We have enjoyed an outstanding fall with mild temperatures continuing through the first week of December 2011.
The shorts weather in early December this year was in stark contrast to the deep freeze that visited us during the same week in December 2010.
The water behind our house froze on December 8, 2010 as the high temperature for the day didn't get beyond 36F. Temperatures like 36F are more likely to be the low temperatures in the dead of winter instead of the high for a day early in December.
Colder temperatures do happen even here. Looking back to December of 2006, we saw a very cold night when the temperature dropped down to 24F. With the water still being warm we only got some light ice on the gut. It is more normal for our cold weather to wait until late January and February. Then with cooler waters it is easier to get extensive ice.
This year we have yet to have a day when we didn't get into the fifties so it has been a much milder fall. Still the weather has changed. Earlier in the week, we had several days in the seventies before our cool down. With the cooler weather, life in the marshes around us is beginning to adjust to a new season.
Late this week, the first pelican visited Raymond's Gut, the water behind our house, since Hurricane Irene sent them looking for shelter earlier in the summer. The great blue herons have also showed up during the day instead of just coming to roost at night. This fishing must be good up our way.
While I managed to both go kayaking and take the boat out our inlet and down the river earlier in the week, the winds, some rain, and cooler temperatures have kept me at the dock the weekend of December 10. I also saw my first ducks of the fall, but I wasn't able to get a close enough look to identify them.
With the holidays approaching, lots of Christmas lights have shown up. We attended an office party in Atlantic Beach on Thursday night, December 8, and chose to drive back down the beach through Salter Path and Emerald Isle. It was a peaceful trip with no other cars and some beautiful decorations to light our way.
The Christmas holiday can be very quiet here along the White Oak. Many coastal folks travel to visit their families this time of year. A few of the restaurants even close for a time to give their staff a chance to be with their loved ones.
I absolutely love the holidays at the coast. There are not enough shopping opportunities for people to get in a tizzy. Life mostly goes on at the same measured pace that we slide into as all the tourists disappear. If you really want much shopping it requires a little driving.
However, if shopping isn't your cup of tea, our beaches are mostly empty and a great place to walk on a warm winter afternoon. The trails along the marshes offer just enough protection from the winds that a cool afternoon hike is a very comfortable proposition.
One of the great things about living along the Crystal Coast is that in a normal winter, the outside is just another room that we get to enjoy. The winter of 2010 was not a normal winter, but the winter of 2011 is starting out much more like the ones that we have seen in the past.
I am hoping that all the ice that we see this winter is along the edges of the gut. I don't want to have to use my skiff as an icebreaker again.