Beach Time!

In between lots of other activities (back to school and moving Mom and starting a new work assignment) I was able to carve out a few days for a beach trip, and so my elder son and I are heading out tomorrow morning after church to the Bogue Banks, one of the barrier islands of North Carolina.

The lighthouse studded Outer Banks are the northern-most NC barrier islands, from the Virginia border down through Hatteras and to Ocracoke - lighthouses are located at Corolla, Bodie (pronounced "body") Island, Hatteras, and Ocracoke. The 75-mile long Hatteras National Seashore is part of the Outer Banks.

South of all that is Cape Lookout National Seashore, comprised of the Core Banks, the two barrier islands south of Ocracoke (there's a small inlet between these two islands), and the Shackleford Banks. At the top end of the northern most island of Cape Lookout National Seashore is the abandoned village of Portsmouth, once a thriving shipping village that then turned into a fishing village before finally dying out in the 1950's. (There is now an historic village there maintained by the National Park Service.)

The lower Core Banks island has an elbow shape at the bottom (like Hatteras) where the Cape Lookout Lighthouse stands. The 55-mile long Core Banks are situated between the Atlantic and the Core Sound - which is a much smaller body of water than the Pamlico Sound between the Outer Banks and the mainland. (The early European explorers thought that the Pamlico Sound was the ocean that led to the Orient.)

Finally, there are the Shackleford Banks, a smaller (only 9 miles long) island where there are wild ponies that are said to be descendants of horses that may have swum ashore from shipwrecks off the coast - some say from the Spanish, some say they're from Sir Walter Raleigh's doings. Anyway, they all still frequently swim, even now.

There are no houses or roads or development of any sort in the Cape Lookout Seashore and the only accommodations are for campers or in rather primitive cabins. The only access is by ferry. Thus, we are staying on the Bogue Banks, the 20 mile long island south of the Seashore (between the Atlantic and Bogue Sound). Like most of the barrier islands, it's only about a mile wide in its widest parts. This is the home of Atlantic Beach (which was THE cool beach for teenagers when I was growing up) as well as the more sedate communities of Salter Path, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores and Emerald Isle. There's a maritime forest on the island (the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area) as well as Fort Macon State Park (Fort Macon was a Civil War fort, built in 1826). One of the three North Carolina Aquarium locations is at Pine Knoll Shores.

(We have a family story about our visit there in the mid 1990s when the kids were little. There was a nurse shark in one of the Aquarium exhibits. You may know that one of the distinguishing features of nurse sharks are barbels - fleshy moustache-like appendages hanging from between its nostrils. My niece thought her mother said it was a nerd shark and so she said to us, "Look, it's a nerd shark. See those nerds on its face?")

The highlight of this vacation, activity-wise, will be a trip out to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. It's the one with the black and white diamond pattern and the only NC lighthouse I've never before visited. One must go by private ferry and take food, water, and whatever else needed because there are very limited facilities there. The NPS has restored the lighthouse (one can climb it now) and lighthouse keeper's home where there are restrooms and that's about it. The ferry trip can be taken through the Shackleford Banks marshes area for good wildlife viewing as well. I'm really looking forward to that, as well as time just walking along the shore and eating seafood and maybe going for a couple of bike rides on the motel bikes.

Blogging will be light for the next week with limited internet access and maximum time outdoors plus moving Mom on Friday and Saturday.

Peace out.