Once while walking along on Bald Head Island, we saw a bit of debris on the road – moving! Turns out it was a Camouflaged Looper caterpillar. (Synchlora aerata) This little guy finds his favorite place to eat, and then takes a few bite for himself, then sticks a mouthful on his back, glueing it in place with silk like a spider. Soon he has the perfect camouflage for his location, unlike some caterpillars that look like one type of flower or plant but don’t then match others. Being his own tailor lets him go out to eat wherever he wants, always dressed appropriately. And who doesn’t want a bit of variety?
Friday we headed up the ICW to Carolina Beach. We spent two nights in a mooring field, which means instead of your anchor you use an anchor that has been rather permanently placed there for you. For a very small fee. This is often done when frequent anchor dropping and retrieving would damage the sea floor. It felt a little odd, to be on a mooring, but in a small river and surrounded by homes. We got the dingy out and explored up and down the river.
Sunday was the run out the Masonboro Inlet, and out in the ocean to Bohtiful Beaufort. I am using that strange adjective for its alliteration: Beaufort, SC is pronounced “bue-fort” but Beaufort, NC is pronounced “boh-fort”. But whatever, Beaufort is Beautiful!
Founded in 1709, there are dozens of picturesque homes from the 1800’s. Our marina was right in front of Front Street, in the center of the old part of town. Great fun just to walk along and check out the architecture.
Right across the river from our Marina was an island, part of the Rachel Carson Reserve. Supposedly feral ponies live there, but we didn’t see any. A very nice boardwalk across the island let us see lots of birds and beautiful scenery, but no ponies.
Monday we made the 13 mile trip to Cape Lookout Lighthouse in our dingy. The lighthouse is painted in a checkered pattern, as all lighthouses along the Carolinas are painted in unique patterns for easy identification from sea. At 163 feet tall, I’m told it gives a wonderful view of the whole outer banks area… but I wouldn’t know firsthand. Because it is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Sigh. It’s been standing since 1859, so maybe it will still be here for us to climb when we come back on our way south. And not on a Monday or Tuesday.
Having seen zero wild ponies so far, and hearing that Ocracoke Island is really fun, we decided to head that way. I had heard lots of talk about how shallow it is around the island, and we were hesitant to take our boat there. So we took someone else’s! We rented a car, put our bikes in the back and our duffel on the bike trailer, and drove to Cedar Island. There we left the car, rode our bikes onto the ferry, and took a two hour ride to Ocracoke. A charming little town, again packed with history. We stayed in Blackbeard’s Lodge, a rambling place that was built in the 30’s, long after Blackbeard was no more. But he seems to live on, since everything around here is named for him, or was visited by him, or would have been visited by him if he’d only had internet, or whatever.
Blackbeard apparently wasn’t fond of indecency…
We rode our bikes 7 miles up island to a place where we could supposedly see ponies. We almost didn’t try it, because it was so windy. We imagined seeing cute little ponies galloping along beautiful beaches, stopping only to eat the abundant sea oats or roll in a grassy meadow with their buddies. As these visions encouraged us, we rode on. As we rode north, the tall foliage beside us seemed to shield the wind, so it wasn’t too bad. We arrived at this little fenced in area, with half a dozen ponies, eating from a trough right outside their barn. What? Wild or feral ponies!? It looked just like you’d see in Colorado or almost anyplace with horses. No galloping or frolicking whatsoever. We fought the wind for this? Sigh. Turns out we didn’t fight the wind for it… we were riding with the wind. Now the trip back; that was fighting the wind! Probably the worst thing was that our good friends Jeff and Marilyn always talk about their rides, just casually mentioning a 40 mile ride on their blog, so how can I complain about our 14 mile trip? (Check out yearofadventuring.com) We grabbed a moment’s rest on a gorgeous wind-swept beach.
Ocracoke was great fun, however. We took our bikes on the walking tour (don’t tell) until we thought we’d die if we were exposed to any more historical and architectural data.
So on that note I’ll talk about cemeteries. German U-boats cruised off the Atlantic coast in WWII, looking to sink both military and merchant ships. Great Britain sent some ships to help us protect our coast, and one of these, the HMS Bedfordshire, was torpedoed and sunk taking all hands with her. Four bodies washed ashore, and the saddened local Ocracokians (can I say that?) respectfully buried them. But British tradition says that their sailors should be buried on British soil, so it’s said that Great Briton has a perpetual lease on this small cemetery, and our Coast Guard respectfully maintains it.
The adjacent cemetery has some very old and interesting tombstones, including one for Ann Howard, who died at age 117!
The lighthouse on Ocracoke is not as tall, and is not open for climbing. So another unclimbed lighthouse…
I had one other problem on Ocracoke… I couldn’t help but think of Steve Martin plugging “Okra Cola” on SNL years ago… I remember it sung to the tune of “Oklahoma”. Funny.
Friday we ran the boat up through the wide Pamlico Sound, with high winds and rough seas.
Our destination was Grace Harbor at River Dunes. With that name we figured we’d fit in nicely. It is a beautiful marina, well protected from any weather and the magnificently groomed ground feeling like we are in the middle of a golf course. The marina and lodge buildings are a quantum jump nicer than most.
The coolest thing about the trip was Cherryl’s doing… She has been wanting to make her own sourdough for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, after lots of research, she started her own sourdough starter. It takes time to build it up, with multiple feedings every day. (at least you don’t have to change diapers). The other day we had the first taste – sourdough waffles! Light and tart and fantastic! Today, as we plowed along in some fairly rough water (as rough as the ocean outside), her first loaf of sourdough bread was rising and then baking. It turned out awesomely scrumptious! This is going to be a very tasty hobby!