Driving up to the Blue Ridge Mountains for a cooling breeze was just a normal part of life during my teenage years in Mount Airy, North Carolina. One of my first dates with my wife was on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1973.
Living so close to the mountains meant that going to the beach was a special treat. It would be hard to count the number of trips we made to the coast in my mother's 1952 Ford.
In the eighties we came to live on the side of a mountain in southwest Virginia. Watching the sun rise over downtown Roanoke was a great way to wake up in the morning, but it could never cure the itch to be near the water. As many times as I hauled shrimp back from the coast, I still don't think they are as good as when I head down to the fish market and bring some home for supper.
For the last few years I have watched the sun come up over some longleaf coastal pines. Sometimes I take our skiff out on the water to catch a sunrise, but most of all I enjoy walking on the beaches and fishing the waters around them. Sunsets were hard to come by at our Roanoke place because of the mountains, but it is easy to find some amazing evening shots during a sunset on the beach.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that the Virginia mountains are less than six hours of driving from the coast of North Carolina. The areas are so different, but so close together. It can be snowing in the mountains, and warm along the beaches. It can be pleasantly cool on the beaches and hot in the mountains, or it can be just the opposite.
The bluegrass in the mountains often needs mowing by the end of March and our centipede grass along the coast rarely needs mowing until April and then only occasionally. In the mountains you can hardly keep up with the early season grass, but our centipede doesn't hit its stride until July.
Trees and flowers bloom quickly along the coast, and sometime they linger in the mountains. I saw strawberry plants blooming recently near our coastal home. We should have ripe strawberries by the middle of April. They will come much later in the mountains. We count on ripe homegrown tomatoes by the first few days of June, but they take six weeks longer in the mountains.
For years my favorite trail was one that I maintained along the ridges of Twelve O'Clock Knob Mountain which overlooks downtown Roanoke. I tried to convince Roanoke County to buy the land and maintain the trail, but they were focused on the Roanoke River trail so it ended up being partially developed. I did a lot of work with a weed whip in the years that I kept the trail open. The weed whip was almost like an extension of arm.
There are trails through the woods here on the coast, but they are state maintained. We have some great ones over at the Croatan National Forest access area in Cedar Point. While I enjoy those trails in the winter, when spring comes around, I start heading to the beach. There is no need for a weed whip there, and there is nothing like walking along the shore and watching your tracks be washed away.
So far this March I have enjoyed three really nice hikes along the beach. Around the middle of March, I had a great 3.5 mile walk along the beach near the Point at Emerald Isle. While you can walk in the mountains and see different wild flowers blooming in the spring months. Here on the coast, you cannot even count on the land being the same.
Sometimes beach has disappeared and been replaced with water, and other times sand has covered areas which once were water. On my recent hike, I carried my Droid phone and used the app called MyTracks to record my movements along the shore. I then uploaded the track to Google Maps and added photos that I had taken along the way.
If you look at this map, it appears that I did a lot of walking on water. The truth is that Mother Nature has dumped loads of sand onto the Point at Emerald Isle. My walk was along the edge of the shore, and I never got my feet wet.
In November of 2007, most of the Point was under water. The vehicle access at one time had to be closed because it had washed away. In December of 2008, the access was repaired and the Point began to emerge from the water. Today there is 1400 ft of sand from the ramp to the water. It is an amazing testament to the power of nature.
The Point it turns out is one of the few places where maps cannot keep up with Mother Nature. It gives us one of those rare chances to explore a spot that Google has yet to figure out. It is a lot of fun being a modern day explorer even if it only lasts for a few hours.
And the view across the expanse of new deposited sand is pretty amazing as you can see from the picture at the top of the post.
The Crystal Coast is a great place to live and visit. While we don't have the bluegrass and mountain wildflowers of my home turf, we have no shortage of sand and water.
You can read more about the area about in my Swansboro area travel guide and in my Emerald Isle travel guide. If you would like a PDF file with a simple map of the area, a list of things to do on a visit, and some great local restaurants to try, you can download the PDF at this link.
If you love seafood, this is a great spot to visit. In fact tomorrow is the annual Swansboro Oyster Roast and Pig Out. It starts at 5PM so if you leave the western part of NC or Virginia on Saturday, March 19, by ten, you should have no trouble making it in time for the festivities.
Of course if you cannot make it then, we would still like to have you drop by for a visit or if you are looking for a great place to live, we can also help find your spot in paradise here along the Southern Outer Banks.