Warm Oct. Afternoon on the Beach
There is really no way that those of us on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast can complain about this fall’s weather. We have endured a couple of chilly evenings, but for the most part, our fall weather has been stellar. We have hardly had any clouds in the sky.
However, even here near the beach, cool weather has to start showing its chilly face eventually. As someone who “closely” follows the weather in a number of places, I was aware that a cold front was scheduled to visit our area on Friday, October 28. With that deadline in mind, I decided to head over to the Point at Emerald Isle on Thursday afternoon, October 27.
I have lost count of how many times that I have walked the Point this year, but I did not want to miss what might be our last day on the beach in 2011 when the temperature made it to 80F. There is nothing like walking the beach in the fall and wading in the still warm ocean water. I really dread the time when I have to switch to bluejeans for my beach walks.
As I walk the beach in the fall, I like to fish a little, even if I don’t catch anything. With fishing as part of my excursion, my outfit is carefully considered even down to the things that I take with me.
I don’t leave home without my fishing hat even though I am careful about putting on sunblock. Mostly it protects my balding head without me getting sunscreen in my hair. More importantly, I have a waterproof case for my tiny clip wallet and a couple of cords that I hook to the case. One cord has a multipurpose fishing tool, and the other has a tape measure and my fishing license in a waterproof plastic card holder. My cell phone goes around my neck in another waterproof case which has a slightly different multi-tool attached to it.
In my back pocket is a small plastic fishing tackle box with a few lucky lures. In my right pocket goes my small Sony HX7V camera. Below that pocket there is another zipper pocket for my truck keys. I usually wear my ancient LL Bean’s sunglasses that have a reader section built into the lenses. The lenses make tying knots in fishing line a lot easier.
If the weather is nice as it was on Oct. 27, then my Nikon 3100 with a telephoto lens will also be around my neck. You never know when the opportunity for a great bird picture might present itself. A microfiber hand cloth and a light spinning rod complete the outfit. I’m fairly sure that I scare most fish away as soon as I arrive on the scene, but I do get some good pictures.
Everything that could be damaged by water is in a waterproof case because I inevitably end up getting wet. That is also the main reason that I wear a bathing suit on my excursions during the fall and summer. This year after hitting over 100 miles hiking on the beach, I settled on Crocs as my footwear. On my long hikes, I typically end up walking in some silty areas where I would rather not put my bare feet which are normally perfectly happy on most of the beach.
On my October 27 excursion, I parked at the Station St. parking lot just off Coast Guard Road about 3 PM and started my hike to beach. I didn’t get very far when a car stopped to ask me about finding a place to fish which didn’t require a lot of walking. I guess he figured anyone looking as much like a beach bum as me had to be a local. He seemed to be under the impression that you could park at the Coast Guard Station and fish there. I corrected that illusion and gave him directions to Third St. Beach. Then I continued on my journey.
I walked onto the beach from the Wyndtree Drive access public access point and headed west along the low tide line. Hitting the beach at around 3 PM meant that I arrived there at low tide. The beach over at the Point continues to change with each visit. It is almost a full time job keeping up with the changes there, but it makes for a topic that interests a lot of folks. I am not an expert, but the tide over at the Point seemed lower than I had seen in a while.
The body of water that I have called the Emerald Isle community swimming pool seemed to be gone. There was little evidence of the swimming area where I had seen it on some of my earlier trips. A little farther down the beach there was some indication of a little water not far from where it used to be, and then I ran into this area where I am guessing the the pool moved. I’ll have to make another trip when the tide isn’t so low to see how much of a swimming pool remains and exactly where it has moved.
Walking west from there, I found some of the folks who fish the beach from their trucks parked on a sand ledge which was actually a long way from the water. It was almost like they were expecting the water to come to their trucks. Most of the truck fisherman don’t do a lot of walking.
As I got closer to the actual Point, I could see there were a few trucks down on the beach. There were a lot of changes in the beach as I rounded the Point and headed north.
There was an impressive part of Bogue Inlet not under water. I walked out and took this picture looking back towards the homes along the Point.
Then I walked down to what is called Coast Guard Island and continued along the north side of what is end of Coast Guard Channel. The tide was so low that the remnants of Coast Guard Channel were split in two. I took this picture at the head of the northernmost channel.
Looking back west towards Bogue Inlet made for a great photograph. Next I walked up to the edge of the dunes and took this picture looking across Coast Guard Island towards the Emerald Isle Bridge. There was an amazing amount of bait in the northern channel, but my few casts there did not raise any fish.
If you look closely in this photo, you can see the peninsula that the low tide gave us on Oct. 27. This picture was taken looking east down the edge of the northern side of Coast Guard Channel. Here is a picture of the low tide peninsula between the two channels. Finally this a shot from the same area looking back towards Bogue Inlet.
I had a great time wading around in the water and exploring some new sand. I took the GPS track from my Droid and used an image editing program to fill in sand where it actually is based on my exploration. While my hand edited map is by no means exact, it beats the Google map which has me doing a lot of walking on water. The blue line is the 3.8 mile track that I walked at the Point on October 27.
You can see a lot more pictures of my journey at this Picasa web album. I have my fingers crossed for another 80F day when I can once again put my strange uniform on and have another adventure.
If you think great October weather at the beach is rare, you should check out this album which I uploaded on October 10 last year. I still remember the wedding party standing out in the surf.
As a side note no fish were harmed in the research for this post. In fact none were caught by me, and I only saw one small fish put in a cooler during the whole hike.
Front Street Swansboro, Biggest Vehicle Wins
Some towns have lots of traffic signs. Swansboro doesn’t, and visitors from out of town sometimes get a little confused.
Front Street in Swansboro is in theory a two-way street, but actually only has room for one vehicle at a time. This of course requires that someone yield when two vehicles meet.
As far as I am concerned, the unwritten rule is that the biggest vehicle wins. There are better odds of a small vehicle finding a place to pull over and let the bigger vehicle pass. The good news is that people in general drive slowly and carefully on Front Street in Swansboro. I cannot remember there being a collision on Front Street since I have been in the area.
Once in a while, someone who has never been on Front Street gets confused, but if a FedEx truck is bearing down on your shiny SUV, most people figure it out pretty quickly and find a spot to get out of the way.
While Front Street in nominally the main street in town, the real main drag is the harbor, and there is plenty of room there. I actually go through the Swansboro Harbor more regularly than I go down Front Street, especially this time of year when I usually have the boat out four or five times at week.
Swansboro is great little town because it is real town, not just a tourist attraction. People who live in the area enjoy walking the streets. We spend more time on Front Street after the tourist season, but we aren’t afraid to venture into town at the peak of the season. You can usually find parking, and the walk is almost always pleasant with a sea breeze.
We actually had breakfast at Yana’s on August 10, and the wait was very short. The food was great, and we had a good time visiting some of the shops and going to the new Swansboro market that takes place every Wednesday and Saturday. I got some great coconut macaroons. My daughter from Northern Virginia really enjoyed the Tidewater Gallery and the Salty Sheep Yarn Shop.
I am looking forward to the day when we have some more public docking facilities in Swansboro. I think it will make coming to town even more fun. I wish someone would put in a grocery store with a dock. I would rather get my groceries by boat than fight with parking at either Lowe’s or Food Lion.
An ocean wave at Third Street Beach
I am searching my memory for the earliest time that I have taken a complete dip in the ocean, and I think it is the first week of June.
If that is the case, I established a new personal record on May 28, 2011 when the ocean waters splashed over my head at Third Street Beach on Emerald Isle.
It was no polar bear swim. The North Carolina water was warm, just not quiet as warm as my body. Even though my dip occurred at sometime after 6 PM, it was a cooling dip, and not one where I had to worry about being too cool when I got out of the water. Actually the whole purpose of the trip was so that I could cool down completely after an afternoon in the heat. We have had some heat here on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks in May 2011.
Just before our beach trip, while the sun was still beating down on our subdivision on the shores of the White Oak River, I applied fertilizer to our yard. For some strange reason, just after I started with the fertilizer, the winds that have cooled us for weeks dropped to nothing. That turned my tolerable job into one where I slowly baked in the sun. After retiring to the house and replenishing my fluids, I decided the proper way to draw the remaining heat from my body was a dip in the ocean.
I have often maintained that the best way to cool down is an ocean wave perfectly positioned between your shoulder blades. It always works for me, and Saturday, May 28, 2011 was no exception.
After my dip in the water, I wandered up to the picnic table where my wife was relaxing and enjoying the ocean view from just above the dunes.
A few minutes went by before I even bothered to finish drying off. Only after we decided to leave and drive down to Salter Path to check out the Memorial Day traffic did I put on my tee-shirt. There is nothing like a warm summer evening on the beach to make you lose track of time.
As is normal on a holiday weekend, the Crab Shack and other restaurants in Salter Path were packed with evening crowds. We also noticed that the beautiful Hydrangea bushes that grace some of the spots around the Oak Grove Motel were starting to bloom. The Oak Grove had their “no vacancy” sign showing. I was most impressed when we caught sight of two Indian Beach police cars in less than a mile. It is a good thing to remember that Salter Path is one of the stretches on the beach where the speed limit is 35 MPH.
We didn’t bother going farther up the beach towards Pine Knoll Shores. We turned at the putt-putt course on the edge of town and headed back down to Emerald Isle where we found plenty of folks walking and riding on the bike trails. It was good to see some holiday crowds. Jordan’s Seafood was packed as was Kathryn’s and Chowdaheads. The Dairy Queen and the Sweet Spot also had good crowds.
Even more impressive was the parking lot of Food Lion in Emerald Isle. Not only was it filled to what we call the wilderness parking area, but there was also a line of people at the parking lot ATM. It was a good day to be locals who did their grocery shopping much earlier in the week.
As we drove back across the bridge to the mainland, only impatient traffic behind us kept me from slowing to enjoy the gorgeous view looking east up Bogue Sound. As I often say, it is one of the most beautiful views that I have ever seen. It always renews by soul.
Our trip home took us by Fairway Restaurant which was also packed. It is good to see the local restaurants doing well. The winter months are pretty quiet here on the Crystal Coast. Still it was reassuring to remember that we had a nice porterhouse steak waiting for us at home. Sometime in the spring we found the steak on special for around $6 at Food Lion and tucked it away in the freezer.
The perfectly grilled steak with a sweet potato and fancy green beans doctored with sesame seeds and soy sauce was a nearly perfect ending for a busy day. There was even enough steak left over for a sandwich the next week. However, the real crowing touch was a bowl of fresh strawberries from the box that we had captured on our morning errands when we stopped at Winberry’s Produce just before we swung into Redfearn’s Nursery for a couple of plants. It is not often that you get to view a triple crown of local berries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
After enjoying our steak with a glass of wine, we cleaned up the dishes. Only then was I comfortable relaxing in my easy chair. I thought back over the day which included a short early morning boat ride on the almost deserted White Oak River, the mid-morning mowing of our yard, and enough stops on trip to town that it was a challenge to remember all we did.
Our errands included a visit to S&H Feeds for our centipede fertilizer where we chatted with a neighbor who just picked his first ripe tomato this week. Then there was the perfect cheese-steak sandwich which my wife and I shared for lunch at Trattoria in Swansboro. After lunch we enjoyed the display of flags around the Otway Burns statue in Centennial Park near where we had parked.
Fortunately my review of the day didn’t have to last very long. Within an hour or so we decided to head off to bed
Saturday was a great start to Memorial Day weekend, and I certainly didn’t have any trouble falling asleep.
If you want to check out some of the locations mentioned, visit this welcome page for a downloadable PDF map of the area.
Where the Sound Meets the Atlantic Ocean
I am not certain where or when I learned that being on the edge where different worlds meet is the key to excitement. But I have taken it to heart.
I have no doubt that the area between the Point at Emerald Isle and Bear Island is truly one of those places filled with life because it is where two very different streams of life meet and challenge each other.
We have seen pieces of that battle before in our lives. Being in places where we could watch the different worlds challenge each other has added much richness to our lives.
In the seventies we lived in a small settlement on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. It was definitely a place where the elements met and fought. The ocean and weather often battled with the land and people in our little world. There were times when we would go from blizzard to rain and mud back to snow, ice, and frozen mud. And always there was the wind trying to carry away anything that wasn’t tied down. I can remember seeing foam from the waves frozen around power lines over a mile from the beaches.
After that we lived on a farm in central New Brunswick in Canada. We were so much in the wilderness that we didn’t even have to fence our cattle at the back of our farm. It was always a battle between the forests and our farm land. You had to be vigilant or the spruce trees and alders would take over pastures and hay lands. I even learned a healthy respect for black bears and black flies both of which believed they owned the area. Once I stood on ridge somewhere near the back of our farm with two old timers who had lived and worked in those woods for all their lives. For half an hour none of us had a clue where we were or the direction to take us back home.
Our last stop before the coast of North Carolina was the side of a mountain overlooking Roanoke, Virginia. Our house often felt like a ship in a sea of wind. While the challenge of living on a sometimes snowy Virginia mountain might be something to contemplate, it was nothing like the wilds of Canada. Still I did feel like a high outpost standing strong against some of the toughest weather you could find in Virginia. There is nothing quite as awe inspiring as watching a dangerous thunderstorm circle the valley’s mountains and bounce off the mountain peaks. I used to joke that living on the mountain separated the people who wanted to feel alive from those who just wanted to be safe from the weather.
Then we found the Crystal Coast, and not long after moving there, I got to fish the area between the Point at Emerald Isle and Bear Island. It is where the waters of Bogue Sound and the White Oak River meet the Atlantic Ocean. I had fished it from the beach in the sixties when it was only accessible by driving down the beach. Even that long ago, we knew it was the place for fish.
Most area fishermen will tell you that it is one of the most productive fishing spots in our area. It is also one of the most dangerous. Even in the last few years, it has claimed a few boats. While it is a place filled with fish, it is also home to treacherous currents and ever changing sandbars. There are days when it is as safe as fishing in a bath tub, and there are days when even the most experienced boaters will not challenge the seas in Bogue Inlet. It is a place where you learn to respect the power of the water.
There is no doubt that life on the edge where the sound and river meet the ocean surf is exciting and much more diverse that it is in a pool of trapped water. Mostly when you fish in a lake, it is fairly predictable, there are not a lot of places you have to avoid when boating in a lake, and you have a pretty good idea of what you might catch when you wet your line. It is a little like living in subdivision. To a certain extent life in the subdivision is predictable like fishing is in a lake.
However, fishing in Bogue Inlet can bring a day with the bluefish, or you can be hit with a rogue wave which comes close to standing your boat up in the water which is enough to send most fishermen back to calmer waters. You can also pull a beautiful red drum from the battle line between the surf and the sound or a tasty flounder. The Inlet is a place of great opportunity and some risk.
Because we can have wonderful afternoons like the one we where we caught so many bluefish that our arms ached, we will go back and challenge Bogue Inlet again and again. It is one of those things which if it were really easy and safe, it would be overwhelmed by people. Because there is an element of risk, some people will stay away. I am pleased to say that we rarely see jet powered personal watercraft in the Inlet.
Knowing that the action is where the waters meet and different worlds collide is a powerful inducement. You will find me out there as soon as the winds subside to the point where my wife won’t have me committed if I head out to the Inlet.
The good news is that even if I don’t catch something, there is a reward for just being there and surviving the challenge. I can hardly wait to be there.
Looking south towards the Point
Warmth seems to be finding us on a regular basis. Green grass is showing in the yards, and there is plenty of outside work to do, but sometimes the call of the beach is just too strong.
Wednesday, March 16, was one of those days. I had two great hikes over at the Point on March 4 & 5, but I felt like that I had some more exploring to do, so after lunch on Wednesday I set off for Emerald Isle. I got caught on the bridge by the paving project, but I am one of the few people who enjoys being caught on the bridge. I snapped this photo of a boat headed east on the Intracoastal Waterway and another of the same boat just coming out of Cedar Point.
The trip from Bluewater Cove to the CAMA beach access parking on Coast Guard Road normally takes twelve to fifteen minutes with the slightly over nine mile drive. However, the stop on the bridge made it closer to twenty-five minutes.
It was a pleasant day, I wore shorts, tee-shirt, and a light wind shell. The temperature was in the upper sixties, and there was a light but persistent breeze. You can follow my trip on this Google map that I created with MyTracks on my Droid smartphone. Each blue marker on the map also has a link to picture attached to it.
Leaving the parking lot, I walked south on Coast Guard Road and turned east on Inlet Drive and walked to the CAMA access point there. Once I reached the beach where the ramp meets the sand, I started heading east and eventually turned left and walked up the beach a little over four tenths of a mile until I thought I had gotten to the place on the beach which is about halfway between Windjammer Dr. and the Lands End beach access/pool.
After that I turned and walked west back down the beach towards the Point. Lots of folks have trouble understanding the ocean is to the south and the beaches run east-west on our section of the Southern Outer Banks. I stopped only to watch a couple of guys trying to ride some waves. The surfers had to work hard to get any rides on the waves. The waves were just not large enough. I went about 1.1 miles from my easternmost point on the beach to the place where the beach turns and heads back along Bogue Inlet.
From there I made my way along the beach in a generally northwesterly direction for about one quarter of a mile until I had to make a detour around two guys who were trying to do some para-sailing. They got the sails in the air, but I never saw them get up on their boards in the water.
From that point it way about 1,000 feet to where I decided to cut back and head towards the vehicle access ramp at the end of Inlet Drive. There is only a couple hundred more feet of beach, but some folks were having a private time there, and I decided to let them enjoy their moment.
I planned my trail back so it would cross by the head of the shallow water that is at the end of what is left of the Coast Guard Channel where it used to cut through to the Inlet. That was some of the softest sand that I encountered so if you want to avoid this, you might hike back along the beach until you have a straight line of sight almost directly east to the ramp.
Going back along the beach, it is only about 1,400 ft to the ramp from closest water to the west. Depending on how Google Maps is behaving, you might see a blue line on this map, or you can check out the green line in this photo which is based on my March 4 hike at the Point. No matter which way you see it, the route is easy to figure out. The straight line back to the ramp from the water is a nice walk. None of the walking at the Point is very difficult, but it is really nice if you stay away from the softer sand in the areas that are still turning to dry beach.
However I didn’t take the easy way, so going back up the beach is not the way that I did my hike. My track to the the head of what is the end of Coast Guard Channel was about 1,000 ft in the soft sand. Looking back along the edge towards the houses, you cannot really appreciate how shallow the water really is in that end of the channel. Last year we barely got past the Coast Guard Station in my skiff. I am amazed that it was possible at one time to take a boat through that channel to the Inlet.
Once I hiked east beyond the head of the water from Coast Guard Channel, the sand improved, and it was a pretty easy walk of 1,800 ft to the ramp. Then I had a short walk down Inlet Drive to Coast Guard road and my vehicle.
It was truly a beautiful day on the Point. My beach walk covered 3.5 miles, but it was great fun, and I can’t wait until I have time to do it again.
I probably saw less than a dozen people and about four or five dogs, lots of sea gulls, and several flights of pelicans.
Since I took nearly a thousand pictures on the walk which lasted over two hours, I am still sorting them, but I will eventually post an album.
You can check some of the initial ones in this album.