Saturday, March 23, 2013

A True Vacation: The Outer Banks

This was the third and final leg of the vacation that I described to you so long ago.  The one that took place in September.  I guess I'll have a rule that I can't go on vacation until I finish blogging the previous one.  Ha!  So let's finish.

We spent the weekend in the Outer Banks.  I have been wanting to go there since seeing the movie Message in a Bottle.  It just looked magical.  Do you see the looong chain of islands pictured below?  That's them.  They form a barrier between the Carolinas and the open sea.  It's a rough place, sometimes. All those black marks with words next to them are shipwrecks.  
We crossed over to the islands about a third of the way down from the top of the map above, near Kitty Hawk.  You heard me right, Kitty Hawk.  The birthplace of modern aviation.  There is, of course, a large museum right at the site, but our time was short and the hours were not convenient, so we got our history lesson from a rest-stop/visitor's-center/memorial.
 The memorial speaks a bit to Stonehenge, don't you agree?  The pillars swirl and get progressively taller, listing historic dates and achievements in flight.
 It seems that the first woman to fly across the English Channel chose my birthdate to do so.  Girl Power.

 I was nervous as we continued into the islands.  I had built up quite the romantic notion in my mind of what I would find on these islands.  I had the beaches and the weather and the architecture all worked out.  And I had drug Nick and Pierce out there to fulfill my little dream.  It felt like a risky investment.

We stopped at Jockey Ridge National Park, home of the tallest natural sand dune in the eastern USA, if memory serves.  Pierce was not impressed, but maybe that was because he did not have to walk up it on his own feet.  Sand mountains are a work-out!  This is the place to be for hang-gliding and kite flying, but we seemed to have left our kites and gliders at home.  The dunes were an amazing site, but still not quite the fantasy in my head, so I was getting more nervous.  The water on the west side of the islands was dull and grimy. And stinky.  And foamy.
 We needed to find a swimming beach and dream redemption.  Driving south along the main drag (the only drag, in some places), we found it.  Easily.  And never lost it again.  I was right about the whole thing!  But stick with the east side for swimming; the ocean side.  Oh, the water is so lovely!

Pierce and I stopped for this pic and Jennette's Pier.  It's a must-stop on the islands.  The pier is even longer than it looks in this shot, at 1000 feet.
 From the end of the stretch, you can see nothing but water for miles.  Or nauts.  I'm a Washington girl, so I love the ocean.  I think I could live right on this spot.
 The pier was generally inhabited by fishers.  The pole that is significantly bent in the picture below aroused quite a commotion.  Everyone was watching and excited as the man tried to real in his catch patiently.  You could tell that whatever he had was big and heavy.  And it was fighting.  When it got close, we could see that it was a ray.  The fisher estimated that it was at least 30 pounds.  In the end, the line broke, but he said that was best, as he would have had to throw it back anyway.

 You might not think that babies can read, but this little sign made Pierce pretty nervous.
 So we headed down below the pier for some real vacation.  Mmmm.  Don't you want to just jump into these pictures, Mary Poppins style?

 Nick had only recently dipped his feet into his first warm saltwater ocean while on a business trip in Florida.  He really thrilled in the breakers and body surfing, and gained a healthy respect for the power of waves and his own futility.
We did not have enough time to spend there, but we got a little sun and a little surf before moving on.
And we made a quick stop at the gift shop.
These islands consist of long stretches of highway that are nothing more than what we from the Gig would call a spit.  There was the road, some brush, some sand, and water on both sides of the road.  The air was so open and free.  Then we crossed this beautiful bridge to the next island.  Or did we?  By all the maps and signs, you would think that we were still on the same island, Hatteras.  Over time, I learned that it was all one long island until a particularly rough hurricane (2003?  Irene?  maybe), which divided the skinny island in two.  But you can't just rename half of it!  So it's all still Hatteras.
 We found a great place to stay (Lighthouse View) further south in Buxton.  We loved it and will definitely stay there again.  We walked down this pretty path to our own beach and had a little more playtime.  We just had one night that we could stay, so my appetite for this jewel was only whetted.
 There are really only two things that you must do that are uniquely Buxton.  First, you must have an Apple Ugly at the Orange Blossom Bakery.  You should probably buy a dozen to take home with you, but these lessons come only by sad experience.  The second is to visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  No, I did not mean to dress to match.  It was just kismet.

And that was that.  We said good-bye.  I may have gotten a little teary-eyed as we left, but that was only because my fantasy was real, and because I will miss my Outer Banks.


H+B Jackson said...

I want to go I want to go!!! Only a few more years until I have flight benefits!

So well written and the pics are great!

XOXO Miss you all!

Dancing Branflake said...

I'm moving to Virginia and I'm totally going there now. What a magical place! Thanks for all the beautiful photos. I know documenting a vacation can a beast.