Beach season really never stops on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks. We just have days when there are better places to be than the beach. However, the official beach season usually begins Saint Patrick's Day. Last year we had enjoyed plenty of warmth already by the middle of March. It was markedly different than the spring of 2011.
This year the weather has mostly cooperated with the season opening. It has not been a bad winter but we did have some cold and cloudy days in February and now the winds are here. On top of that there is construction on the Emerald Isle bridge which will not be finished for another few weeks. The combination of cool days, wind and traffic delays on the bridge kept me away from my favorite beaches during the month of February 2013. It is rare that I miss a whole month.
Somehow when I bundle up in a down vest and wind jacket, I do not feel as out of place walking along the woods by the marshes as I do over on the beach. Recently with the nice weather on the mainland, I have been able to ditch the down vest but it is always a lot cooler over on the beach early in the season. Our February warmth usually only lasts for a few hours at a time and my default action during those short warm periods is to go for a winter boat ride.
Saint Patrick's Day weekend turned out to be different or at least a hint of things to come. The wind was here but we had plenty of heat to compensate. The temperature probably hit seventy degrees and our blue skies returned to go with the warmth. Construction on the bridge was also suspended for the Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day Festival. Of course the festival and one of the first really nice days of spring happening on the same day meant that to avoid traffic on the bridge, you needed to go early.
As they say, the stars were aligned. I left home early enough to make it to the Emerald Isle Festival by 11:00 AM. I managed to get a good parking place and intended to walk around the festival and at least get a picture or two of some of the bands. Even before noon the early the crowds at the festival were amazing.
We were still a long way from the stage when the river of people that was carrying me along, just stopped moving. My crowd tolerance is low so after a minute or two I finally gave up and headed back to the entrance where my favorite barbecue stand is located. I bought my barbecue sandwich, took a mouth-watering picture of all that pork on the grill and headed over to Ace Hardware to find a spot to enjoy my sandwich. It was a perfect, slightly spicy Eastern North Carolina barbecue sandwich with good slaw to top it off.
Next I made my way back to my car and headed west along the beach and Coast Guard Road towards the Point. The Point is as far west as you can go on Emerald Isle. It is an amazing area and as vehicles stop driving on the beach in time for the summer visitors, the Point becomes an even more natural spot. I love to walk there because it one of those places where change is constant.
I map the Point regularly to check for changes to the beach. If you look at one of my maps on Google Maps, you might wonder how I manage to walk on water. It turns out that my maps are more accurate and updated more regularly than Google's maps. The lines representing my walks on my maps are always on sand on the land side of the waves. I use my maps to make sure visitors who buy our travel guide know what is happening to the beaches. I am working on an update to our travel guide and hope to have it published by the end of March 2013.
I first visited the Point in the summer of 1969 and visiting there brings back more and more memories. The Point has changed dramatically since we moved here in 2006. In November of 2007, there essentially was no Point, there was just water at the end of the vehicle ramp as you can see from this picture.
Five and one half years later there is over 1,700 feet of sand where it was hard to find any in November, 2007. This picture that I took on Saturday, March 16, shows sand almost as far as the eye can see.
I had a nice long walk at The Point on Saturday, March 16, 2013. I walked enough that it should be clear that beach season is here. It will be one of many walks there this year. I have posted some pictures and will add more pictures of my hike as soon as I get a chance to sort through them. This link will take you to the album where you can find my latest collection of pictures of the Point.