The Outer Banks

This was my very first visit to OBX, North Carolina, and I have now been in 22 of our 50 states plus the District of Columbia so I’m inching towards the half way mark.  Again, as with the visit to Ocean City in Maryland earlier in the summer, I was struck by how different the vast Atlantic Ocean is here compared to the southern tip of Africa, where an icy current flows past Cape Town and up the West Coast.  It was warm and placid in North Carolina, as opposed to frigid and stormy.  Admittedly, we fortunately missed any hurricanes and were there shortly after Igor, which had apparently been kicking up some high seas.   Before I got to the Outer Banks I hadn’t realized that they are made up of a series of barrier islands, the most famous of which is Hatteras towards the south.  On a map they look quite fragile (and, I’m sure, seem so during the height of a hurricane) but when you are on the islands you don’t really get a sense of how narrow it is, even though we were sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean to the East and Albemale Sound to the West.  We were on the northern Bodie Island, at a place called Duck, and on Friday evening we ventured a little further north on the island to Sanderling for dinner at The Lifesaving Station Restaurant.  It’s hard to believe that the autumn has officially begun because the temperatures were in the 90’s while we were there.  Given the time of year, though, it was relatively uncrowded and we could walk along the beach fairly unencumbered. 

The sea sand is different from the beaches I remember as a child; it is courser and more shingly, and the sea not as blue or as active with breakers, but it was wonderful to bathe in the sea again, and the bird life was fascinating. The beach was full of fearless gulls. 

On the first evening, as I was paddling at the water’s edge, I felt a gust of wind blow over my body, and then noticed a gull, about ten foot in front of me over the sea, catching that same breeze, and just hovering there as it settled its wings into the current.  It was an extraordinary feeling of being one with nature. 

There were also scampering little sandpipers, which were new to me.  They skillfully dodge the waves as they forage for grubs with their pointy beaks.  They clearly don’t like to get their feet wet and they have a sixth sense about how far up the beach the wave will wash, so there is a constant to and fro as they scamper ahead of the waves but then run back to look for the food the waves have brought in.

The houses in Duck are big, multi-family places built with shingle, and there is a very attractive uniformity of look that blends well with the seaside.  This is a picture I took of one of the houses as we came back from the beach at dusk on the first day.  (Don’t miss the bird on the roof!)

On our last day, we drove south on Bodie Island (we didn’t make it onto any of the other islands) to Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers made their first flights in 1903.  There is a national monument at the very spot at Kill Devil Hills, and you can see the track they used and the four markers of the first four flights (lasting from 12 to 59 seconds), as well as replicas of the hangars they lived and worked in as they were preparing to make history.  There’s this iconic photograph of the first flight.

A plaque has been built where the track was.

As with all these National Parks in America, everything has been beautifully and carefully preserved, as with these reconstructed hangars.

So that was a wonderful thing to do – and we have now visited the legendary Outer Banks.

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