Summer’s Grip On August

August Morning On Raymond's Gut

August Morning On Raymond’s Gut

August is fairly predictable month when it comes to the weather, but one should never forget that weather can be tricky here along the coast.  If you happened to be walking on our community boardwalk the morning of August 10, 2013, you would have seen the same blue sky that I captured in the picture included with this post.

With the thousands of landscape pictures I take, it is easy declare the blue in the morning sky as not the blue typically seen on an August morning.  The blue in the morning sky looked more like what we see in an October sky than in an August one.  Yet well before noon there was no doubt that summer still has us firmly in its grip.  Sometime during the morning I noticed our thermometer at ninety degrees Fahrenheit.  That is impressive since that thermometer has morning shade.   If you are in North Carolina along the coast in August, heat is to be expected and you just adjust your activities accordingly.

Fortunately on August 10, we had a strong breeze all day long.  Even more important to me, I got started early on my yard and finished the mowing just as the heat was beginning to peak. That is much better than what sometimes happens.  You know it the heart of summer when you hit the shower and turn the water on so that only cold water is sprinkling down on you.  With our pipes only buried a few inches,  our cold water is pretty warm right out of the tap this time of year.  When I come in heated up from working in the yard, I never bother with hot water.  I need all the cooling that I can get.

Mowing the yard in the heat is just one part of summer here on the coast.  Most of us would rather spend time on the water or along the beach than mow.  Still we have to keep our places neat since we host a fair amount of company in August as people try to get in one last taste of the beach to hold them through the cold, dark winter.

It is not a bad time to visit the area. There is plenty to do beside cook yourself on the sand. For those who enjoy sitting on front porches like ours, the heat of an August morning is a good time to sit back a read a book before the sun finds you.  When the heat and humidity wrap you like a blanket, all you have to do is retreat inside.  If you arrive inside at lunch, you will find lots of seasonal treats.

July and August is watermelon time here along Bogue Sound.   The area is famous for its tasty melons.  July through mid-August is actually the peak of our produce season.  Our home-grown tomatoes slow down around the third week of July but just before the middle of August we usually get a second crop. This year like many years, we have fun this time of year prospecting for the best local produce.  Usually we are enjoying peaches, but many of them are not as tasty as usual because the peach growing areas have been very wet.  Sweet potatoes are the only produce grown in our area that are yet to be harvested.

With all the fresh produce, it is a good time to grill some food outside and enjoy local vegetables like the corn on the cob on this plate that we got from Sara Winberry’s stand.  I enjoy grilling food and sitting in the breeze that pulls through the door that leads from our garage to our patio. Here along the Southern Outer Banks we grill outside twelve months out of the year but it is a special treat to put something on the grill and enjoy the warmth of an August evening.

Once dinner is over, a sunset cruise on the river is often in order.  While our sunsets are often not as spectacular as they are in the fall, sometimes like the blue sky morning I saw on the boardwalk, you get surprised and get to enjoy a stunning August sunset on the water.

When the next morning rolls around, it is not unusual in the heart of summer to find that our low temperature has failed to get below eighty degrees Fahrenheit.  If you have managed to get your work done like I did, you might want to slide a kayak in the water or head over to the beach for some early morning fishing or walking.

While August might make the swimming pools a little warm, it is rare that you cannot find a cooling wave over on the shore.  While we might change our schedules a little or move a little more deliberately, August and its heat are not going to keep us from enjoying North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.  Come join us, there is plenty of heat, warm water, and blue sky to go around.  If you need more enticement, try our new Kindle travel guide.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for free.  If a late August trip to the beach is impossible, order a paper copy.  The pictures will at least let you dream of the warm ocean waters when the snow is flying.

Escaping The Crowds

The Beach At The Point, Emerald Isle, NC

The Beach At The Point, Emerald Isle, NC

We have all headed off to our favorite vacation destination and gotten caught in traffic on the way or found more people than we expected when we arrived at our spot.  Most of us vacation to get away from crowds and finding a crowd in paradise is not a good way to start.  Yet it easy to end up right in the middle of a mass of humanity especially on a popular beach.

I started seriously escaping the crowds well before I graduated from college and headed off to live along the Nova Scotia shore of the Bay of Fundy.  Life in Cambridge, Massachusetts was enough to send me searching for a different world, but that is another story.

However those sixteen years we lived in Canada’s Maritimes might be responsible for my love of open space and spectacular scenery.  The beauty and relative solitude you can find on the coast certainly kept us coming to North Carolina’s Outer Banks after we moved back to the states and lived on the side of a mountain overlooking Roanoke, Virginia.

Over the twenty years that we lived in Roanoke, we had a number of great beach vacations.   One of the elements of a great beach vacation listed in the linked article is getting enough distance between you and civilization.   Both children and adults need to disconnect in order to renew themselves.  Sometimes it is hard to do.   We found a world away from lots of people and technology in several spots, but as is often the case, the world kept discovering our spots not very long after we began enjoying them.

Children eventually do not want to go to the beach with their parents anyway. They also grow up and move out.  So in 2006 long after the children were gone and after three years of looking for the right spot, I convinced my wife that we should try living at the beach for a few years.   We are still here on the North Carolina coast just a few miles away from the beautiful beaches of Emerald Isle.

Carteret County where we live is often called the Crystal Coast.  If you are not familiar with the area, this is a link to a map.  Our area actually wrote the book on escaping crowds.  With the 158,000 acres of the Croatan National Forest at our back, the 56 miles of Cape Lookout National Seashore on one flank, and Camp Lejeune protecting the other flank, there is little to worry about except wind and waves on our south facing beaches along the Atlantic Ocean.  We are just enough off the beaten path and the Interstates to keep from getting overcrowded even during the tourist season.

Still the whole concept of feeling crowded is an individual one.  What is crowded to me might seem a little desolate to some folks.  But with the many miles I hike along the beaches each year, I feel comfortable in offering some advice as to how to find a beach where you will feel uncrowded even during a holiday weekend.

Any beach even a popular one like Nags Head can be uncrowded if you hit it at the right time like we did when I snapped this picture from Jennette’s Pier in early June.  I will not be making the day trip to Nag’s Head on the Fourth of July to prove my point, but I suspect there will be a lot more people on the beach than there was in my picture.

Surprisingly it is very easy to find plenty of space on the beach.  All you have to do is use your legs and walk a little.  This picture was taken near the westernmost part of the Point at Emerald Isle.  It is looking east up the beach towards the town of Emerald Isle.

I consider the area crowded even when I see a few people like those in this picture.  Both pictures of the Point area were taken just after 4 PM on July 2, 2013 which would have to classed as pretty near the peak of our season.

So why is such a spectacular beach so uncrowded?  Actually there is a section that is fairly crowded for our beaches. Still the number of people is not even close to what you see on most beaches.  It has a few people on it just because it happens to be closer to the public access points and there are a handful of oceanfront homes just north of the beach.

The easiest way to enjoy these uncrowded beaches is to rent one of those handful of homes along the beach.  If your budget like mine cannot handle that, you can still get to the beaches if you put some effort into it.  I rarely have to give up on my regular hikes there and it is all in the timing.  There is only one public parking lot in the area.  It is at the intersection of Station Street and Coast Guard Road.

Unfortunately it only has 16 spaces so you either need to get there early in the day or come later in the afternoon when people are starting to leave.  I prefer to walk late in the day so I usually can find a spot if the tides are cooperating.  I prefer to walk on a falling tide.

Once you get a parking spot, you still have a hike to the beach as you can see from the map of my most recent hike.   The most direct hike to the least crowded part of the Point is straight out Inlet Drive through the vehicle access at the end of the street.  It is still a hike of eight tenths of mile just to the southern edge of that part of the beach.

The least crowded portion of the beach is great if you want to enjoy privacy and just relax in the sun.  It is not so great for playing in the waves.  The water in that section is fairly deep with strong currents close to shore so if enjoying the waves is important, you are better off heading for the section marked in light blue on my map.  A hike of about seven tenths of a mile will put you in that section of the beach.  I like to call the whole area where people are scarce The Point Beyond The Yellow House.

Actually there is not a lot of mystery to the name.  It just signifies that you are on the part of the Point without any houses directly at your back.  The last house is also a yellow house.  That is the simple explanation for why there are fewer people on the beach there. People tend to walk straight out from their houses to the beach.  If there are no houses, there are fewer people.  The only exception to the rule is from September 15 to April 30 when people are allowed to drived on the beach if they have a proper permit.

No matter where you play along the beaches, you need to remember the ocean is not a swimming pool. That is especially true at a place like the Point where the ocean currents meet the currents from Bogue Sound.  You always need to be especially  careful when playing in the ocean.  I don’t recommend swimming in the ocean because of rip currents, but it is even important to play close attention when jumping waves. Rip currents are very dangerous.

One other bit of caution is worth mentioning.  You will notice my hike which is marked in dark blue looks like I am walking on water.  That is actually not the case.  Google just has a hard time keeping up with Mother Nature’s movement of the sand.  You can read about mapping places like the Point at my RWW web article, How To Walk On Water With Google Maps or if you want to read about sand movement on the Point, try this article,  Sand Keeps Moving.

It you want the full details of enjoying the beach, try our Kindle book, “A Week At The Beach – The 2013 Emerald Isle Travel Guide.”  It is only $4.99.  With printable maps, lots of pictures, recipes, and a list of good restaurants, it is a deal.

If you cannot visit the Point, enjoy this G+ slide show of the beach at the Point that I took on my hike on July 2, 2013.  You can also see the pictures positioned on a map at this link.