Have you ever had a day where one of these rooms looked really comforting to you?
A white padded room… a place away from everything…. peace! LOL!!!!
Today is one of those days for me. Not because I think I’m losing my mind or that I am a danger to myself or others. Okay, well, maybe others… like the pesky guys who come by trying to sell me steaks out of a freezer on the backs of their pickup trucks…lol. No seriously…it’s one of those days when I just want solitude, just to go to my happy place…and think about nothing. So it seems fitting that I start the blog on our holiday weekend along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, where I’m always in my happy place!
I’ve posted a few blogs about various places along our coast. With the addition of todays, it goes without saying that there are so many things to do along this beautiful stretch of our state. All it takes is a little research and equal amount of motivation.
On the 4th of July we had a list of plenty to choose where to watch the firework displays that night. New Bern on the river, Morehead City on the sound, Boque Pier at Emerald Island, the town park in Havelock are a few to name. We chose to go to Atlantic Beach and set up shop at The Circle.
Packed! View to the left…….
View to the right!
The Circle…full of life. It’s our equivalent to the Jersey Shore. And it’s full of characters. Not Ronnie, Snookie, or Mike… but many more! When we go to Atlantic Beach we usually head a few miles north of The Circle to Fort Macon’s beach access. Fort Macon’s beach access is a reprieve from the loud and the obnoxious beach goers, most frequented by older couples and families, compared to its counterpart at The Circle, with hoards of Marines and Air Force, tourists, and those in search of a good time. There’s even a bathhouse with clean restrooms, plenty of showers, and two large shaded pavilions with gorgeous views of the beach from over the dunes. AND it’s run by the National Park Service, so it’s always clean!
I’ve gotten a little off track, but the point being is: If the gates of the Fort Macon beach access and park didn’t close at dusk, we would have opted to have gone there. Yet, I was intent on wanting to view the fireworks from the beach, with my toes in the sand. So The Circle we went.
Despite feeling like we were the only sane ones in a nest of crazies… I was having a great time! I love to people watch!
We set up at about 3pm. Despite the endless rows of beach umbrellas north and south along the beach, we were able to find a really great spot by a sand dune. We enjoyed frolicking in the waves, digging in the sand, and people watching. At dusk we ate a picnic dinner, followed by a beautiful display of fireworks at nightfall. It was breathtaking to see the reflection of the fireworks in the water of the Atlantic Ocean. Fireworks from The Circle all the way down through Pine Knoll Shores and Emerald Isle were visible along the coastline, adding to our show!
Fireworks over the ocean
Despite the crowds, it was the best 4th of July I’ve had to date. It was also bittersweet, knowing that this may be the last year I have my oldest daughter with us for the 4th of July for an undetermined length of time. She’s made the decision to join the Navy in September when she turns 18. I’m proud of her, and support her yet I want her home for just a few more years!
On Friday afternoon, we packed up the car again,and we went crabbing. I first taught Cory how to crab when we lived in Pensacola at the start of our relationship over 9 years ago. Since then, he’s been hooked. Georgia has always enjoyed it, and Katie has always enjoyed seeing the crabs after we’ve caught them, but not being active in the process. Until this trip.
On the way to the crab grounds
There are several ways to catch crabs, but we prefer to go back to the basics. It’s not all about the catch, but the process involved that makes it so enjoyable for us. When we’re sitting down in the evening, cracking open our steamed blue crabs over melted butter, knowing we caught them from the sweat of our brow just sweetens the meat!
First we find a low lying pier. We tie chicken necks or chicken legs onto thin rope or twine, wrap one end around a pier post, and drop the chicken onto the floor of the sound. We watch the lines, and when it looks like it’s being pulled or is tight, it’s time to pull up the line. Now listen, if you don’t have any patience, this isn’t for you! You have to get comfortable, and settle in. Start pulling the line, little by little. Don’t do it too fast or the crab(s) will drop off! As the bait and crab attached starts to come closer to the surface, have someone waiting to swoop in with a long handled net and scoop it up! You do have to be fast on that part!
Here’s Katie, exercising patience and pulling up her line
On this trip, Katie became interested in being a very active participant. She was an excellent spotter of the lines, helped pull them up, and even netted a few on her own! I smiled at her enthusiasm and relished the pride she felt, knowing that she will continue to do this with her family one day!
Katie’s turn at scooping…….did she catch one?
You bet she did! Look at that priceless smile!
We didn’t catch as many as we’ve caught in the past, but we had enough large ones to have a great appetizer! Time for some Old Bay, melted butter, and lots of napkins!
Oh so yummy!
A day crabbing, is always a great day well spent!
Saturdays adventure: we ventured out Down East. Down East is a very unique place in itself…largely in part due to the High Tider (pronounced Hoi Toider) accent, a dialect remnant of Elizabethan English that was once spoken in colonial Carolina. These communities include: Bettie, Otway, Straits, Harkers Island, Gloucester, Marshallberg, Tusk, Smyrna, Williston, Davis, Stacy, Masontown, Sea Level, Atlantic and Cedar Island.
Heading onto Harkers Island
Our destination: Harkers Island for a Down East local fish fry. Harkers Island is a short 40 minute drive passing farmlands, over rivers and through marshlands. The drive always seems to fly by, maybe because I’m always looking out for my favorite birds of the coast, white egrets and great blue herons!
Harkers Island is where we catch a small ferry over to Cape Lookout (accessible only by ferry) and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the ferry that we use, Calico Jacks, is in its last year of operation and all future ferries to the Cape Lookout National seashore will be run by the National Park Service. Such a shame, as the folks at Calico Jacks are some of the most down-to-Earth and kindest I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Driving along Harkers Island, I always look at the houses on the water and the view of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse not far off in the horizon. I always have the same daydream, that I’m ending my evenings on my back porch on Harkers Island, with a glass of wine in hand, watching the rotation of the light at the top of the lighthouse in the twilight sky. It’s not a daydream for long, as I’m usually jarred back to reality by the sound of “mommy” coming from the backseat!
At the far Northern end of the island, is the Core Sound and Waterfowl Museum and the Cape Lookout National Seashore visitors center, and it’s the end of the island. Literally, the end. You are prevented from going any further by a barricade at the water’s edge and the road suddenly ends.
Core Sound and Waterfowl Museum
We grabbed our fish fry plates to-go and walked across the street to enjoy our lunch under a shaded picnic pavilion. Toes in soft grass, seagulls perched on the next pavilion, waiting for a crumb to fall, the cool ocean breeze, sounds of the water splashing on the bulkheads, and the view of the lighthouse in our horizon.
A million dollar view to have lunch at!
Let…me…tell…you! The folks of Harkers Island come from a long line of fisherman. By trade and by necessity to feed their families. They KNOW how to cook some fish! I’ve had my share of fish along the coast of NC and nothing compares to the fish we had on Saturday!
Local grouper and mahi, cooked just right, until it flaked apart with a touch of a toothpick. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and simmered in melted butter and enough lemon to make you get a small pucker of the lips! Our plates came with coleslaw, baked beans, hush puppies, and a variety of homemade cake slices to choose from… and who can forget an ice cold cup of iced tea!!!
I nearly foam at the mouth when I think of how out-of-this-world the fish was!
mmmm mmmmm delish!
all smiles from the Katie Bug!
As I enjoyed the feast, I was lost in my happy place. I was watching boats race past us, and kayakers paddling back to Harkers Island. The water was gorgeous, with shades of blues and greens. I watched Katie run around the picnic grounds, herself lost in exploration.
My little explorer!
After eating, we walked the soundside nature trail. It was such a beautiful walk through a well-maintained trail, with views of the sound the entire way. At one point there was a little beach area, perfect for getting “lost” in your surroundings, and my favorite point of interest was a long pier stretching out over the marshlands, ending over the sound. I took my shoes off and sat on the edge of the pier, enjoying the smell of salt in the air, the view of nothing for miles…and the feel of the breeze flapping my sunhat.
A perfect soundside beach to have a private picnic!
Katie and I taking a breather on our walk…whatever possessed me to wear chino’s on a day like this day…. .I have no idea!
Wanna take a walk?????
My idea of ……forever.
For a happy wife, just add salt water and ocean breezes
A race to position with the self timer set for a family pic!
The soundside of Harkers Island…where the grass meets the sound.
It was a slice of heaven. A moment where time seemed to stand still and the absence of cars, houses, and people added an unearthly tranquility.
But alas, all things must come to an end, and it was time to go home. Once we made the return walk back to our car, I stopped to stare at Cape Lookout in the distance… and with sweat glistening skin, longed for a dip in the clear turquoise blue water and to taste the salt on my lips. But ahh, sigh… The day was getting late and swimming wasn’t on the agenda on this trip.
Katie and Daddy, the perfect end to a perfect day
My Aunt and Uncle from New York are coming for a visit the first week in August. I’ve been to Cape Lookout a few times, but never with them! Last visit, I took them to Shackleford Banks. They don’t know it yet, but I’ve already penciled in a day to take them exploring Cape Lookout, and to enjoy my day in the turquoise water, tasting the saltwater on my lips….the countdown has begun!
You can shake the sand from your shoes, but never from your soul….
A stop by the shrimp and fish boats on the way home….an islands generational backbone.