On Tuesday, I woke early to sunshine, thin white clouds, and the surf. What more could I ask for? It was 7:00, I was (strangely) awake, and I took the opportunity to read in bed for a while. Close to 8:00, I smelled coffee brewing and trundled downstairs to find that N had gone for a solitary stroll on the beach.
“Thank you, N, for starting the coffee!”
I sat outside to warm up and thaw my bones, waving to N when she headed back toward the house. Her return wave was enthusiastic, which made me very happy. B appeared out of her bedroom, beach goers began their pilgrimage, and the sun continued to shine. Even Lee Ringer on News14 said there was just a chance of rain later in the day. I hoped outerbanksferry.com wouldn’t call by noon to say they decided not to ship out again today. If they did, I’d certainly be disappointed, but Plan B would go into effect.
Plan B, should we need it:
- Drag the chairs out to the beach
- Erect the umbrellas
- Frolic in the waves.
I could do that without a problem. Maybe our neighbors with the tiny water-winged children would be on the beach again so we could watch them prance and run and fall face-first into the sand as they had been doing all week. They were adorable and unstoppable. I thought it would have been funnier had it been the parents, but you can’t have everything.
But we could have Plan A!
At noon, we piled into the car and headed off to Beaufort, NC, 30 minutes away, where we had reservations for tickets to our Cape Lookout adventure. At the ticket counter, N pulled out her money, but I shoved her hand back into her purse.
“Happy birthday a couple of weeks late,” I declared. “But how else were we going to give you a boat ride, wild horses, and a lighthouse?” I was glad I didn’t mention the dolphins because I figured they be more iffy than the horses.
She was surprised and appreciative and after a quick hot dog, the three of us boarded Cap’n Johnny’s little boat that held about a dozen passengers, including two dogs (his and a guest dog). Finally, we were on our way to see the small barrier islands, the South Core of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, the southern part of the Outer Banks, hopefully some wild horses, and the lighthouse on Cape Lookout. The boat ride – for such a small craft – was fast and furious once we passed the ‘no wake’ area. Storm, the Captain’s (undetermined breed, attentive, and obedient) dog walked the side rail of the boat out to the bow and sat there as calmly as you please without so much as lifting his nose to catch the wind. I figured he probably took more boat rides than car rides, and the wind caressing his nose was as natural to him as Cap’n Johnny guiding the boat between sandbars, tree clumps, and tight channel markers. They were quite a team. The German shepherd, cruising with her family, alternated between curiosity and apathy, in the manner of young dogs that aren’t certain if it’s all right to freely express overt happiness when calm panting was requested.
It took approximately one hour to get from the dock to the lighthouse, pausing along the way as we passed several of the barrier islands. Shackleford Banks, a nine-mile stretch of beach and vegetation, produced several of the famed wild horses that are descendants of horses stranded by Spanish ship wrecks hundreds of years ago. Currently, there are 105 horses on Shackleford. Other islands may have more and most have less, all the way up the Outer Banks. It was heartening to hear that they are protected, loosely cared-for, and the National Park Service pretty much leaves them alone except to make certain the herds don’t exceed the number set to sustain them and to help insure that in-breeding doesn’t occur.
I positioned myself to sit next to where Cap’n Johnny stood and gave his spiel about the islands, the wildlife, the history, the houses, and the types of boats we’d see. However, when the boat was revved up and moving at top speed, if I couldn’t hear much, let alone understand much. I don’t know how anyone else could. Cap’n Johnny spoke so fast and with such a deep drawl that words mashed together. My fine listening skills were put to the test because I managed to catch only every seventh or eighth word when the boat slowed to a crawl.
We passed the Duke University Marine Research ship that was hanging around the area surrounding Blackbeard’s sunken flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. There could have been a dive going on as the coast of North Carolina has more sunken ships to explore than anywhere else, making it a serious diver’s paradise. How cool it would be to dive in and around sunken pirate ships (providing I was in shape and fit)! But how claustrophobic would it feel to me? I’ll never know, but one day, I’d like to see the artifacts retrieved from Blackbeard’s ship that are on display at the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort.
Finally, we arrived at the docks for Cape Lookout and our hearts fell. It was low tide, so we had to crawl up a spindly metal ladder attached to the end of the pier. It wasn’t easy, but I made it. N made it. B chose to stay on the ship while she waited for us to return, and Storm kept her company while she read. N and I explored the NPS gift shop before taking the pathway to the museum and lighthouse. N had hoped to be able to climb to the top of the lighthouse, but we learned the week before that it’s not open to the public except Wednesday through Saturday, and N was to return home the next day. Our day at on Cape Lookout turned out to be a hot and steamy one, which meant, in truth, that climbing the several hundred steps inside the lighthouse really would have been a bad idea.
If I ever go to Cape Lookout again, I will make certain to walk to the other side of the island, where the large shells live.
~ ~ ~
While N and I sat outside the lighthouse museum, an earnest young man in a construction-site orange t-shirt that screamed STAFF on the back approached a gentleman who sat outside the museum’s entrance.
‘Hello!” called Earnest Young Man. “Is this your house? I mean, are you the owner?”
The man to whom he spoke wore a National Park Service shirt with the logo. Gently, and kindly, the NPS person responded, “No, I’m a volunteer here.”
Earnest young man was happy enough with the answer and asked more questions as N and I walked away, giggling. At least Earnest was pleasant and not demanding and pissy.
The diamonds on Cape Lookout Lighthouse were designed to tell direction. The black diamonds face north and south, while the white diamonds face east and west. Clever.
~ ~ ~
Back to the Boat.
We were treated to a different route back to port, and I have to say that I don’t know how Captain John knew where he was going. But he did, and I was glad for that because getting lost or stranded would have been bad. The trip out took an hour. We were left at Cape Lookout for an hour. The trip back was an hour. Do the math, and sing the appropriate lyrics: “… a three-hour tour …” Yeah.
It was a ten mile trip, but again we slowed now and then for scenery’s sake, to see the horses, and to look for the dolphins that decided not to appear. So many small islands and sandbars! I don’t know if it’s more appropriate to describe the area as a maze or as a labyrinth. Along the way, we saw terns, brown pelicans, empty osprey nests, ibises, egrets, and a multitude of small sea birds. I wish I could identify all of them through my Audubon app, but I know I won’t get all of them, try as I might.
Passing Harker’s Island, Cap’n Johnny mentioned the different churches there, including the “Holy Churches” – an extreme Baptist sect in which the women never cut their hair, they wear long dresses, and if they wear pants or shorts, they wear them under their dresses. This sect is a leftover from the whaling and fishing community on Cape Lookout that eventually moved to Harker’s Island. Their descendants still practice the religion. I wondered if they had sister wives. Wouldn’t THAT be an interesting Baptist sidebar!
Once home, we three sat outside on the deck in a cool breeze. B finished Stephen King’s Joyland. N played with her iPad. I tried to identify some birds we had seen on the beach by the house. My Audubon app on my Kindle Fire was fun to play with. I believe one is a Sandwich Tern, but there’s one that is giving me fits to identify. We’ve seen plenty of American Brown Pelicans, and they’re gorgeous with their yellow beaks.
As darkness fell and a few raindrops, too, we packed up the chairs and came inside. Chateau Montelena, cranberry juice and vodka, a Bloody Mary along with crackers and pimiento cheese … yes, the coveted homemade pimiento cheese that new friends R and M donated to our cause … accompanied our evening. At 9:45 pm EDT, while N and I strolled along the beach with our flashlights, the long waxing gibbous moon finally became full. According to StarDate.org, that particular full moon was called the ‘Grain Moon’ or the ‘Green Corn Moon’ in preparation for next month’s Harvest Moon.
“The moon is part of your birthday gift, too,” I said with a chuckle.
N laughed and thanked me.
We both took pictures of the moon spilling light on the ocean.
A beautiful day had come to a beautiful end.
~ ~ ~
Wednesday began perfectly. Coffee on the deck for breakfast. A frolic in the surf in which I was knocked over by a wave. Subsequent waves refused to let me stand. I howled with laughter as they continued to keep me down. N laughed and tried to help me up, which I refused until I had had my fill of ‘body surfing.’ I am proud to say that I ingested no salt water and no old ladies were harmed. B took pictures of N and me in the water. Fortunately, they were from afar, and we are just two figures in a vast ocean rather than two vast figures in a pool of water. And I was, at the time, standing on my own two feet.
CranVods with sliced nectarines on the deck as we dried out made a lovely treat.
Then it became 2:00 pm, and the day went downhill from there.
N had a 5:50 pm flight from Wilmington (ILM) to Charlotte (CLT) to Chicago (ORD). Perhaps the high point of the day’s trip was discovering that ILM was a small but fairly new airport that looked to be the size of a Del Webb retirement community club house, which, if you’ve never seen one, is gigantic for a club house. The dead giveaway about the size of the airport was the signage that said “Terminal.” We hoped it wasn’t an omen but rather an indication of the size of the airport.
Terminal. Singular. Not plural. That meant manageable. (International? Seriously?)
N was pleased. She prefers small airports. We hugged and held our tears as we said our goodbyes. We’ll see each other soon because we try to Skype once a week. She went in, and we left. She and Hubby D may be back in North Carolina later this year. I hope so!
Later, on our way back to the beach house, we texted N.
Us: Did you find your gate all right?
N: LOL. They’re very diligent here. They ran my bag through x-ray twice. Fills the time.
Us: Probably more their time than yours!
She made it home after a one-hour delay in Charlotte, but Hubby D was waiting for her at O’Hare.
Life is good.
~ ~ ~
Thursday has been and will continue to be lazy.
Read on the deck.
Drink on the deck.
Lunch in the house.
Pound on the tabputer. (My Microsoft Surface)
Have a few of the outlets in the house checked and fixed.
Read on the deck.
Drink on the deck.
Life is good.