September Summer Beach Days

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

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.

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Summer Waters Are Still With Us

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.

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Beach Day or Pool Day?

Waters that give the Crystal Coast its name

Waters that give the Crystal Coast its name

We are at the middle of August and here on the North Carolina coast we are expecting a stellar beach week. Certainly the number of visitors already here will increase just with the pressure of this being the last week before school starts in many areas. If the weather looks to be as good as it has been this second week of August, then we are going to have a lot of folks contemplating one of modern days questions that is actually a nice problem to have.

That challenging decision for some families is whether to go to the beach or enjoy some time at the pool.  I say this with the full knowledge that there are many dedicated beach goers who come only for the beach and could care less about a pool.  However, there are plenty of pools here on the coast and a good number of folks will have to face this decision.

We are blessed to have this choice between jumping waves on the beach and relaxing in the pool. However, deciding between the two can divide some families right down the middle.

There are good people who are not fond of having sand cover much of their body. There are others who find the idea of swimming in a small self-contained pool crazy when there are miles and miles of ocean and plenty of waves to jump.

As someone who enjoys both, I am going provide my perspective as a coastal resident and a longtime lover of both beaches and pools.  Maybe I can help reduce some of the tension which has no place in a vacation.

First off let me say that I often enjoy both pool and ocean in the same day. Sometimes I manage to go to the pool, visit the beach, and come back for a night swim in the pool.  I am fortunate to not have to deal with teenagers when it comes to getting to the swimming pool but I have watched them at our neighborhood parties when they are torn between being cool teenagers and just giving it up for some real pleasure in the pool.

We live in a small subdivision ten to fifteen minutes from the beaches of Emerald Isle. I can see our neighborhood pool from my office. It takes me less than five minutes to walk over to the pool from our home.  I wish I had more time to take advantage of it but some of us still have day jobs.

I am one of those people who does not enjoy a crowded pool. We are lucky that our pool except perhaps on a hot weekend afternoon is rarely crowded. I tend to enjoy the pool mostly in the mornings and often I have it to myself.

Often in August our pool water is so warm that I rarely visit until the nights get a little cooler. This year July and August have not been as hot so the pool is a perfect place to cool off.  One of my pool observations is that many people who are not fond of pools are really just not happy with crowds of people being at a pool. If you give them a chance at an empty pool, you can often covert them to a person who loves a pool at least at the right time of day.  Having a pool to yourself is truly an advantage if you are renting a home with a pool even if the pool is small.

When it comes to beaches, I happened to have married a lady who is not particularly fond of getting sandy. I am one of those people whose fun at the beach can be measured by the how big a pile of sand that washes off my body in the driveway when we come home.  That also means I rarely feel the need to use a beach where you can get hosed off when you are done.

We solve our dilemma of two different beach personalities by going to beaches where we mostly walk along the edge of the surf. We often do it late in the afternoon when the crowds and heat are gone. Typically we go on a falling tide so that my wife will not be surprised by a wave that might get her wet. I usually carry a towel in our car so she can brush the dry sand off her legs.

We are old and independent enough that my going alone for a morning swim does not bother my wife any more than me taking a couple of hours to hike the Point at Emerald Isle does.  My wife is also not fond of being in water that is over her head or of even being in a bathing suit.  However, when our six-year old granddaughter visits, she can be attracted to the pool.

We are lucky that our pool has a shaded porch with rocking chairs.  It is the place that my wife retreats when she has had enough sun and dangling her feet in the shallow end of the pool. If you do not enjoy sitting on a porch rocking chair in the breeze by a swimming pool on the North Carolina coast, there might not be any hope for teaching you relaxation.

My wife and I have also had a couple of enjoyable beach trips that involved us hitching a ride on a beach taxi and being delivered to a remote area and then being picked up later. It is great way to see an area which might require some serious hiking to see. I wish we had a vehicle taxi system like that at the Point on Emerald so my wife could visit the area.

Getting our six-year old granddaughter away from the neighborhood swimming pool for a trip to the beach is sometimes a challenge.   We know she will have a great time when she gets there as you can see from the first picture on this post.  Her mother has been known to dangle the offer an ice cream cone on the return trip home.  That always seems to work.

I will not pretend to have a solution for getting today’s teenagers to the beach, it was hard enough twenty years ago when mine were that age.  They will eventually come back to the beach and remember how much they loved it.

While they might not enjoy roasting in the sun on a towel perhaps the challenge of hiking the Point might click with them.  There is plenty to do here in addition to having a pool or beach day.  Unfortunately many of the young folks take their electronic world with them so it does not matter where they are. They should be wave catchers instead of being plugged into their iPods.

However both kayaking and boating which are high on my agenda especially since we can do both twelve months out of the year can attract the attention of the young.  Paddling on a board is also a good activity that is popular with younger folks.  I will admit that kayaking and boating are often just excuses to go fishing for me but that has been a life-long addiction.

Our area is a place where it is pretty easy to do it all even if you just visit.  If you enjoy outdoor activities like I do, the Southern Outer Banks are also a great place to live.  It might have been wet in the middle of the summer but we are having perfect beach weather now as you can see by these photos from a couple of recent evenings on the beach.

Beyond beaches and pools, try to arrange a boat ride when you visit.  I doubt a visit to our area is complete without one.  You can always just get a ride on the ferry to Hammocks Beach.  You can make memories there that will last a lifetime as you can tell from these pictures.

With a boat on a lift behind our house, I am lucky in that I can sneak out before breakfast for a boat ride to the marshes. Coming back and taking a quick dip in the pool is not out of the question. I have done both and finished before 9AM. Some days I can add a hike around the marshes at lunch and maybe a little later even a kayak ride out to the oyster rocks. Next on the agenda would be a ride over to the beaches and perhaps an early evening visit to the pool.  You are guaranteed to sleep well after a day like that.

You are also guaranteed to have fun here on the Crystal Coast if you take the time to enjoy both time on the beach and by the pool.

Our most recent Crystal Coast newsletter went out a few weeks 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.

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We Enjoy Our Warmth

White Oak River late one warm August evening

White Oak River late one warm August evening

Where you live and the weather you enjoy or endure becomes a very personal thing. Some people never get to pick where they live. Personal circumstance dictates where home is. My wife and I have tried several places and have definite opinions about what we like in weather, what we will tolerate, and what we try to avoid.

Life has given us the chance to live our dream which brought us to the western side of Carteret County. Luckily the area has just enough warmth to fit us very well.

As the WeatherSpark site says, “Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from 33°F to 85°F and is rarely below 24°F or above 89°F. The warm season lasts from May 21 to September 10 with an average daily high temperature above 78°F.…The cold season lasts from December 22 to February 25 with an average daily high temperature below 57°F.”

I like to sum it up by saying that most winters a cold day is one which does not reach fifty. Even when we have a cool spring things usually turn out pretty well and beach season always seems to arrive.

It is a pleasant climate with not enough cold, hot or hurricanes to chase us away. After some background, I will explain our reasons for loving the warmth that keeps some folks for settling here.

You cannot understand why we value the warmth of the Carolina coast without knowing what we have experienced in weather. We have enjoyed living in places as different as Tay Creek, New Brunswick and Columbia, Maryland. Tay Creek was a small farming village in the hardwood hills just twenty miles north of the provincial capital of Fredericton. We lived in Tay Creek for ten years and saw temperatures as low as minus 40 in January and as high as 100F in June. Snow was a part of daily life there for over five months a year. The snow plows did not even bother running unless we got over six inches of snow.

Columbia, Maryland which was our reentry point into the United States was a completely planned community halfway between Baltimore and Washington. Even the service stations had to be hidden in Columbia. We only lived there a couple of years, but the humidity and heat just about cooked us. Columbia was the only place we have lived that I never mowed our yard. We found life much more tolerable for the next twenty years on a breezy mountainside in Roanoke, Virginia.

While Roanoke is a place that can get hot, cold, and very windy, I mowed the yard there many times at the beginning and end of the season. The beautiful bluegrass yard was just a bonus in an area that was certainly a good place to raise a family in spite of some snows worthy of Canada as you can tell from these snow pictures.

We ended up in Carteret County next because we wanted to be here. The weather in the county was part of our decision to move here. One of the things that really attracted me to the county was the lack of clouds. Cloud cover ranges from a median value of 15% to 34% depending on the time of year. We do have a lot of blue sky in the county. While hitting our blue sky numbers in the rainy midsummer of 2014, might be a challenge, I will look forward to the time when we will catch up.

Beyond blues skies, we value warmth. I shoveled plenty of snow even after we left Canada. Snow is pretty to someone who has moved as much of it as I have only when snow does not have to be shoveled. I can handle a little ice on the water as long as it goes away relatively quickly. So far in our eight years here, I still have not had to worry about clearing snow from our driveway. The infrequent snow and ice storms are just a reminder of the many winters we survived. A little snow and ice really does not mean a lot here in the flat lands of Carteret County where I work from home anyway. There is no worrying about driving down an icy mountain like was often the case in Roanoke.

Warmth means something besides purely decorative snow. It means that we get to live in our world without walls for a good portion of the year. I can safely be out on the water or in the water for nine or ten months out of the year. October when most people start thinking about winter is often like summer on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. It is not unusual for me to go kayaking in our inlet in December.

Warmth also gives us a gardening season that extends through most of the year during a normal winter without a wandering polar vortex. We love working outside and this year we got our first ripe tomato on May 25. We were close to getting peas in January last year before the severe cold hit. Most winters we enjoy January lettuce.

Warm weather can bring the challenge of the muggies but even at its worst, the hot and humid weather can always be conquered by a dip in the surf.

This year we seem to be skipping the hottest part of the summer. We have had some classic heat but not enough to get the folks from up north grumbling about how hot it is here.

Whenever I hear someone complaining about the heat, my mind floats back to the days before air conditioning when I was youngster in North Carolina’s Piedmont. Shade trees and dark woods were the only refuges from the heat. You got out of your home to escape the heat and hoped some of the heat left the house before you had to try to sleep.

This strip of beaches along the North Carolina coast is a special spot and the heat that comes with it makes this watery world just the right spot for us. There is so much more here than one can imagine at first glance. Having some heat most of the year makes it easier to enjoy it all including a late evening kayaking trip like the one when I snapped the picture at the top of the post.

Our most recent Crystal Coast newsletter went out a few weeks 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.

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Summer Boating

Swansboro, NC Harbor, July 29

Swansboro, NC Harbor, July 29

It really does not take much to get most locals here on the water and it takes a lot of wind to keep them off the water. Most us living along the sounds and big rivers like the White Oak try to have a little flexibility in our schedules to cover days when the water is calling.

Many people live here because you are minutes from great beaches and you can also easily enjoy some time in a boat. With just a little effort, your boat can also take you to a beach.

That will be a subject perhaps for my next post, but today I want to talk about the spontaneous boating that takes place here along the Crystal Coast.

If you have driven through Carteret County or looked at a map of the area, you understand that no place in the country is very far from water. We live just up the White Oak River about three miles from Swansboro.  My skiff and kayak are both as close to the water as they can get.

I can be in Swansboro by boat in just a little more than ten minutes. There are many days that I would prefer to get in my boat than in my car. I keep wishing for a grocery store and hardware store on the water, but I will settle for just riding down the river.

On a gorgeous day like July 29, 2014, a quick boat ride down the river and through the marshes over by Huggins Island is pretty hard to beat. It is a great way to break up your day and remind yourself of why you live in such a beautiful place.  You can see the homeward bound portion of my July 29 trip on this map.  The White Oak has a few zigs and zags but it is a great place for a boat ride.

I will often sneak off before breakfast and go fishing or boating in the marshes, but on a warm day like today, fishing did not appeal to me. All I wanted to do was fly down the river and feel the breeze in my face. It was a great day to do just that. We had a bluer than normal July sky because of a Canadian front pushing into the area. When the light caught everything just right, the pictures were amazing and Swansboro Harbor looked like a postcard.

We are at the peak of our season, but there were still only a handful of boats out on the river and even on our water superhighway, the Intracoastal Waterway, there was little traffic. Certainly if the weather is nice, it will be a lot busier this weekend.

It is hard to explain how much fun a boat ride can be, but on the trip home as I got close to Jones Island and pulled around a boat going a few miles per hour slower than I wanted to, I knew the river was mine. There was not another boat on the river in the next few miles.

The water was smooth and I was going north into a north wind so getting the boat up on a beautiful plane was as easy as it gets. With no other wakes to deal with I could slide our skiff around the markers with very little of the hull was in the water.  It is a lot of fun sliding across the water in a controlled slide.

It was a beautiful trip from start to finish. This is an album of pictures that I took. The pictures will set the stage for this YouTube video taken heading down the river a few years ago.

Come visit, take a boat ride, walk the Point, or go kayaking. You will not regret it.  There is plenty of uncrowded beach here if sunning on the beach is all you want to do.  However, there is lots here besides beautiful beaches and the friendly people to go along with them.  You can read about all the special spots in our travel guide.

Our most recent newsletter went out a few weeks ago and can be read at this link, Summer Is Here.  You can also read what has been happening in the last few months on our Southern Outer Banks site or visit my archive of older articles, Life Along The Crystal Coast.

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Walking The Point

Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

You have made it to the beach and gotten plenty of sand between your toes. but could life at the beach be more than roasting in the sun?   Is there a hidden corner of the beach that you could explore?  There is a remarkable, ever changing place here on Bogue Banks. It is a perfect place to explore and you never even have to leave the town of Emerald Isle.  There is more sand and adventure in this unique spot than most can imagine.  Will  you be one of the handful of visitors who make it to one of the most treasured spots for those of us who live here?

Our not so secret spot is not a place that you can enjoy without some effort. Even some folks who rent a nearby home often do not make it to the furtherest reaches of this special spot.  Of course this place is the Point at Emerald Isle.  It is both an area and a specific place.

However the Point does not yield her secrets or fish easily. If you want to get to know her, you have to be willing to walk, walk, and walk some more. If you park at the small Station Street parking lot just off Coast Guard Road, you will have a walk of a little over one third of a mile before your toes touch salt water.

Then you have to head west almost another mile before you reach what most of us call the Point, which is the western most spot on Bogue Banks. Just to get off from the beach after making it there, requires a  walk across over one third of a mile of sand to the pavement by the vehicle access ramp and you still have to walk back to you car from there. That short hike of the Point will end up being two miles and you will have missed the best part of the area.

So where is this wonderful spot and what is so unique about it. You can find it on this map or you can take a right at the first stoplight as you drive onto Emerald Isle from the Cedar Point-Cape Carteret area. After a short drive of 2.5 miles on Coast Guard Road you come to a stop sign. The Point is a right turn and about one third mile down Inlet drive.

If you get to the stop sign you have already driven past the parking lot. From May 1 until September 30 no vehicles are allowed on the beach so the only way to get to see the Point is to hoof it. As you might guess very few people do even the short hike of two miles that I described. Even fewer people take the time to walk to the northernmost part of the Point which is know locally as Bird Island. If you add Bird Island to your trip and take the shortcut back, your hike will total about three and one third miles when you arrive back at your car at the Station Street Parking Lot. Your hike will look a lot like the one on this map. My track on the map is actually along the current edge of the sand except where I cut across from Coast Guard Channel to the vehicle ramp. Google’s map never seems to be able to catch up with the changes at the Point.

If you decide to go back to your car along the beach, you will end up with something close to four and three quarters miles of hiking. So why would someone who has come to the beach to relax want to take a hike of over three miles? The Point which also is name for the whole end of the island is one of the most dynamic places along our coast. You can see barrier island features being created and some disappearing as fast as they emerge from the ocean.

On this map you can see a number of hikes that I have taken. What is harder to see are the features which have changed in the massive sand area that is called the Point. I took this picture of a new water feature on April 8, 2013. It was part of a post called The End of Sand. The small body of water did not even survive through the fall. When I took a picture this spring at the same spot, Bogue Inlet had swallowed the smaller body of water.

The small inlet featured at the top of the post was not there when I hiked the same area a month ago in June. Amazing changes can happen at the Point in a month or even in a few hours. This picture was taken at the vehicle ramp on November 4, 2007. There was no Point. Today around six years and eight months later, there is now over one third of a mile of sand extending west from the vehicle ramp. There is a lot of truth to the title of my article, Sand Keeps Moving.

Besides almost seeing the sand change as you walk by, it is possible to be almost alone on the furthest reaches of the Point. Once you get beyond the yellow house, the number of people on the beach drops dramatically. If you keep going, it is often a rare chance to explore the unknown.

You never know what mood you will find when you arrive at the Point. You might find some amazing waves, it might be a great beach evening, or it could stormy.  Sometimes the water is as calm as a bathtub and then there are times the skin on your ankles will be exfoliated by sand blowing just above the surface of the beach.

You also can see rare birds like red knots or more common black skimmers and black bellied plovers. You can almost count on seeing willets, sanderlings, pelicans and rudy turnstones.

Of course you can also fish your way around the Point, visit by kayak or skiff. It is a great place to get in touch with the natural world. Some of us who are lucky live here in the sandy, watery world of the Southern Outer Banks, but if you spend some serious time at the Point, you might understand the feeling of what it is like to be in a land of only sand and sea.

This is a link to pictures taken on my most recent Point hike on July 17, 2014.

Besides this blog, we also publish a monthly email newsletter. Our next edition will go out late in the third week in July. You still have time to sign up before I get it emailed.

If you decide to visit, you will also find plenty of new content in our Emerald Isle 2014 Travel Guide. There are over 150 links to extra content outside the book. Forty of the over eighty pictures are new this year. With a total of 14 Maps and 10 recipes, you get the latest information on the beaches of the area. For $3.99 which won’t even buy you a couple of Sunday newspapers, you can get 180 pages full of information about the area. It is the only real travel guide for the area and it works on just about every electronic device.

Come visit and walk the Point, you will not regret it.

Our most recent newsletter went out just over two weeks ago and can be read at this link, Summer Is Here.  You can also read what has been happening in the last few months on our Southern Outer Banks site.

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Saturday Kayaking On The White Oak

Raymond's Gut, Just Off The White Oak River

Raymond’s Gut, Just Off The White Oak River

I consider myself very lucky. My kayak is usually within 15 feet of the water. Going kayaking on a Saturday morning is something that I can do with little planning and not much more effort than the paddling.

For years when we lived in Roanoke, Virginia, I kayaked in Carvin’s Cove. It involved putting our very heavy two person kayak on top of a car and driving thirty minutes while hoping the weather stayed calm.

The opportunity to live by the water was one of the many things that attracted us to Carteret County. It is that same piece of North Carolina that the tourism bureau likes to call the Crystal Coast.

One of the first things we did the fall we moved here eight years ago was to get a new kayak. It has not been on top of the car since we brought it home, but it has been in the water more than our other kayak ever was. Some of the first pictures that I took that year are still online. I managed a few trips that year but learning the ins and outs of kayaking on a coastal river took a while. Kayaking on a big tidal river like the White Oak is completely different than kayaking on a relatively tame and captive mountain lake.

Both are great experiences but I have found kayaking on the White Oak very rewarding and perhaps the most relaxing thing in the many choices of things to do here along North Carolina’s beautiful Southern Outer Banks.

Sliding my kayak down through the marsh grass is always the beginning of a wonderful adventure. As I am paddling out Raymond’s Gut, I can usually tell what the river is like well before I get there. There are always a few surprises along the way. It might be an osprey that disappears before you can focus on it or a great white egret that lets you get tantalizing close before flying. On my most recent trip, I saw an oystercatcher on a small island in the river.

Even the way the wind is blowing once I get out on the White Oak is often different than I expected. Sometimes on weekends I find a boat or two out in the two or three miles of the river that I like to frequent but often I am the only craft on the river. If the wind or weather turns rough, I can usually dodge it by either staying close by some oyster rocks or retreating to Raymond’s Gut the inlet that connects us to the White Oak.

The tides, current, and wind always combine to make each trip unique. The White Oak is a big but short and relatively shallow river in its lower reaches. You can see the oyster rocks that I often frequent in this picture. I am very comfortable sitting out on the oyster rocks and there is nothing wrong with the view. However, the view there on the river is by nature transient. The water and clouds and light are every changing. If you sit on the oyster rocks too long, you might end up grounded there as the tide goes out.

On a really good day out on the river, you can take advantage of the current, wind, and oyster rocks to relax and fish. There are days when you have to work harder to fish or even hold your boat in position to make a single cast. Then there are times when the river seems to let you do just about anything that you want. Still a body of water that large is not the place to completely let down your guard. When the tide really gets moving, you have to make certain you do not get sucked into some of the cuts in the oyster rocks. The combination of the tide and the current especially when it is going out can be a formidable challenge.

Usually two to three hours out on the river is about all that it takes to wear me out. Most days when I get back to our dock, I have paddled two to three miles. Usually one way of the trip is pretty good exercise while I most often have either wind or tide helping me on the other way.

If I am really lucky, I can bring home enough fish to fill a cooler. Most times I stop fishing after I catch my first keeper fish of the day. We try to be judicious about using the resources of the White Oak River. Fortunately many of the places that yield the most fish are hard to reach. We are blessed to have clean, uncrowded river at our doorsteps.

The one thing I can always count on is that as soon as I am out of my kayak, I start thinking about when I can slide back into the water and start paddling once again. I have already enjoyed so many perfect days on the water, I have confidence that another great one is just around the corner.  That first kayaking trip each spring is always a treat and I usually manage to kayak well into November and most years December.

Here are some pictures from my most recent, July 2014, trip and some more photos from last fall that have GIS information embedded so you can see their locations on a map.

Our most recent newsletter went out just over two weeks ago and can be read at this link, Summer Is Here.  You can also read what has been happening in the last few months on our Southern Outer Banks site.

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Posted in birds, Crystal Coast, Kayaking, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, water | Comments Off

Hurricane Arthur Visits The Crystal Coast

The White Oak River just before Hurricane Arthur

The White Oak River just before Hurricane Arthur

It would not be unusual to say that the Crystal Coast of North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks owes its economic health to visitors. Yet even here we get a visitor once in a while whose timing is a little off, and Hurricane Arthur certainly came at an inopportune time just at the peak of our holiday season.

The week just before the Fourth of July holiday is without any doubt the most important week in our tourism year. Early in that week of 2014, we first heard that a tropical storm was going to develop into Hurricane Arthur and likely brush the North Carolina coast.

Even those of us who have lived here just eight years like my wife and myself have seen more than one hurricane.  We know to take them very seriously.

As a native North Carolinian, I am no stranger to hurricanes and one of my earliest memories is evacuating the Outer Banks one fall. I was five and the image of water up to the axle of my mother’s 1952 Ford somewhere near the Alligator River has not disappeared.

Like all of our neighbors, we took the pending visit of the storm that became Arthur very seriously. We were here for Hurricane Irene and know what can happen. While our power was only out for three hours with Irene, twenty-four hours of eighty-five miles per hour winds can leave a lasting impression.

Our check list of hurricane preparedness is fairly long. Anything that can blow around has to be secured or moved into the garage or house. We always buy new batteries for our lamps and test them and our emergency radios. The cars have to be filled with gas and we always get some cash to have on hand. I make it a point to trim our palm trees so they have as few old fronds as possible.

We normally tie down our boat which is on a side pole lift and use bungie cords to tie our outdoor furniture to the deck. Then there is the emergency water bottle to fill, a cooler full of ice to get, and non-ethanol fuel for the generator to procure. This time I had a drainage project to finish. I spent a lot of time on a plugged French drain in our driveway so that we would not have a pond for three days in our driveway.

We have learned to watch the forecasts very closely and to understand each storm’s wind field as well as we can. At just before 5PM on Thursday, the first bands of precipitation hit our home three miles up the White Oak River near Swansboro, North Carolina. I was trying to bury the last of the new pipe from our French drain but ended up leaving it to run on top of the ground.

As I dried off and studied the latest storm reports, I made the decision to skip using the bungie cords on our deck furniture and to rely on my normally secure side pole lift to protect our boat. It turned out to be the right decision. At the time of the first precipitation our winds were only running at 10-15 MPH.

While the storm had turned a little inland and was headed for Beaufort, we were not seeing any increased winds or rain.

By 7:00PM or so, it had stopped raining at our house even though we were only 60 miles or so from the eye of the hurricane. I decided to grill some salmon outside. Grilling was no problem since winds were still in the 10 MPH range and there was no rain. Henceforth any salmon we grill with teriyaki sauce will be known as Salmon Arthur.

When I looked at the position of Arthur at 8 PM and the wind field diagram, I got the feeling that Arthur was not going to create any big problems for us. We were west of the track and almost all the wind was east of the track. The hurricane force winds were also in a compact area and Arthur was moving right along at 16MPH.

Our rain started back up but it was no where near torrential like we have seen in some freak storms. By 9PM we were once again in a lull with no rain and only 15-20 MPH winds. The eye of Hurricane Arthur was directly south of us and probably less than thirty miles away. At that point, I was sure that Arthur was not going to throw us a sucker punch and then knock us out.

By 11PM Thursday night, July 3, there was very little of Arthur left to pass by us. Just a few minutes after 11PM, Arthur made landfall somewhere between Beaufort and Shackleford Banks, very close to where Irene made landfall.  We got a gust or two of wind in the 30 MPH range and a few minutes later just after 11PM, the eye of Arthur was passing over Beaufort, North Carolina.

During this time, Arthur strengthened into a category two hurricane and then headed up towards our old stomping grounds, Canada’s Maritimes. It looked like Arthur might go up the Bay of Fundy and cross over our old farm in Saint Croix Cove, Nova Scotia.

By July 5, Arthur’s rains have arrived in New Brunswick. Instead of the rain stopping shortly after they started like they did on the Crystal Coast, the precipitation intensified and kept coming. One of my friends near Hartland, New Brunswick, recorded 4.45 inches of rain. Somehow a weather feature, a sting jet, that is new to me developed and created gusts of 65–80 mph (100–130 km/h) developed along the storm’s backside or west of the track where we had safely weathered it in North Carolina.

That widespread wind and rain devastated the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick.  Even as Arthur was being downgraded to a post tropical storm from a hurricane, it was intensifying with the sting jet and spreading its effects over a very large area. When I called friends in New Brunswick on July 7, I found them entering their third day without power. One friend’s woodlot is over half destroyed. Fredericton is reported to have lost 2,000 of its stately trees. Another report has all the telephone poles down on the twenty miles of the Royal Road that led to our farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick.

Our friends in Tay Creek were much farther from the center of Arthur than we were and yet we did not even get a pine cone in our front yard, much less 50 acres of woodlot downed.

The weekend after Arthur was a gorgeous one on the Crystal Coast. People were out on the water and the beaches. Homes a few miles closer to the coast than us were picking up debris in their yards but it was mostly small limbs not trees.  We had one friend in Beaufort who was without power for twelve hours. However, mostly it can be said the Crystal Coast and North Carolina dodged a bullet that smashed into New Brunswick, a place far less equipped to handle a severe storm than our area.

While we had some visitors leave besides Arthur, it seems they were replaced by even more people.  Our Saturday, July 5, we had a five mile traffic backup from the bridge.  Arthur while inconvenient got most of us ready for the next time a storm threatens the area. My tomato plants did not even have a problem with Arthur.

Sunday night, July 6, we enjoyed an amazing sunset which somehow said to me that Arthur was finally no longer pounding my friends along the east coast.  The week after Arthur has been one filled with classic Southern heat.

The lesson from Arthur is never dismiss a hurricane until it is completely gone or it might come back to haunt you or your friends. In fact if you are visiting you should pay close attention to the riddle of coastal weather. We have seen a storm that put hurricanes to shame when it comes to delivering lots of rain.  This is NOAA’s summary of Arthur.

As an added note, three days after Arthur arrived in Canada’s Maritimes there are still “tens of thousands” of people without power many in New Brunswick and some in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia where we lived in the early seventies.

There are always plenty of things to do here at the beach especially when there is no hurricane hanging off the coast.

If you cannot make it today, enjoy this video of the waves at the Point on Emerald Isle.  For more information about the beach, check out our newly updated for 2014, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  The Kindle version is only $3.99 and it has the same 180 pages of content as the $24.95 print version which Amazon has listed for $22.46 and Prime eligible. Both books  include eighty full color pictures and lots of detailed area maps.  Plus the Kindle version has instant access to over 150 links of additional information.

Our most recent newsletter went out two weeks ago and can be read at this link, Summer Is Here.  You can also read what has been happening in the last few months on our Southern Outer Banks site.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Crystal Coast, General Information, Southern Outer Banks, Weather | Tagged | Comments Off

Beaches and So Much More

Sea Oats at Third Street

Sea Oats at Third Street

Finding sea oats just getting ready to hit their summer stride confirms that we are in beach season.

We all have different images of our own person coastal paradise. What we see in our mind’s eye has been molded by our lives and our needs. Much of what I want in beach comes from what I remember of beaches when I was young.

Our trips to the beaches in fifties revolved around enjoying the beach and getting away from the heat of summer. You went to the beach or the mountains to escape the heat of North Carolina’s Piedmont. The heat pump had yet to arrive and change how people live in the South.

The idea of going to the beach to shop or to attend shows would have been foreign. We went to the beach to experience a world of water and sand.

The fifties were a time before shopping malls, television and national chains homogenized our worlds. No one worried about fancy meals because we carried much of our food with us. There might be a meal or two in a restaurant, but mostly we ate summer food, tomato sandwiches, pimento cheese, and simple things.

The beach was a place to unwind and relax. There were no laptops, no tablets, no cell phones, and most of the cottages did not even have telephones. Televisions were not part of our lives at the beach. I think even our transistor radios stayed at home.

If we fast forward to 2014 our world has changed. In many beach towns any unique local restaurants have to battle the same chains as you find in Charlotte, Roanoke, or Winston-Salem. The small motels and cottages of the fifties have mostly been replaced by huge homes and wall to wall high rise condos along the ocean front. In some beach towns, getting to the beach is a challenge and when you get there, finding your own piece of sand is even harder.

I grew up coming to a North Carolina coast where you fished, jumped waves, and hoped to meet some new people and see a world that was very different from the red clay soils of Lewisville, North Carolina. A beach town at night was unlike anything we might see in Lewisville in the summer. There as children we wandered the woods during the day, fished the farm ponds when we could, played capture the flag and chased fireflies in the evenings. It was a big deal to go to a softball game under the lights at the local school field. There were a couple of weeks during the summer when the old activity bus would ferry us to the swimming pool at Tanglewood, but mostly we entertained ourselves. Television had yet to get its hooks in our generation. A beach town at night was neon signs, music in the pavilion, strange little shops, and exotic food that was reminiscent of fair food.

Things are different today. Part of it is how our world has changed, but an even larger part is how many of us have changed.

One of the great challenges we face today is being able to focus on the moment and enjoy where we are and the people with whom we are present. Our minds are overloaded with email, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Then there are jobs, bills, home repairs, the arctic icecap melting, grid-locked petty politicians, your children, grandchildren and aging parents just to mention a few things that float through the mind of the average modern person. If like me, you had a job in a large corporation, you know what it is like to live in a pressure cooker.

When I was working for Apple, it got to the point that I needed the first week of a two week vacation to unwind or decompress. Unfortunately, after the first hour back at work, the stress was back.

Our pursuit of life after Apple had us searching the mountains of Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia along with the coast from Chincoteague to Hatteras Island down to Southport.

In the end, we ended up on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. It had the right mix of National Forest, National Seashore, farmland, and lightly developed beaches that made us feel comfortable. Yet at the same time, we did not feel isolated like we do when we visit Ocracoke Island which I also enjoy.

Eight years later, I am really happy with our decision. Development has not swamped our area, not that a few developers did not try. It helps to not be at the end of an Interstate and to have a town like Emerald Isle whose determination to remain a small town with family beaches helps set the character for the area.

The more in our “Beaches and So Much More” is not just one thing. To start with we are in a boating mecca. Whether you want to go offshore or fish our marshes from a skiff, the opportunities are unlimited. If you love kayaking, there is no better place to explore. From the marshes behind Bear Island to the two-miles wide White Oak River where I enjoy fishing the oyster rocks, there is no shortage of places to kayak. Then there are the hiking trails. Every morning I start my day by walking one and one half miles along the marshes of Raymond’s Gut. I often finish the day the same way. In the winter and spring, I often hike the trails in the Croatan or Emerald Woods Park on the Island. Then there are the beaches. Even on a busy weekend like this past June 29, 2014, it is easy to find accessible near solitude on the beach. There is no challenge in really escaping the crowds. All you have to do is be willing to walk a few miles into the sands by the Point on Emerald Isle.

Yet if we want most of what the modern world has to offer with the exception of a Target and Barnes and Noble, the drive is less than twenty minutes. It is another fifteen minutes for the Target or Barnes and Noble if you cannot live without them. Most of our restaurants are small family run ones like Santorinia Grill or Angie’s Lighthouse Cafe where Angie’s daughter Angie waited on us last night.  We live in a world where the people in the produce stands and garden centers remember you, even if they cannot recall your name.

There are no more dance pavilions, but you can still go walk on the pier in Emerald Isle.  Afterwards stroll over to the Sweet Spot for an ice cream cone, and  enjoy it outside while sitting in a rocking chair.  The chance to unwind is here in our towns and on our beaches. Some folks like the lady I saw yesterday hooked to her iPhone while trying to look for shells will likely miss the best parts of the beach, but that does not have to be you.

Take the time to listen to the waves, feel the sand between your toes, and at least let the warm salt water waves get part of your shorts wet.  A little saltwater will not kill you but it might help you connect with the natural world before you forget how to.

Whether I am standing in the surf, enjoying an evening on the beach, or fishing on the oyster rocks, there is plenty of Crystal Coast magic to suck the stress out of my mind.

The More we have at the beach out weighs any shopping mall in my opinion.  I sleep well at night.

There are always plenty of things to do at the beach, but it you cannot make it today, enjoy this video of the waves at the Point on Emerald Isle.  For more information about the beach, check out our newly updated for 2014, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  The Kindle version is only $3.99 and it has the same 180 pages of content as the $24.95 print version which Amazon has listed for $22.46 and Prime eligible. Both books  include eighty full color pictures and lots of detailed area maps.  Plus the Kindle version has instant access to over 150 links of additional information.

Our most recent newsletter went out last week and can be read at this link, Summer Is Here.  You can also read what has been happening in the last few months on our Southern Outer Banks site.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Beach, Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, General Information, Kayaking, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, water | Comments Off