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.
The White Oak River
Another November has come and gone and somehow I am not surprised that once again the weather has been unpredictable but beautiful. That this fall has been yet another great coastal fall is undeniable.
The nearly perfect weather has been an interesting contrast to the cold weather of November 2014 when we saw temperatures drop to 24F and the high for one day only reach 42F. We got through November 2016 without a killing frost along the edges of Raymond’s Gut. The narrow channel of Raymond’s Gut runs behind our home and out to the White Oak River. It is a great place to garden, fish, and enjoy life. That is especially true when we have more than our fair share of summer-like fall days that have been the gift of November 2016. Our temperatures were well into the seventies on this year’s first day of December.
Fall 2016 unlike last year has been dry since early October. Hurricane Matthew dumped three inches of rain on western Carteret County on October 8. In the almost eight weeks since then we have only received 1.72 inches of precipitation. November 2015 was much wetter. We got 7.1 inches of rain just on November 19, 2015. On December 2, 2015 our rain total since June 1 stood at 59.4 inches. This year with a total of just 40.2 inches precipitation since June 1, 2016, we are over nineteen inches behind last year’s total. No one is complaining. It is the first time in a while that we had a chance to thoroughly dry out.
Variable weather comes with living along the coast. When water is at your doorstep there are some benefits like later frosts and extended spring weather. Each year the waters are slow to cool in the fall and sometimes not so quick to warm in the spring. We are also on the doorstep of a huge weather machine that often spawns storms just off our coast. We sometimes either get brushed by storms or watch them spin up and head north to clobber New England or the Canadian Maritimes.
Life along the water has other benefits. The cast of characters that frequent our marsh is entertaining to say the least. An early morning walk along the marsh is hardly complete without seeing some kingfishers swooping along the surface of the water. Sometimes we watch them capture a meal and proceed to tenderize it by pounding it on a piling. It is not unusual to see loons and otters and of course lots of ducks from mallards to mergansers. Our most famous visitor is Frank 29X, the great egret from Canada, who first visited the Raymond’s Gut marsh in December 2012. If Frank makes it back this year, it will be his fifth straight year to visit Raymond’s Gut.
This photo album taken during the winter of 2013 provides lots of bird and creature pictures along with shots from my kayak trips. More water and some beach shots can be found in this fall 2014 album. With great Crystal Coast weather, the choice of what to do is only limited by your free hours. Now that we are into December my kayaking will be much more limited with few if any more trips to the center of the river as the water cools. December 1, would have been a great day for a beach hike but we were scheduled during our too-short December daylight hours.
A body of water like Raymond’s Gut which stretches from the White Oak into the marsh is like a watery game trail and those of us living by it have ringside seats. Beyond the gut there is the superhighway of the White Oak River where anything from bottle nosed dolphin to blue crabs and a shark is possible. It is hard to believe that I took our skiff down the river almost a week ago and I was still wearing my standard uniform of shorts. On that trip we saw kingfishers, great egrets and a great blue heron.
We are blessed to live by waters that delight us with a new window into the natural world each day. If you ever have a chance to park yourself along the water for a few years or even months, do not miss the opportunity. It is a wonderful way to watch the seasons pass. We have seen things from our kitchen window that some folks will never have a chance to see. How many people have seen a great egret stand down a great blue heron, a great blue heron go ice skating or an otter eating fish like a Popsicle? You cannot ask for a better place to appreciate our natural world than the shores of a place like Raymond’s Gut.
There will still be some warm days here on the coast, so come for a visit and enjoy the weather while it holds winter at bay. For each warm day you can enjoy, you banish one day of winter and life seems just a little bit brighter. Turning our backs on winter is a favorite game for those of us who live here. We like to cheat winter as much as we can.
Our most recent Crystal Coast newsletter, Paddling Into The Holidays, was sent out on November 17. The previous one before that was Back to the Beach, which was emailed out on September 12.
Our books make great Christmas presents especially if you are planning a visit to the Crystal Coast in 2017.
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Pardon us for flapping our wings a little. Matthew has come and gone from the east coast. The Crystal Coast area did very well. However, the effects of the storm are still being felt inland on the North Carolina coastal plain. Historic flooding will take place in a few localities during this second week in October. Even Interstate 95 is still closed three days after Mathew left the area. There are still power outages as far north as Virginia Beach. South along the coasts that stretch from here to through Florida, people are cleaning up after a strong storm that did a tremendous amount of damage.
As with every storm there are lessons to be learned. The first is that we all need to be humble before storms like Matthew. The closest you can come to outsmarting a storm is being well prepared and if necessary, getting far out of its way.
No matter how many storms you have endured, a big one coming up the coast makes everyone who has any sense nervous. Personally I obsess over the track even with my knowledge that the size of the wind field and rain shield can can turn even a near miss into an almost direct hit and cause great damage.
I follow the hurricanes headed toward us with as many tools as I can find. There are plenty of good online tools today. I use Storm Pulse mostly and add data that I pick up from the National Weather Service. Even when a storm looks like it might miss us, we go forward with preparations until we are well out of the cone of uncertainty. There are so many factors for a particular location that it is unlikely any weather forecaster can provide exactly the right advice for our specific location. A lot of the knowledge you need to survive comes from living through some storms. The factors vary from the timing of the tides to wind directions and how protected a location is from wind coming from a certain angle. The direction of hurricane winds change as the storm moves through an area. Of course we all live in fear of being just to the right of a strong hurricane’s track.
Hurricane Matthew’s track came within about 50 miles of our location just off the White Oak River. The White Oak is a big wide river as you can see from this drone picture taken near our home. Home looks a long way off when you are in the middle of the a huge river in your tiny kayak. Raymond’s Gut which is our water route to the White Oak curves back a little as it gets to our house. The geography of Raymond’s Gut and how it intersects the river offers us some protection from storms.
There are some other good things about being on a big wide, coastal river that is not far from the ocean. Our location just three miles up river from the mouth at Swansboro means that heavy rains do not have far to flow. The White Oak River with a length of only 36 miles does not drain a tremendous area which is also a good thing when it comes to flooding. Our river is also tidal so when the tide turns some water, usually two feet of it, disappears.
We are lucky to have the very well treed Bogue Banks between us and the Atlantic Ocean. There is no way to be perfectly secure on the coast when it comes to hurricanes, but we have found our current location has been a safe haven over the last ten plus years. We stayed through all of Hurricane Irene and its punishing wind and rains. Hurricane Sandy was not much of an event here. Hurricane Matthew brought us very manageable winds and only two inches of rain. In the fall of 2015 we lived through some of the epic rains that almost swamped South Carolina. In September 2010, we even survived a strange summer downpour that dropped over 20 inches of rain on us in eight hours. None of those events brought water even close to the homes in our neighborhood. Our home is only 25 feet from the water and thankfully the water has never even gotten over our bulkhead
While the flooding water from Hurricane Matthew looks impressive covering our boardwalk, the water was gone four hours later as the tide dropped. This picture taken the next morning shows how quickly things were back to normal.
Part of staying sane with a hurricane coming is to be prepared. We got cash from the ATM on Wednesday and filled both cars with gas. The same day I took our skiff down the river to make sure it was working. I started our generator last Thursday. We got some extra water and canned food. We checked our emergency radio, all batteries and flashlights. On Friday before the rains, we moved lots of things inside or tied them down. On Saturday I raised the boat on the lift to high water stage and got a couple of coolers of ice. We were ready to fill our 5 gallon water jug if things started looking bad. When power starts flickering, our routine is to put items that we might need the next day in the cooler so we won’t have to open the fridge. If the power is off for several hours, we put the generator out on the patio and power a few things in the house including the refrigerator. Both our phones were fully charged and we talked about the papers that we needed to take with us if we decided to leave.
We were ready for Matthew but fortunately we got to spend a comfortable night at home in spite of some pretty serious and noisy winds very early Sunday morning. We never lost power and during our trip our for lunch in Morehead City we only saw a couple of power trucks working. Atlantic Beach lost power but Emerald Isle did not. A measure of the few power incidents in our area is that we saw a TV truck filming the one broken pole we noticed in Cedar Point. Some of our “good luck” is due to the giant power poles used by Carteret-Craven Electric and their efforts to keep our power right of ways free of dangerous limbs and trees.
You cannot hide from Hurricanes, but you can pay attention to history and pick a place that has survived a few storms. I know that just because we have not been hit directly does not mean that we will not get a storm with a perfect track to cause us damage. I remain hopefully that being a few miles inland with a very big tidal drain beside us means that we are relatively safe. Even so we always wrestle with the stay or go problem. Hurricane Matthew confirms what we have seen before. If you do leave, you are likely to have a hard time getting back because of inland flooding. Still if a Category three storm looks like it is headed to our area, we will likely head for the hills.
If you can find some roads that are not flooded, this is a great time of year to visit. There are certainly no crowds. By the middle of October most of the flooding should be gone. Just watch the weather and pick some nice days to really enjoy the fall treat of visiting the Crystal Coast. I took this beach picture Sunday afternoon, just after Hurricane Matthew had passed the Crystal Coast.
You can check out the Town of Emerald Isle Report on Matthew for another perspective of Matthew’s impacts.
If you need help planning your visit to the Crystal Coast, you are in luck. Our five-star-rated travel guide, A Week at the Beach – The Emerald Isle Travel Guide, can help turn your vacation into a truly memorable one.. Even if you have been here a number of times, I have some secrets to share about the area beaches. This is a recent review published in Island Review by the owner of the Books and Toys Shop at Emerald Plantation.
The Kindle version of the travel guide is $3.99 but it is free if you have Kindle Unlimited. The Kindle version includes over 100 pictures and extras such as printable maps and a few of our recipes. Our completely updated 2016 version went live in late May. Amazon also has the full color, 142 page 2016 paperback version for $19.99 and it is prime eligible. There is a black and white version available for $7.95. In order to make the paperbacks more affordable, we limited the pictures to sixty-six and the maps to nine. There are no recipes in the paperbacks. However, if you buy one of the paperbacks from Amazon, the Amazon matchbook program will let you get the Kindle version for only $1.99. If you want to purchase books locally in Emerald Isle, the Emerald Isle Town Office sells both versions and the black and white ones are also available at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation. Color copies are $20 and black and white ones are $8.
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 out around Halloween.
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