Wintering At the Coast

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Sunset in Bogue Sound Seen From Emerald Isle Bridge

Sunset in Bogue Sound Seen From The Emerald Isle Bridge

When we moved to the North Carolina coast, we were not under the illusion that we would completely escape winter.  We were looking for some of the benefits of four seasons including the beautiful sunsets that are one of the treats that come with a little cold weather.

Perhaps all the childhood memories of snow in North Carolina’s Piedmont prepared me for the taste of snow we sometimes get at the beach. Then again it could have been the years living in Nova Scotia where it was normal to see snow and beaches in the same scene.

I have forgotten which was the first winter that we saw some snow at the beach, but I do know we got a real coastal winter back in 2011.

In spite of that tough winter in January of 2011, it did get better and I hung onto my belief that the Crystal Coast of North Carolina is a nice place to winter.

We are in the depths of winter currently. We have endured a day when it hardly got above freezing and seen a night when it actually got down to 15F which is the coldest temperature that we have measured in our over eight years here.

Fortunately we have not gotten any frozen precipitation to go with the cold temperatures yet this year. However, the possibility of snow will remain with us for a while. We have seen snow at times in December, January and even once for a few hours in early March.

In spite of the threat of a little winter weather, winter is far from unrelenting here on the coast. Our first ten days in January, 2015, have given us four days with highs between 50F and 59F. We have enjoyed another three days with high temperatures between 60F and 68F. There were even a couple of days when our low temperatures did not get below 60F. That leaves us with one day when we only got to 30F and another two days when the temperature reached 43F and 44F.

Usually if we can get to the middle of February, the sun starts making a huge difference. Most folks living here consider February warmth to be a birthright. We have managed to protect a couple of lettuce patches which we hope to enjoy in late January and early February.  Our tomato plants make it into garden most years sometimes as early as the middle of March.

The winter weather also brings lots of visitors to the marsh. Just today in my walks, I have seen our inlet’s kingfisher, a great blue heron, a great egret, a pelican, some blue birds, and the usual assortment of chickadees and other small birds. Earlier in the week I saw a river otter and another day we had a falcon perch outside our window. The otters can be very entertaining as they work the inlet for their seafood meals.

I will bundle up a little for a few more weeks and hope this year will be no worse weatherwise than 2014.  Even so I know that I will likely be back in my coastal uniform of shorts and t-shirt in a couple months if we are lucky.  Certainly in less than three months I will be wandering the beaches and testing the water for wading.  Even now I am keeping a sharp watch for a warm couple of days when I can head over for a January beach hike. Much like my January boat rides, the beach hike in the heart of winter is a tradition that I would like to keep going.

If you want to find out more about this special area, we send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out just after New Year’s Day. This is the link to it.  Our Thanksgiving newsletter is available here on the web.

We hope to get our next newsletter out around Valentine’s Day.

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

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Beach, birds, Boating, Crystal Coast, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | Comments Off on Wintering At the Coast

Nature’s Peace Will Flow Into You

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Fall in the Raymond's Gut Marsh

Fall in the Raymond’s Gut Marsh

John Muir once said the following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to find out more about this special area, we send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It is available here on the web. You can read our October newsletter online at this link.

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

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

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in birds, Crystal Coast, fishing, Kayaking, Marshes, Out of doors | Comments Off on Nature’s Peace Will Flow Into You

Mixing Traditions With Waves

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White Oak River

White Oak River

North Carolina is an interesting place to live for more than just the spectacular scenery and friendly people. It is a mixing pot of traditions and people that is never boring.

That North Carolina is an attractive, diverse area was confirmed by “Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?,” a recent article in the Washington Post.

You will find North Carolina to be one of the few states to have three of the nations within its border. Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, and Tidelands are all well represented in North Carolina. Beyond that we have a healthy representation of people who have moved in from Yankeedom and the Midlands. More people are moving in here than are leaving.

Our area, the Crystal Coast, is more than just a popular vacation area. It is a home to many of us and a place where we enjoy the mix of traditions that are North Carolina. While there are some unique holiday traditions like Christmas Flotillas here on the coast, many like neighborhood caroling are familiar to everyone. We do have some interesting food traditions that have a long history.

The cultural tidbits we see the television show, A Chef’s Life add weight to my view that people just don’t come here for the pleasant weather. The Chef and the Farmer Restaurant tries to make use of locally grown food prepared with an eastern touch. North Carolinians have a long history of great food which I like to think comes from being close to the soil. Some of those old traditions come out in the television show and many of them are part of our family’s life.

Much like some of the characters in a Chef’s Life, I still have cousins in their late seventies who continue to grow and preserve food much like their parents did at the turn of the last century. Almost everyone that I know grows a few tomatoes. While none of our older relatives are still killing hogs in the fall like I remember from my youth, they still enjoy their country sausage and sugar cured country ham.

In a certain sense we are defined by the traditions that we treasure and often in a place like North Carolina those traditions go through a lot of cross pollination.

Our family grew up in the western part of the state with most of our family history centered around Yadkin, Surry, and Forsyth counties. Even in the days when that was area was a long way from the North Carolina coast, my father used to enjoy a barrel of oysters each Christmas. My wife’s father used to enjoy salt fish from the coast. As soon as I could drive I was making summer pilgrimages to the coast and returning with fresh shrimp and flounder.

Now that I live here on the Crystal Coast, I enjoy attending oyster roasts. An oyster roast is coastal tradition where you feast on all you can eat steamed oysters. The last steamed oysters that I enjoyed came from the Boiler Room, a sister restaurant to the Chef and the Farmer. While oysters are popular and shrimp are never far from our plates, there are many other Southern foods that form the basis of our family holiday meals in North Carolina.

One of the holiday traditions in our family is to have country ham for one of our breakfasts. It goes back to the days when a treasured ham was cut to celebrate the season. We also try to have some country sausage during the holiday week. This course is a throwback to the days of killing hogs in the late fall. Instead of killing hogs, we usually we settle on Neese’s Sausage as the closest thing that you can get to homemade sausage from a grocery store. It is appropriate that Neese’s is a North Carolina company and the distribution of Neese’s does not go much farther north than southwest Virginia. I have killed hogs but not since I left our Nova Scotia farm many years ago. However, I still make my own sausage regularly.  I was never successful in curing my own bacon, but I certainly know how to cook it.

During the Christmas season my mother always made some sugar cake which I suspect had something to do with all the Moravians in the Winston-Salem area where we lived. My wife and I had our sugar cake early this year. We bought one from Dewey’s Bakery in Winston-Salem.

We try to do something a little different each year, but it usually revolves around pork and sometimes beef. They were the cold weather meats in the early days. Chicken was hot weather food.

Along with all the meat, our meals always have plenty of vegetables including either Irish potatoes or sweet potatoes. Each area has its favorite greens, but it turns out that collards are enjoyed in both the east and the west. There appears to be something of a cultural divide on green beans. Few folks in eastern North Carolina have even heard of white half runner beans, but many folks from the west will not eat anything but white half runner beans. Greensboro seems to about as far east as you can buy them.

There is no doubt that cornbread probably united the whole state and any corrupting sweet cornbread probably has a Yankee origin. Then there are grits. I grew up in western North Carolina and was unfamiliar with grits until I went away to high school in Tennessee. Grits are a staple in the east and I enjoy them with any dish but they are especially tasty in shrimp and grits.

I would be remiss to not discuss one of our comfort food winter favorites, Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken and Pastry as it is called in the east. There is a fair bit of disagreement on whether western Chicken and Dumplings has flat noodles or puffy biscuits, but I will live by the rules put down by my mother who called the chicken dish with flat noodles Chicken and Dumplings. Life is simple on the coast, the dish is without debate Chicken and Pastry.

I like to think that one of the most unifying treats is peanut brittle. It is a great challenge to make in the east but in the west with its colder temperatures and slabs of granite, candy making is a natural thing during the holiday season. Peanut brittle made in the mountains would not be the same without those fresh peanuts from eastern North Carolina.

I could talk about how the western chicken stew is roughly equivalent to an eastern chowder party, but it has been so long since I have been at either that I will let that topic pass until I can attend some to refresh my memories.

Our state is very ecumenical with its hush puppies and rolls. Hush puppies go with barbecue or fried fish and rolls go with everything else.

North Carolina is a wonderful spot for enjoying some great holiday traditions beyond food. We have even shipped a few crab pot Christmas trees to the west where Fraser firs seem to reign supreme.

As Christmas 2014 slides away, we will remember some wonderful meals and family time. Maybe we even added a new tradition, the flying of the drone. My son gave himself a drone and we got some amazing pictures of our beautiful area with it. The one included with the post is courtesy of my son’s drone.

The Crystal Coast is a wonderful place to spend the holidays. You can even back off your social media activities a little since you will be surrounded by friendly people and scenery that is hard to top. If you are lucky you might be eating some of our traditional holiday meals.

Several more of our family recipes including one for shrimp and grits are in our Emerald Isle Travel Guide available as a Kindle book for $3.99 or as a color picture filled paperback for around twenty dollars.

We also send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It is available here on the web. You can read our October newsletter online at this link.

We are a week late sending out our next newsletter but we hope to get it out the week before the New Year.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Crystal Coast, General Information, Southern Outer Banks, Special Places | Comments Off on Mixing Traditions With Waves

December On The White Oak

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Headed Out Raymond's Gut To White Oak River

Headed Out Raymond’s Gut To White Oak River

When you live next door to the spawning ground of Nor’easters, life can be interesting especially if your home borders some water like ours does.

We just had another storm form off the coast. We did not get a lot of rain from it like the folks farther up the coast and even into Canada but we had plenty of wind for a couple of days. We are used to wind here, but sometimes it even surprises us. This time the wind was strong enough to push one of the heavy chairs off our patio. It only took a minute or two to locate it and return it to its spot, but I should have taken the missing chair as a warning to check around the house.

Instead of doing that, I went on my normal morning hike around the boardwalk that surrounds our neighborhood clubhouse. Much to my surprise I saw a kayak paddle floating in the edge of the marsh grass on the other side of the water from the boardwalk. I knew without thinking that my spare kayak paddle had blown off our dock into the water. I also knew that if I did not retrieve it pretty quickly, it would likely head down river.

Seeing the paddle in the water sent me scurrying home. I quickly let my wife know that I was going to put the boat in the water and retrieve my paddle. Fortunately our skiff is on a lift just behind the house.

It took only moments to put on my life jacket,  load my gear, get the boat in the water, and head over to where I spotted my paddle. Retrieving it involving cutting the motor off, drifting over to it, and fishing it out with the boat hook.

I was happy to have my paddle back but since I already had the boat in the water, I decided to ride out to the river and check the water temperature which I try to do regularly. There are only a handful of weeks, usually in January or February, when I do not make it out on the river.  Even during the winter is river is good for your soul.

Last week when I went out on the river, the water had warmed back almost to 60F. On this December 10, trip I had my suspicions that it might be a lot colder. On the day before my trip, our high temperature was 42F.

Most of the time the water that is close by us is a moderating influence to our weather. The ocean takes the longest time to cool down as we approach winter. Then there is our neighbor, the White Oak River, which cools down faster than the ocean. Finally there is the water in the marsh or the gut that leads to the river. The water temperature there fluctuates more than the river or the sound because it is the shallowest water. It can warm quickly on a sunny day but cool quickly on a chilly night.

Since I expected my trip to be a short one, I did not bother to track down my gloves which I have not used since last spring. The stainless steel wheel on the boat was definitely cold, but I managed get out the inlet and take a quick trip at 31 MPH trip down the river. I did not go far before I was quickly reminded that out on the river your air temperature in a boat is pretty close to the water temperature.

Our average high temperature for December 10, is 57F. When I went out on the river, I found the water temperature to be just under 46F. I am guessing today’s high of 55F was probably a little cooler because of all the cold water that is around. It was certainly cooler out on the water.

In the winter the water around us makes our air temperature a little cooler during the day, but it also helps us stay a little warmer during very cold nights.

The river is a quiet place in the winter. The fish have either gone up the creeks or headed off shore.  That being the case the fishermen have followed them.  About the only sign of life on the river would the water birds and the occasional commercial fisherman checking his crab pots.

While it is easy to tarry out on the river for much of the year, usually December through February does not offer up much weather that invites you to relax out on the water.  We do get some ice sometimes and with the river already this cold, the right conditions could bring us a skim of early morning ice any day now.

Even when the water is cold, the river still is a powerful attraction. I will often leave work a little early and go out and enjoy the sunset. Sometimes I will bundle up and make the ten minute run down to Swansboro where the river meets Bogue Sound and the Intracoastal Waterway. There is something really nice about zipping down the river if you can manage to keep from freezing while doing it.  An open boat at over 30MPH creates its own windchill and if you add a cold north wind, things can get frosty quickly.

Still as you can see from this slide show of a White Oak River boat ride from January 2013, it is not unusual to see water temperatures in the fifties instead of the forties.

Living along the White Oak River not far from the Emerald Isle beaches gives us lots of options even during the cold part of the year and one of them is to enjoy some winter boating when the sunshine, winds, and temperature cooperate. I have found that some time on the water even when it is chilly helps make winter just a little shorter.

If chilly water is not concern and you are ready to visit, you will find some great information in our free online guide to Emerald Isle.  It is a great time of year to visit and enjoy the peace that comes to our Crystal Coast waters.  If you think you might be interested in living here, try visiting The Crystal Coast, Saltwater on my feet.   There are 129 posts there.

We also send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  It is available here on the web.  You can read our October newsletter online at this link.

We will be sending out our next newsletter the week just before Christmas.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Boating, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | Comments Off on December On The White Oak

On The Beach After Thanksgiving

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Emerald Isle Beach near the Point

Emerald Isle Beach near the Point

While there are people who would never consider going to the beach for Thanksgiving, our North Carolina beaches get many visitors.

Somehow things seem to slow down here at the coast as the holidays approach. We locals slide into our late fall routines and our visitors seem to enjoy the unhurried way holidays play out here on the coast.  It is all part of the quiet small town life that is the essence of Carteret County.

You do not have to be a visitor to enjoy the beach around Thanksgiving. Even in a year like 2014, when the first cold weather arrived a little earlier than normal, the beach is not off limits.  You can usually find people on the beach in November and December.  Sometimes even January provides us some great beach days.

I have been biding my time for a beach visit. With some unexpected cold weather, the thought of a hike at the normally breezy Point at Emerald Isle just did not seem like a good idea.

Our seasonal reversal when the beach area becomes consistently warmer than the mainland has yet to arrive.  That being the case, figuring out what to wear on a late November beach hike was the biggest challenge besides actually finding a nice day for a hike in this strangely cool November.

Since our unusually cold weather around the third week of November, our weather has been working its way back towards more normal temperatures. Sunday, November 30, appears to mark the beginning of some mostly normal weather with high temperatures in the mid sixties and low temperatures in the mid forties.

I took advantage of November 30, the warm Sunday afternoon that ended the month, and headed over to Emerald Isle for my beach hike. It was sixty-one Fahrenheit when I left our home near the White Oak River. I watched my car thermometer and it bounced to 62F going over Bogue Sound but fell back to 61F by the time I parked at the Station St. parking lot.  The whole trip only took about ten minutes since there is little if any traffic this time of year.

My normal hike at the beach is about two miles. It often depends on what looks interesting and what else I have planned. I stuck to my two mile hike this Sunday because I hoped to get back home for a quick boat ride on the White Oak River.

As always I found changes at the Point since my last hike. I think the most dramatic difference is the disappearance of this water feature that cut across the end of the Point earlier this fall.  The area now is just sand.

A close second is the elevation of the sand by the beach vehicle access ramp at the end of Inlet Drive by Bogue Court. The height of the sand just keeps growing in this area. Considering that seven years ago there was no sand there, it is even more impressive.  If you are down on the lower portions of the beach, new dunes growing make it impossible to see what remains of Coast Guard Channel.

The beach was very peaceful with only a handful of trucks and just a few visitors walking. There were two guys kite surfing over by the Point, but I did not see a single boat in the Inlet.  There was a friendly brown pelican, some sanderlings, and a couple of rudy turnstones.

I solved my clothing dilemma by wearing a swim suit, long-sleeved t-shirt and a light nylon windbreaker. I might have gotten by with just the t-shirt but as soon as the sun starts dropping things cool off quickly at the Point.  There were places the windbreaker felt good.  I did see some tracks of someone who had walked the beach barefooted earlier in the day.

My walk lasted less than an hour so I was off the beach before four PM and headed home to take advantage of the last light.  As the sun started dipping below the pine trees, I headed out our inlet, Raymond’s Gut.  I planned a short run to test our boat since we just put it back at our dock after some repairs.

Everything worked fine, but the water temperature in the river was down under 53F which I think is considerably colder than last year at the same time. Water that cold usually means there are no fish lurking on my favorite oyster rocks.  There were no clouds in the sky so waiting around for a sunset did not make a lot of sense. I headed home knowing my wife had some tasty Senate Navy Bean Soup with Kale waiting for me.

It was a great day which started with a 1.5 mile hike around the marsh early in the morning. Next came the first Sunday in Advent at our church. We enjoyed some tasty  leftover turkey for lunch and I followed that with my nearly 2 mile hike at the beach which did not include walking on water in spite of the Google map.  The day finished with a short but fun trip out on the river with the return ride being just in time for a nice sunset filtered by some pine trees.  The first week of December looks as good or better than Sunday, November 30.  Certainly December 1, has turned out very nice.

If the water warms a little and it should, I can think about taking the kayak out one last time before winter.  It would not be that unusual.

If you are ready to visit, you will find some great information in our free online guide to Emerald Isle.  It is a great time of year to visit and enjoy the peace that comes to our Crystal Coast waters.  If you think you might be interested in living here, try visiting The Crystal Coast, Saltwater on my feet.   There are 129 posts there.

We also send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  It is available here on the web.  You can read our October newsletter online at this link.

We will be sending out our next newsletter the week just before Christmas.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Beach, birds, Boating, Crystal Coast, Out of doors, water, Weather | Comments Off on On The Beach After Thanksgiving

Not Our Usual November Day In The Marsh

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Bright November Morning On Raymond's Gut

Bright November Morning On Raymond’s Gut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Beach, birds, Crystal Coast, fishing, General Information, Southern Outer Banks, Weather | Comments Off on Not Our Usual November Day In The Marsh

Our November Transformation

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November Sunset On The White Oak River

November Sunset On The White Oak River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Crystal Coast, fishing, General Information, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | Comments Off on Our November Transformation

October Beach Evenings

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Third Street Beach, Emerald Isle, NC

Third Street Beach, Emerald Isle, NC

When you walk onto a beach on a slightly cool October evening, you are entering a far different world than you might find on the beach in the middle of July.

While folks go to the beach in the summer to relax, people on the beach in October take relaxation to another level. In the summer you always find people jumping waves. It is not unusual to see people playing games on the beach in summer.

To really savor an October beach evening, ride east from the town of Emerald Isle on Emerald Drive or Highway 58. It runs up the middle of Bogue Banks and will get you to Third Street Beach. The beach is not far from the town limits of Emerald Isle. It is smallest beach access with regular parking inside the town of Emerald Isle. The parking lot only handles a handful of cars compared to the well over one hundred at Eastern Regional Access.

We really enjoy the drive and the utilitarian facilities at Third Street. As you drive east you can almost feel the island slipping back into the peacefulness that most of us treasure. You might have a little trouble finding Third Street Beach since there is no Third Street. I usually try to turn right at 5th Street and then make a left on Ocean Drive. There is no danger of missing the parking lot. It is the only one around and if you see a “No Exit” sign, you have driven by it.

Adjacent to the lot there is a nice accessible platform with a picnic table overlooking the beach. I have only ever seen one group actually eating on the table in all the years that I have been visiting the beach but it is great place to enjoy being at the beach when you might not feel like walking on the beach. What you will usually see from the platform on an October evening is two to four groups of fishermen with their rod holders planted in the sand along the beach.  One of the great things about Third Street Breach is the surf is actually very close to the parking lot.

The first thing that I notice as I leave my crocs on the platform is that the sand on the beach is cool on my feet. This time of year, there is no dancing on hot sand.

As I make my way to the water I am struck by how peaceful it is on the beach. It is rare to hear any music and most fisherman are concentrating more on fishing than talking. It is not unusual to see couples on the beach. Sometimes both are fishing, but more often than not the lady will be reading a book while the man will be watching his rod tip for a bite.

Mostly surf fishermen traveling by foot power are respectful of the space of others so while they might be fishing on the same beach, they will typically give each other a little casting room.

Like most times of the year, the water you find at the beach and even the beach itself is often a surprise. Sometimes you’ll find a hard packed beach and other times it will be fluffy or something in between the two.

Our most recent trip happened near low tide and the waves were about as peaceful as the beach itself. We walked west towards the Bogue Banks water tower a short distance and just stood and enjoyed the serenity which often surrounds us on a quiet beach.  While the water was cooler than it was last week, it still did not have the shock you might feel in November.

Any beach is a place to lose yourself and the cares of the world. Third Street Beach is also a great place to feel close to God and to remember how blessed you are just to be alive and standing in such a wonderful place. Third Street is definitely one of those beaches where you have no doubt that you are in one of God’s special spots.

By the time we turned and headed back to the beach access, a couple of groups of fishermen were also headed back to the parking lot as the last rays of the sun started fleeing.

With some help from a cloud bank, our trip was well-timed. The sun had gone down just enough that our trip west down Bogue Banks was not one into a blinding sunset as it often is when you drive west down the beach.  The beaches of Emerald Isle actually face south which is another reason they are so special.

I left enough cares on the beach that sleep will come easily this evening. It usually does after a walk on the beach.

It is easy to find a beach that you can love this time of year in our piece of paradise. If you need a time and a place to get away from the stress in your life, fall is the ideal time and our special area is the perfect spot.

You will find more about fall and its pleasures at our Southern Outer Banks site or visit my my homepage for more links.  Our most recent newsletter was sent out on October 8.  You can read it online at this link.  We will be sending out our next newsletter just before Thanksgiving.

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

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Posted in Beach, Crystal Coast, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, Special Places, water, Weather | Comments Off on October Beach Evenings

September Summer Beach Days

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Beach at the Point, September 2014

Beach at the Point, September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Beach, Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, Weather | Comments Off on September Summer Beach Days

A Return to the Beach

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Beach at Third Street on Emerald Isle

Beach at Third Street on Emerald Isle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Beach, Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | Comments Off on A Return to the Beach