February – March 2, 2019. North Carolina…our 32nd state.
OBX or The Outer Banks of North Carolina has 200 miles of low slim barrier islands that arc out from the mainland that protects it coast from the Atlantic. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore along route 12 is one of the sought after scenic drives in the country. The Outer Banks scenic highway goes from from Kill Devils to Ocracoke Island.
The Outer Banks consists of popular towns such as; Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Rodanthe, Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke.
We stayed in the village of Rodanthe at Camp Hatteras RV Park, which is in the middle of all of these towns. We were one of three RV’s in the park when we arrived. The island is so thin that from our RV we can see the Atlantic Ocean and the Sound at the same time. We stayed near the Atlantic side to listen to the waves and look at the sand dunes. Two of the nights the wind was so strong we had to pull the slides in so we could quiet the howling. When the wind flows between the slide and the permanent awning it is loud. Anything above 10mph is loud and gusts above 15mph shake the rig.
It has a playground, putt putt course, game room, indoor and outdoor pool and hot tub but during the winter they are only open until 4:30 so we only enjoyed this amenity once. They do have a clubhouse that we used for school one day. Very friendly staff.
When we arrived it was cold and windy but we still went to the beach to explore. We found Mermaid’s purses, which are shark egg cases. I had never seen these before in real life or in a book. Mackenzie knew exactly what they were from reading National Geographic magazines (thank you Tim and Karen for all those years of magazines!). It’s not always the just the me teaching the girls- they teach me as well.
Since this area and south of us is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic because of all the shipwrecks here we took a walk on the beach everyday looking for treasure:) The shipwrecks occur because of the Diamond Shoals with the tides and because of the German sinking our ships in 1942 (400 ships were lost).
We also had a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon this week because of all the pirate history on these waters. Ocracoke was where Blackbeard was beheaded.
Sunday we had a full exploring day the island.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
We started our day by walking on the beach and were very intrigued by the humpback whale that had washed up on shore in the Cape Hatteras National Shoreline Park. We have loved marveling at humpback whales swimming in the Pacific Ocean near in Hawaii and Alaska during their migrations. It was very sad to hear that three dead juvenile Humpback whales have washed on shore of the Outer Banks in the last week. This male is lying belly up and has obviously been decaying for over a week and the tide is burying it. Scientist have removed its skull and samples to study it. The cause is unknown at this time. One of the park rangers said that they get about one washed up a year because of a boat hitting it or from it swallowing plastic. But the fact that there were 3 within 5 days of one another, leaves people wondering. Some believe it is Navy sonar testing that confuses the whales.
Then we drove up to Roanoke Island to check out the Fort Raleigh National monument where the first English child was born, Virginia Dare.
Fort Raleigh National Monument
The first expedition to these shores was in 1584, they returned twice more. In 1587, over 100 colonist disembarked at the this location to create the first English settlement in North America. When the third group to arrived, all the earlier colonist had disappeared with only a carving on a tree “Cortoan” was left. With this small clue they searched but never found the Lost Colony.
The film and ranger led talk helped to make the story come alive and discuss theories for their disappearance. During the summer months you can watch a play on a beautiful stage at the park.
This Fort was also part of the freedom trail in the Underground Railroad in the 1800’s.
The girls earned their junior ranger badges. They have earned over 75 badges and patches on this trip.
Lunch at Sam and Omies’
We had a nice lunch at the quaint Sam and Omie’s in Nags Head. There isn’t much open this time of year so finding a place was tricky, but we lucked out with yummy home cooked food.
Wright Brothers National Monument
The “First in Flight” slogan from the state license plate and quarters commemorates the Wright Brothers first historic flight, which took place here in Killy Devil Hills.
Wright Brothers National is site to the first mechanically driven flight by the Wright brothers on December, 17 1903. We attended the ranger led talk at 3pm called Wind, Sand and Isolation. These are three main characteristics that the two brothers from Ohio, Wibur and Orville, were looking for to test their glider and ultimately the airplane. The post master and the US lifesaving men helped them test their flights.
The famous duo
The site is wonderfully laid out. It’s starts at the visitor center where you can see a replica of the Flyer (the original is in D.C.), then takes you outside looking at Kill Devil Hill where they started testing from (beautiful monument at the top) and then to their campsite to see where they lived half the year while they tested their experiments (they were bicycle sales men during the spring and summer in Dayton, OH) and to the actual spot where the Flyer lifted and maintained lift for 12 seconds over 120 feet. They have the markers for the other three successful flights right after that on the same day.
I was amused as to the order in which the brothers decided who would go first on that faithful day. They flipped a coin! The oldest brother, Wilbur, won the coin toss so he would be the one to first test it that day. He pitched to high and stalled- not successful. It was little brothers turn next and that one was the first successful flight in powered flight. Then they took turns with Wilbur ending the day with the longest flight of 59 seconds. This discussion was very relatable for Abby and Mackenzie.
The bronze monument on the other side of the hill depicted the famous photo that was taken the moment the plane left the ground. We had fun imagining we were Orville by lying in the same spot he did.
The Monument and markers of their 4 flight patterns the brothers took on that day December 17,1903.
Their summer camp at Kill Devil Hills.
Inside the museum.
We visited this site twice so they could go back and finish their junior ranger books and get their badge- we didn’t have time on Sunday because we wanted to get to Jockey Ridge to watch the sunset.
Jockey Ridge State Park
Jockey Ridge is only 8 minutes south of the Wright Brothers memorial and boasts the East Coasts highest dune 110 feet. The dunes shift and are ever changing so the heights vary and the tallest can switch from time to time.
The girls took their boogie boards out to the sand dunes to do some sand sledding or sand boarding. They had so much fun here. I may have tried it myself.
This is the best place to watch the sunset in all of the Outer Banks!
We visited twice. You an also take hang gliding lessons here.
Pea Island National Wildlife refuge
Pea Island national Wildlife refuge attracts more than a million migratory birds in the spring and fall. It’s also one of the northernmost nesting grounds for the endangered loggerhead sea turtles. It was a beautiful site to see hundreds of white tundra swans floating in the sound. Pamlico Sound is the largest sound on the East Coast.
You drive through walls of sand dunes through this part of the island. The islands are being pushed westward from these storms and natural waves and winds. They’ve moved 1500 feet over the last 100 years.
US life saving stations
These houses were used to house the US life saving organization that would help the crew of shipwrecked vessels. They are now know as the Coast Guard.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Bodie (Pronounced Body )Island Lighthouse, 1847, is the only lighthouse on the island still in operation. You can climb it during the summer season. It’s daymare is black and white stripes and its light pattern is 2.5 seconds on, 2.5 seconds off, 2.5 seconds on, 22.5 seconds off.
Cape Hatteras Light station
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, 210 feet tall, is tallest lighthouse in America. The lighthouses on these islands have saved so many ships but so many have shipwrecked. Diamond Shoals has causes hundreds of ships to run aground. It’s been nicknamed Graveyard of the Atlantic.
This lighthouse was built 1500 feet off of the shore back in 1870 but was going to wash away by 1990’s so they moved it inland another 1500 feet off shore so it can last another 100 years.
We were there on a Thursday when a Volunteer was working so the ranger was able to take us inside the lighthouse. He was able to give us some history but not take us to the top. They need 3 rangers on staff in the lighthouse to take tours up to the top.
To get to Ocracoke Island you have to take the free car ferry boat ride from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island. This was the first time I have ever driven a vehicle onto a boat. It was a weird feeling to be sitting in the drivers seat to fate Jeep and be moving while I read a book. Yes, you stay in your vehicle for the 40 minute ferry ride. You can get out and walk around but it was cold so we didn’t stay out for long. On the way home we had fun feeding the seagulls off the back of the boat. It was impressive to see them hover and grab food from our hands as the boat was moving.
The Ocracoke lighthouse is the nation’s longest running lighthouse. Red brick inside but white stucco on the outside with not distinct markings. Can’t climb in anytime of year. We were lucky enough to be there when two rangers were doing maintenance on the door so they let us in to take a look around.
We visited the Ocracoke Island Visitor Center, where the girls picked up their ranger books and the ranger told us the Blackbeard story.
Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, was beheaded on the southside of the island. Pirates roamed these islands for years. Capturing Blackbeard was a huge win for the British army. The University of Susex and the Royal Navy came here to celebrate the 300 year anniversary of the Battle of Blackbeard last year. The tale is that after they beheaded him, they tossed his body overboard and it swam around the boat for 3 days. They took his head back to Virginia and put it on a stick as a symbol to all pirates that he was dead and this is what their fate would be. This event marked the decline of piracy.
On May 11th every year, British and American forces meet on this small plot of British soil on Ocroacoke island to honor the British seamen buried here from the attacks in WW II. This piece of land, deeded by the US government to Britain, is US coast guard maintain’s the property.
On this island they have corralled some of the Banker Ponies. These horses (called ponies because of their small size) are descendants of the horses that were aboard a sunken ship and swam to shore.
Beautiful sunset on the sound.
Nights in Rodanthe
Moonless night on the beach. We are staying in Rodanthe (the ‘e’ is a long e sound) this week so I watched the movie Nights in Rodanthe with Richard Gere. The Inn of Rodanthe in the movie is still here and they accurately rent it out to the public under the house name Serendipity. They have actually moved it from the its original place because it was too far in the Atlantic. The outer banks are actually moving westward because of the prevailing winds and storms that move the sand inland. They used the same company that moved the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
The girls and I went out to wrestle, play tag and star gaze on a clear moonless night this week. Down at this end of the beach we had very little light pollution. Abby was digging in the sand and discovered bioluminescent plankton in the sand. We loved watching it light up when we touched it. We were having so much fun I didn’t come back in to get my camera, the memory is just in our hearts.
Our 15th wedding Anniversary
We celebrated our 15th year Anniversary here in the Outer banks. There was a Publix up in Kitty Hawk so I drove up there (50 minutes) to pick up the same cake I order every year. Our tradition is to eat lasagna, bread and salad, set up the video recorder to record us eating dinner. We discuss what is new each year and then eat our cake. In the past we have walked around the house to show what’s different but our house had not changed since last year so we just talked at dinner. We do this all as a family. We usually look their our wedding photos but those are packed away this year.
We got married on the beach in Santa Rosa, FL and on our 10th year we went back and renewed our vows. This year we ran out to the beach in the brutally cold wind and did a super quick reenactment.
Little Free Libraries along Hwy 12, the Outer Banks shoreline where we each found a book to read this week. There were even candy canes in one of them.
Dowdy Park has a great playground that is near Jockey’s Ridge.
On the drive in we were on the old bridge by Monday they had closed the old bridge and opened the new higher bridge.
Check out this hilarious RV Hook ups sign Chris saw on his run on HWY 12
One week wasn’t enough time to really appreciate the area of the country. I’d love to come back during the summer.