Monday, January 29, 2018

A cold day on the Outer Banks

There is a wildness to the Carolina coast in the winter, one that is not so readily visible in the summer when the beaches are filled with sunbathers and laughing children. The wind coming off the water is unlike that of a spring thunderstorm, and the chill that accompanies it brings tears to your eyes. The waves seem harsher, the dunes less contained, even the sky has a desolate aura of abandonment.

We emerged from the Hampton Inn Outer Banks to an empty stretch of shore. While there are plenty of homes along the stretch between Duck and Corolla, we were the only people as far as the eye could see; a marked contrast to the constant stream of cars riding up and down the beach north of Corolla. We chose the hotel partially due to the (comparatively) remote location, and also as it would put both Corolla and Duck within an easy drive; we had planned to see the wild horses on one day, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial the next.

The beach was littered with shells. The boys immediately started collecting, but at moments I would look up to see them facing the ocean, lost in thought, shells washing in and out at their feet. My bag started to fill as well, the color purple catching my eye most often: scallops and cockles, carditids and tellins.

A squadron of pelicans flew overhead, the bright sun reflecting off their white bodies in Morse code of flashes. While the air traffic slows down during the winter, the Outer Banks remain a prime area for bird-watching. Right across the street on the Currituck Sound side is the last piece of untouched property on the northeastern portion of the Outer Banks, the Donal C. O'Brien Sanctuary and Audubon Center at Pine Island. Preserving 2,600 acres of marsh, upland maritime forest and sandy beaches, the Sanctuary remains largely free from development, so birds and wildlife can continue to have a safe place to thrive free from human disturbance. The entrance to the 2.5-mile nature trail is directly opposite the hotel, and during the summer it is possible to take kayak tours and participate in other public programs.

It was inevitable – the feet get wet. The allure of a shell tumbling back out with the surf, or a careless moment while the mind wanders… The waves relentlessly tug at the sand, and the ceaseless repetition of the tides mesmerizes and captivates. Although it might have been the wet shoes and cold feet that eventually forced us indoors, once we retreated we noticed our cheeks were stinging and fingers were tingling. However, we had found what we had been searching for: the surf, the shells, the seclusion. Suddenly famished, we filled our bellies and afterwards spread out our discovered shells, already dreaming what treasures the ocean would bring us next.

1 comment:

  1. We love going to the beach in winter... We usually go to Ocean Isle Beach (south of the Outer Banks) in Dec... BUT--due to family situations, we postponed it until March... We definitely won't have the beach to ourselves in March though.....



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