As we crossed eastern Virginia and headed south into North Carolina, there were subtle changes taking place. It was fall, not a colorful fall, a seasonal fall determined as such by the dates on the calendar.
In New England we had begun to see the first evidence of fall color. Moving south and closer to the coast, warmer temperatures held fall in abeyance. The flora changes also. While chestnut oak, white oak, maple and hickory are evident in the dryer areas, sycamore and birch prosper neared the coast and in the flood plains as they have a strong tolerance for flooding and salt water intrusion.
Crossing onto the barrier islands, the environs changed to dunes, salt marshes, savannas and maritime forests. Sedges and scrub anchor the dune on the weather side of the island. To the lee side, pines and oaks have established a strong foothold.
To the East is the Atlantic; to the West is Pimlico Sound. We had passed through towns of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Whalebone, leaving the vacation spots with their hotels and condos behind. This was the Pea Island N.W.R. Orange stripped barrels and yellow tape closed off many of the parking spots. The rangers attempt to honor the partial government shutdown. At some spots, trail heads or beach access, the barrels were pushed aside and tape torn down; a tribute to the populace rebelling against the idiocy government too often presents. Where there were vacation homes, they sat on stilts to reduce exposure to storm surge.
The Atlantic as seen from the KOA.
The KOA from the shore of Pimlico Sound
In Rodanthe, we found our KOA, where we would stay for the next few days. The park sits on the Atlantic. Walk west across the highway and you’re on the bay with excellent access to sail. During our stay in Rodanthe, the government found its way out of the desert and reopened, allowing us to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk. A spectacular tribute to these pioneers of aviation. We also took in Roanoke Island, the Bodie Lighthouse and sipped some of the local brews.
Turning wood at the Roanoke Island Festival Park
The Elizabeth II, a 2/3 replica of the ship which brought the first English visitors to Roanoke Island in 1597.
The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse.
Leaving Rodanthe, we headed south to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the iconic structure symbolic of the barrier islands.
It’s black and white barber pole stripes rise over 180 feet, the tallest in the nation. While visiting the lighthouse, one of the gift shop cashiers recommended we try “apple uglies” at the Orange Blossom Bakery. It would be on our right as we continued south towards the ferry landing.
Don’t ask how I did it, but suddenly there was enough space between the highway and the bakery to fit 57 feet of RV and van. An “apple ugly” is best described as a softball size apple fritter.
These were absolutely delicious. It was well worth the last minute braking and maneuvering to get stopped.
A little further along, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum welcomes those interested in the maritime history of the area. From the museum’s literature, “The Museum is dedicated to the preservation, advancement and presentation of the maritime history and shipwrecks of the North Carolina Outer Banks from the earliest periods of exploration and/or colonization to the present day, with particular emphasis in the periods from 1524 to 1945.” We didn’t spend much time here, but it is an interesting museum. I was particularly intrigued by the amount of damage German U-boats did just off our coast. It’s a bit of WWII history which doesn’t seem to get much publication.
A mapping of the wrecks along the Outer Banks. As the museum says, “hundreds of years; thousands of wrecks.”
We took the ferry to Ocracoke Island, always an adventure with the van in tow, and headed to National Seashore campground. More to follow.
Photos compliments of Carol Savage, lifeinanrv.tumblr.com