, we are in the midst of some serious warmth with high temperatures in the mid to upper eighties. There is nothing like going into fall with a blast of summer weather.

It has been so warm that midday boating can actually be almost too hot unless you get out into the ocean. Of course if you love the water, a little heat is not going to slow you down.

Even with the warmth, I have managed to kayak on the river three times this last week of August 2014 and have had our skiff out a couple of times as well. The main difference between our late summer heat and our mid-summer heat is that the fish have started biting in earnest. I have caught three keeper flounders this week, one at 1.5 pounds, one at 1.75 pounds, and another at 2.25 pounds. At a market price of nearly seven dollars a pound, that is over $38 of flounder.

With bright blue skies and warm waters, it is a perfect time to enjoy our beaches. The wet weather that was hanging around in mid-summer seems to have disappeared and there is also some surf fishing action.

This Labor Day weekend does mark the last of the crowds for us. Next week we will likely visit the Emerald Isle Food Lion for the first time in a couple of months. I am already planning a hike over at the Point. My last trip over in mid-August, the Coast Guard Road parking lot that I use had no empty spaces so I had to head up the beach for my hike.

This is one of my favorite times to hike the beach. During the first two weeks of September, the beaches are still vehicle free so I try to make the most of that. There is nothing to match standing in the surf on a warm evening and fishing.

If you have the flexibility to do a fall vacation at the beach, you will not regret coming. It will not be long and we will be having warm days with less humidity and not even the hint of a crowd on the beach or the waters. Even the skies seem to get a deeper shade of blue.

Our most recent Crystal Coast newsletter went out a month ago and can be read at this link, Stunning Weather.  Summer Is Here was the previous edition of the newsletter.  You can also read what has been happening in the last few months on our Southern Outer Banks site or visit my my homepage for more links.  Our next newsletter will be out by September 1.

If you need some quick and free travel advice, try our free quick guide to Emerald Isle.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter