Now that I am back at the coast, the waves are calling me, and I really want to feel the salt water on my toes.
Unfortunately I hurt my ankle a couple of weeks ago, so going for a long beach walk like I did on March 17 last year isn't in the cards yet. I am thinking another day or two, and I might be able to manage a few miles around the Point at Emerald Isle.
My last walk on the Point was January 24 when I spent four hours hiking there. Usually hiking on the Point can be a cold proposition in winter, but this year even with somewhat limited time, I found some really nice days to be over there. It didn't hurt that winter never stays long around here. In 2012 winter hardly even made an appearance.
While my wife and I managed to spend most of February in the Virginia mountains where we caught one of the few east coast snow storms of the winter. It was a very localized storm, but it delivered around nine inches of snow. Fortunately it didn't stay long or cause any road problems. The snow did provide some beautiful pictures.
Even with our travels, I did get back to the coast and home for the last few day of February. My quick visit of only three days confirmed to me that winter was already on a steep downslope. That taste of spring on the coast made me yearn to have my feet planted in sand on the beach.
During those few days I did find a little time to visit the beach, and lots of time to think about being on the water. Unfortunately I was destined to wait until after the middle of March before we could finally get back home to the Southern Outer Banks for an extended time. Only then could I actually get out on the water with the skiff for more than ten minutes. However, sometimes delay can lead to impeccable timing because things were really nice when we got here.
While it was early spring by the time we got back to the Crystal Coast, we already had enjoyed a full flown inland spring. It even included some tulips and dogwoods blooming near our daughter's home on Lake Norman. For a time it seemed like someone was running loose in North Carolina and Virginia with a giant pink paint brush.
Spring is much more subtle on the coast than it is inland in North Carolina and Virginia. We just don't have that burst of color that comes from numerous flowering trees along with all the bulbs and spring flowers. Actually this year, the Piedmont of North Carolina was a little like the coast in some respects.
Usually the blooms on Bradford pear trees hardly last more than a few days at the coast. In the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina the blooms can hang on for two or three weeks. This year the Bradford pear trees in the North Carolina Piedmont went from blooms to leaves in just a couple of days. The mountain trees were still going strong when we last saw them, but the eighty degree heat of the last few days will take their toll very soon.
If the flowers don't hearald spring at the coast, the beach certainly makes up for it. While there is no symphony of color, there is a renewal that comes with the warmth that spring brings. When the sand is warm enough to enjoy with your bare feet, you know that if won't be long before the water is ready for that first dip of the toes. Last year I stuck my toes in the water for the first time on April 8.
Because I don't walk the beach as much in the winter, going back to the beach in the spring is a time of discovery. Beaches are ever changing, and places like the Point change so fast that it is often hard to appreciate the changes before they are gone. Every time I visit the Point, I feel like I am mapping new territory.
Last year I spent at least three or four days a week walking on the beach in the spring and early summer. I never saw a piece of beach that bored me. Each hike was like an adventure and just made me look forward to my next one.
Living at the beach is a special privilege. Not everyone gets the opportunity to choose where they live, but those of us who manage to live near the beach understand that we get to sample some of Mother Nature's best.
Each day that we can walk with the waves that wash over the sand, our lives are enriched by the peace that those waves bring to us. The warmth of spring brings us back to the beach and its waves. The explosion of color that comes to beach often waits almost until summer when the sun is just right and the water turns an amazing tropical blue-green.
I'm not going to make a fool out of myself by declaring inland spring or a coastal spring to be the best. They are both a real treat. But as the song says, "Love the one you're with." With that in mind, the beach has my heart since it is less than seven miles away.
Friday, March 23, just might be the day that I tackle a few miles and let the sounds and smells of spring at the beach penetrate my soul and strengthen my heart. Being on the beach is one of the benefits of living on this side of a watery horizon.