Going Coastal

Usually, at the end of a six-week trip, I’m ready to head home. This time? Not so much. Traveling to so many brand new places has been a wonderful adventure. We’ve already made notations for places to visit next time. It’s been an extraordinary exploration.

At the end of the last post, we were about to get bounced out of our one-night stand at Santee State Park. Hope nobody lost any sleep worrying about us – we simply got a much better site the next morning, proving (to us, anyway) that sometimes it’s better to fly by the seat of your pants. There weren’t any ‘big’ things to do at Santee – it was a busy, chaotic park. The main attraction were a couple of sink holes locates a few miles from our campsite, so we jumped on our bikes to check them out.20171023_134924767348998.jpgMy first sink holes! I was excited. Perhaps there were visions of the famous Florida sinkholes with houses cascading into the depths. I was not prepared for the underwhelming sight of a ten foot  depression with a bunch of weeds and scruffy shrubs growing out of the bottom – with a fence around it, of course, to keep us all from harm. Needless to say, disappointment reigned. I couldn’t even get a decent photo.

Onward to Carolina Beach State Park, where we had a rustic campsite reserved for two nights. Score! This gorgeous park is perched alongside the Intercoastal Waterway on Snow’s Cut. Our site was within 100 yards of the waterway, lined by a three-mile trail.20171022_1430381275632085.jpg 20171023_1713261059568019.jpgCamping perfection. Have to admit that we got really lucky in reserving this site – there were plenty that were not so roomy, nor so scenic.

Carolina Beach is located just on the edge of Wilmington NC. Just down the road is Fort Fisher, one of the last coastal forts to fall in the Civil War. All that’s left of the Fort are some grassy embankments. 20171023_1346221468247690.jpg20171023_134723331651457.jpgThere are no buildings still standing, and the Visitor Center was closed the day we were there, so much of this remains a mystery. But, it’s a spectacularly beautiful site – home to five battles with Union forces. The first was a disaster, and the last resulted in the fall of the last big Confederate seaport.

The surrounding area is magnificent. Cypress trees lean shoreward from years of offshore winds.20171023_133958-11243828454.jpg A bike/walk path, void of any visitors with the exception of John and me was perfect for us to enjoy the wild and beautiful shoreline.20171023_121946-11738925648.jpg We stopped in to the delightful Good Hops Brewery – a wonderfully dog-friendly pub, where the owner’s pup came out to greet us. I’m sure there was much more in this area to explore, but we were content to hang out and enjoy our coastal camp.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore was a spot on our radar for many years. Although the Michigan coast is magnificent, it’s just different than the ocean. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but we sure don’t have long lines of surf fishers in the Great Lakes. 20171026_1303512085939482.jpgThese guys (yes, they are almost exclusively men) drive out on to the beach in their trucks equipped with front mounted racks for fishing rods and coolers. The atmosphere is casual – it’s all about the fishing, not the actual catching of fish. Most seemed to be fishing for Black Drum, but most catches seemed to be tossed back into the sea – too big, too small, whatever….we saw fishermen lined up on every beach.

Reservations here (Frisco campground) are not site specific – we were allowed to choose our own space upon arrival. The wind was shrieking when we pulled in, and big rain was predicted, so we opted for a site in this magnificent campground that offered a bit of shelter. 20171027_1111291969407008.jpgThe dunes and stunted cypress provide plenty of little coves and hidey places for camping. Protected from the wind, but with a view of the ocean (if we peek around the corner), we grabbed a great spot, and hunkered down. Wow – it howled! We are about 500 yards from the ocean, and hearing it roar every day is wonderful. But, on sunny days, it’s been great for John to harvest from his solar farm (which we needed in a big way, after days of rustic camping).20171027_1110271001074699.jpgToday, our last day, it was not windy. The silence this morning was deafening. This big, yet vacant campground has one big drawback for us, however. The seemingly innocent, grassy areas everywhere are actually carpeted with sand burrs. Even in the middle of the road, the burrs attack and stick. Walking Jezzy is an ordeal (mainly for her) because every few hundred yards we have to stop and pull burrs out from between her toes. Check out this photo of my shoe after taking the trash down the road (about 100 yards).20171027_1122421154430523.jpg Camping here is challenging, but oh so beautiful.IMG_0959One of the main scenic attractions here is the magnificent 1870 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a towering 198.5 feet high (second highest in the world). I was unprepared for how majestic this would be – it is absolutely astounding.

IMG_0966We’re lighthouse veterans and nothing compares to this. How horrible was it to find out that it was closed to climbing as of October 14? Devastating. We could only lust from the outside. The crazy story of the lighthouse makes it even more appealing. In 1999, it was moved over 1/2 miles from its original site to the current location. 20171027_111844291983141.jpgWhat an engineering feat! Take a look at this photo from a beach poster.20171026_1322471980651941.jpg The lighthouse originally stood between the sign, and the water’s edge, not more than a few hundred yards from where I stood. If you look closely, you can see the changing shoreline, and how it endangered the lighthouse. All this great history made its closure even tougher to swallow – it is staffed with National Park Service volunteers, and their season runs from April to Columbus Day. Had we known that, we would have planned differently. Sigh. Move on.

We cycled south the next day, intending to hop the (free) ferry to Ocracoke Island for a bit of exploration. The sea was pretty flat, so I was kinda willing to attempt the ferry ride – I’m a notorious weak-stomached sailor. But, but the time we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, toured the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum, there didn’t seem to be enough time left to take the one hour trip over, cycle around a bit, and then ferry back. Plus, I have to admit, I was leery of a possible rocky boat ride. So, we passed…

For me, the highlight of the Museum was the portion dedicated to the USS Monitor, the ironclad which sank off the Hatteras coast on New Year’s Eve 1862. A few artifacts, and video of the raising of some of the pieces of the Monitor are thrilling to see. Sorry, no photos allowed.

We spent much of our time wandering the beach, enjoying magnificent views. Every day brought different sights – cloudy skies are much different than sunny ones.20171025_1330521434042014.jpg20171025_1328102080419288.jpg20171027_125853101484049.jpgTomorrow, we’re heading to camp in the driveway of T@DA pals Gail and Sid in Portsmouth, VA. They stayed with us for a few days a year ago, and we’re anxious to explore their hometown with them. It will be our first driveway camp, and we’re looking to the comforts of friends and a home for a few days.

Home in a week – hard to believe we’re winding this fantastic trip down already.

19 thoughts on “Going Coastal

  1. Love this posting! I’ve had more experience viewing ocean than lakes, but when visiting Lake Superior, I kept looking for Dolphins, otters, seals etc. haha that’s the big difference to me. I, too have less than a week of fun left. Btw T@Bs are so common now in the SW, no longer a special and unique cult, methinks. Happy trails, liz

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    • Hey Liz! Great to hear from you.

      You’d be standing on the shores of Lake Superior for a long time waiting for the dolphins to show up, for sure. There’s a definite difference in the shoreline scent – and it seems to me that it’s always windy on the Great Lakes. We seemed to experience very calm waters along the Atlantic. But, it all makes for great viewing.

      Does this mean that you’ll be staying home this winter? We’d love to try to meet up with you somewhere along the way. I still need to add a Howells to my art collection.

      We’ve seen lots of T@Bs too, but I still stalk the owners and chat them up. It’s just a bigger gang, but still a great one.

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  2. Glad you enjoyed OBX Hatteras! We just came back this evening from spending a week in the OBX on the oceanfront at Nags Head. It was fun to wake up in the morning and see dolphins playing. One morning we noticed a water plume a distance off shore. Even though we could see the plume with our “naked eye”, we needed our binoculars to see the whale! It was our second time we’ve spent a week there. The previous time we went in September and were able to visit and climb all three lighthouses. This year we also visited the Cape Hatteras light, and I spoke with a NPS ranger who explained that the closing on Columbus Day was due to budget cuts. They no longer have the money needed to allow climbing into the Fall or early Spring. Just think of how short the season could be if certain federal politicians get their way. By the way – what did you think of that new $250 million Oregon Inlet Bridge? Apparently the state politicians think the OBX is worth spending money on. It’s supposedly hurricane and barge resistant. (In 1990 a barge took out a section of the current bridge stranding people on Hatteras Island.)

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    • Hope you enjoyed Nags Head. You must have had the same great weather we did. Went to the Wright Brothers Memorial yesterday. What a treat that was.

      That Oregon Inlet Bridge is going to be impressive for sure. We were fairly lucky in passing through that all the construction didn’t cause a huge pain. We’re going to plan a return trip after it’s done – need to climb the Lighthouse, anyway. We couldn’t even see the video, because that was closed too the day we were there. We’d better get used to it, what pieces of federally-protected lands don’t get sold off or opened to commercial exploitation will probably be subject to reduced hours for us to enjoy. Damn budget cuts, anyway.

      Hi to Rose.

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  3. Beautiful pics. Inspired to get out of Pinehurst and see what’s on the coast. Have been to Carolina Beach and on the ferry past Bald
    Island. Need to get up to see the light houses.Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Glad to see you are starting to enjoy long trips — longer than 6 weeks. If you will drop by Woods Lake north of Payson, Arizona some fall or spring I will show you a better sinkhole. This one is more than 50 feet deep. It, too, is full of plants, but this being a dry forest (of ponderosa pines; the largest ponderosa forest in the world) the plants are sparse and the sinkhole is totally visible. When the limestone caves first collapse they fall into the underground water streams that carved the caves that finally fell in, and the resulting sinkholes have ponds of water. General Crook, when chasing the Apaches, built a “road” that went right by this sinkhole because it was a local watering spot in the late 1800s. The troops stopped at the sinkhole to refill all their water containers. The bottom finally filled enuf with detritus to cut off the water stream and the sinkhole is now dry, but the history makes it interesting. Sylvia Lee

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    • That’s a great sinkhole story, Sylvia. We camped in Payson for a few days later winter, but never stumbled across the sinkhole. It would be great to see that one. Not sure if we will get to Payson again this year, but we’ll stay in touch.

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    • Maybe we should plan a camping rondevous next year, Sandi. We really want to head back up to New England. Wouldn’t it be fun to wander around together for a few weeks?

      This has been a great trip. Your eastern shoreline is amazingly beautiful.

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  5. I just can’t get over the contrast with your Southwest adventures. There’s so much green and water in these pictures. I would love to have seen the process of moving that lighthouse. It’s beyond my imagination of what had to be done to protect it and to move such awesome weight with the odd shape of the building. I can imagine it tipping completely over and shattering into minute pieces if I were doing that job. Love your historical perspectives. Do you detect a different view of events, especially from the Civil War, from the locals? I’ve only been to Florida and San Antonio in the South and both times I was limited in exploring so your posts are enchanting. Have a safe and fun trip back to Michigan. Hope you have some winter apparel. Nights are getting into the low thirties and not rising very much during the days.

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    • We were really disappointed not to be able to see the film about the lighthouse move, but that was also closed the day we were there. Grrrr….

      Can’t really speak to attitudes of people here. Of course, there are plenty of homes flying the Confederate flag, and lots of pro-Trump signs. But, does that really mean anything different than attitudes in Michigan? Not sure.

      Save us a few colorful leaves and a bright sunny day or two. We are ready for some nice fall weather.

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  6. Don’t you just hate it when you arrive someplace only to find that it’s closed? You also have to wonder why they chose Columbus Day as the end or the season for the lighthouse, I would think that there’d be plenty of snowbirds that would visit during the off season.

    I’ve never spent any time along the coast, even though I’ve wanted to. So, seeing your photos from the many places that you visited only raised the desire that I have to see them. It sounds as if camping is a mixed bag, with some campgrounds very busy, and others hardly used at all.

    When you arrive in Michigan, be prepared to find that late fall/early winter has arrived. It’s chilly, with lots of rain, I hope that you get a few dry days to unpack.

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    • Hi Jerry. It’s been an amazing trip for us. We’ve really loved seeing so many new places, especially this beautiful coastline. Funny thing though – for all the beaches we wandered, only once did I stick a toe into the water. Guess I just like to look at it – actually getting in to the water is not my idea of fun.

      Hoping we see a few days at least of dry weather. I think we are still harboring a few stinkbugs deep in the crevices of the Campsh@ck. They gotta go. I think that was the worst part of this trip, and one that still plagues us. Ugh.

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