Originally Posted by: Rita on May 15, 2005 – 12:31 PM
The Outer Banks
The morning after the storm started hazy, with hugemongous puddles and drippy trees, but quickly burned off to a near cloudless day. The town of Kitty Hawk appeared to have not blown away in the gales, although when we strolled down to the beach, the breakers were crashing into the dunes just shy of the stilt-perched beach houses.
The narrow isle has the Albemarle Sound on one side, the Atlantic on the other, and a road down the middle lined with tourist attractions. We skipped passed them, and headed down to Bodie Island Lighthouse, where we saw pelicans frolicking in the pond where their front yard used to be. After selecting a site at the Orgeon Inlet campground, we headed back into town to poke around the touristy things. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a giant sand dune with a hang gliding concessionaire – we considered taking lessons, but our budget wouldn’t allow the $85/person fee. Instead we hiked over the ridges and valleys and down to the sound.
The next morning, we drove across the bridge to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. During our 4 mile hike around ponds and dunes, we saw, in no particular order:
- Osprey (feeding nestlings)
- Golden Finches and other songbirds
- Scallop shells
- Whelk egg case (a whelk is the critter within the conch shell)
Pelicans – These birds were fun to watch, and Scott liked photographing them. They flew in formation when in groups, and when alone would skim the waves, flying between the crests and a few inches up, and managing to rise just in time to miss the breaking wave and skim down the backside.
Mosquitos – when the wind died, the bloodsuckers flew out of the bushes and grabbed ahold of our fleece shirts, probably trying to bite thru them, but also hanging out in the lee of the human when the next gust struck. Interesting species survival technique, but we still brushed them off.
Shipwreck – the Orient went down in 1863 carrying missionaries where were on their way to take care of civil war POWs – all hands survived, since the wreck is all of 100 yards from the current shoreline, they probably swam in, but the cargo was lost.
Seagulls – there is no escape from them on the islands.
While driving along, the dunes tower overhead and block the view of the Atlantic, and the more stable sands on the other side of the highway are covered by grasses, small trees, and salt marsh with occasional glimpses of the bay.
Another bridge, another island. Ho hum, miles and miles of dunes, broken up by newly constructed stilt homes and mini golf. We headed to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, also hanging out in a storm-caused lake, several inches deep with grass sticking up between tiny waves. This lighthouse was once endangered of falling into the sea – the barrier islands move around, eroding here, building up there, and the ground between the lighthouse and the waves was rapidly disappearing. In 1999, they cut away the foundation, put the structure up on jacks, and used the Egyptian method to shift it 180 feet inland. They got it in the ground again a mere three weeks before the next hurricane blew through. The NPS had this one open to the public – for $6/ea we climbed the 208 foot lighthouse and had a marvelous view of three islands and the sea.
That evening, we set up camp at Frisco, called home to moms (hey, it was Mother’s Day!), and spent some time assembling the kite we’d picked up at Kitty Hawk Kites (a wonderful store, we recommend it). We hiked down a long, partially sunken boardwalk and amongst the sunbathers, 4x4ers, and shore fishermen got our own personal copy of the Wright Flyer off the ground.
The camp had unheated showers and we used them, much to the amusement to the Hoofers-like crowd of kayaking neighbors. It was nice to be around a large group outing that wasn’t poorly behaved, it restores our faith in humanity. Gosh, I sound like my grandparents.
Anyway, we took the free ferry to Ocracoke Island and crossed to the narrow roaded tourist town beside the next toll ferry terminal and started to make a crock pot meal for dinner later, and stuck the pot in the sink for travel – this comes up later in the story, keep an eye on it. On both ferry trips, a trio on recumbent bicycles gathered on the deck, and on the second trip, we spent some time with Angela, Brian, and David and their two dogs. Wonderful people from Virginia, they were doing a week long tour with two Bob trailers and a Burley for the dogs.
We stopped in Beauford and hired a boat to take us over to Shackleford Island on Andy Block’s suggestion (pull the crock pot out of the sink, fill waterbottles, grab hats & cameras & barely make it to our ride in time). This 9 mile island is a long dune barrier, covered in scrub, stunted trees, and sea oats, with a fresh water spring that mingles with seawater in a large landward marsh. What makes it unique is the descendents of the Spanish mustangs shipwrecked here a hundred years ago or so. They’re now firmly entrenched in the ecosystem – they produce manure, on which the plants grow, which they eat. Of course, they’re much smaller to be more efficient with their fuel – technically, they’re ponies – and they have an extra vertebrae that distinguishes them from more modern stranded horses. Like in Beak of the Finch, this shows Darwin was right except for the timescale. Of the 100 horses on the island, we saw maybe 10 in an hour of hiking and seashell collecting, and then returned to mainland.
We drove out of down town and then hit a grocery store to stock up. . .and turning into the drive, the crockpot slid across the counter and onto the floor, missing several disposable targets to spill some of it’s contents on the van’s carpeting. Not too much spilled out, so we reheated the remaining & set it to cook while we shopped. Around sunset, we found a boatlaunch to dine at, and between helpings, Scott managed to drop his bowl completely out of the van. Regardless, we thought it was a tasty dish, and have christened it “Cursed Beans and Ham” – here’s the recipe
Cursed Beans and Ham
Ham Chips (8 oz pkg available vacuum sealed in southern states)
Baked beans (1 large can)
Maple Syrup (dollup)
Fresh rosemary & basil, diced (just a smidge each)
- Soak ham chips in water for about 5 minutes to reduce the salt. Discard water.
- Dice apple to bite sized chunks.
- Combine apple, ham, baked beans, herbs and syrup. Add just enough water so you can bring mixture to a boil.
- Boil for 10 minutes
- Seal up crockpot (or reduce to low if electric) and secure – this is the point in which it gets feisty. Cook about 6 hours.
We arrived outside of Charleston just before noon and started our visit with a tour of the Yorktown air craft carrier at Patriot Point. It’s a big ship. Built for WWII, it’s also an old ship – no computers. That amazed me over everything else. We were able to crawl around the flight deck, bridge, brigg, print shop, mess, etc – even the convoluted pipe runs of the engine room.
There are actually 5 or 6 ships at Patriot Point, but we only toured the Yorktown and the Clamagore, a WWI submarine, before we piled into a tour ship for a trip out to Fort Sumpter.
For those whom high school history was a long time ago, this was the site of the opening volley of the Civil War (the “shot heard round the world” was a different war, folks). The ranger there was working on his doctorate in History and was a wonderful storyteller, giving a history lecture that had the whole lot of us laughing. It seems Anderson (Union) was only stationed in Charleston for a month before the succession, and was then ordered to secure all five federal properties around the harbour. He had a complement of 85 men, and 13 of them were musicians. So he choose Sumpter as most defendable – he’d been an artillery teacher at West Point – and snuck out there in the cover of night. Beauregard (Confederate) was chosen mostly because the south thought he’d be able to sweat talk the island away from the Union forces – he’d been a student of Andersons, then his TA, and a close family friend. Well, both of them were stubborn, and when resupply of the island by the north was imminent, the south fired cannon from the other 4 positions around the bay, and their was a 34 hour artillery duel, during which no one was hurt. However, the hot shot caused a fire near the powder magazine, and Anderson had enough men to either ignore the fire and continue to defend the fort, or surrender and put out the fire before it blew them up. What would you do? The only men injured, by the way, were during an accident in the surrender ceremony. After the Civil War and during the Spanish-American War (1898), they filled sand into the cannon emplacements and built this huge black concrete monstrosity in the middle of the fort. Ugly, but it preserved the cannons from salt water corrosion.
Done with history? No, not yet. We headed into downtown Charleston and wandered through the old Market district looking for a steak joint. Tbonz Brewpub was tasty and made a good amber, though I found their wheat a little too carbonated. Scott, who’d been good natured about the Cursed Beans and other short meals, was able to eat his fill. We headed over to the waterfront and out on the town promenade – we were particularly impressed that Charleston had public porch swings on long pier. Then we sat in front of the deli, waiting for 9pm and our Ghost Tour guide.
The Ghost Tours walk you through the old downtown district and tell stories of suicides and drownings and odd postmortem happenings that are blamed on the deceased. Our guide, Matt, was graduating that Sunday in history & architecture and told us to ask him any question, he’d have the answer or make one up –it was a good time.