Cape Hatteras Beach Run

The last few years, CORE and Friends have congregated around Buxton NC for Halloween at the Beach and the thought has been raised several times that we should try a spring trip. Keith Holman kindly organized this event to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area for a relaxing weekend of mild wheeling, kicking back on the beach, and hanging out with old and new friends.

We drove on the beach, parked the vehicles and had a wonderful listening to the sound of the breaking ocean waves under the dark North Carolina sky.

Joining us this time were:

  • Keith and Betty in the orange Chevy Colorado – CORE
  • Gene and Brenda Flynn in the blue Chevy Tahoe- Guest
  • Mike V and Donna in the white Jeep Rubicon – CORE
  • Paul Lepine in the Silver Jeep Unlimited – CORE
  • Brandon and Amanda Wells in the gold GMC Sonoma – Guest

Thursday morning we left a rainy Maryland for the promise of mild temperatures and sunny weather. We arrived in Buxton, NC to beautiful weather, temperatures in the upper sixties with a light ocean breeze. Keith and Betty were planning on arriving a bit later in the evening so Donna and I checked out the town and ended up in a local pub.

Here we struck up a conversation with the pub owner and a local resident about the beach closure situation. They provided perspective. After talking to them both for a bit you realize the enormity of the situation they are faced with. You realize how much of their livelihood depends on beaches remaining open; you realize how much the local residents love their beaches and you learn of the their hard efforts to protect the beach and keep it clean; you realize how huge the legal battle is, with them facing off with the large environmental groups who have deep pockets to hire the most powerful lawyers.

At the pub, we learned that tonight was the last night for driving on the beach access after 10 PM. This moratorium is in effect until the fall. Needless to say we were going out on a night run this evening.

When Keith and Betty arrived, we had a nice dinner at the Diamond Shoals restaurant. After the sun set we headed out to Cape Point beach located immediately off of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We drove a bit until we hit a beach closure area. Afterwards we headed further south on NC 12 until we arrived at the beach accesses near the airstrip between Friscoe and Buxton. We drove on the beach, parked the vehicles and had a wonderful listening to the sound of the breaking ocean waves under the dark North Carolina sky.

Friday morning found the four of us planning a trip to Ocracoke Island while we waited for the rest of the group to show up later in the day. Access to Ocracoke Island is only possible by public ferry, private boat, or air. Private boat and air were not an option on this trip. So we took the ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island. While waiting for the ferry to depart, Betty and Donna shopped the local gift stores immediately adjacent to the ferry terminal. Keith and I passed the time conversing with one of the employees of the ferry terminal company. He too expressed concern about the future of the local economy. He wondered about the future of his own job since so fewer visitors and tourists were coming to Cape Hatteras because of the beach closures and the current slump in the economy – a double whammy for all of the local businesses in the area.

After a 45 minute ferry ride and a 12 mile drive south on NC 12, we arrived in the shore village of Ocracoke. The four of us spent the next couple of hours leisurely strolling the town and visiting the numerous gift shops along the way. Before heading back to Hatteras Island we stopped for a great lunch at Howards Pub.

On the way back to the motel Donna and I stopped at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Here we climbed the 248 steps to reach the top. At the top we were rewarded with high winds and a spectacular 360 degree view of the town and the beaches – well worth the climb. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built during 1868 to 1870. It was the tallest brick lighthouse at the time with a height of 207 feet. In order to save the lighthouse from being swallowed up by the ocean, it was move 2900 feet between June and July of 1999. Quite amazing.

By the time that dinner rolled around Paul Lepine and Keith’s cousin Gene and his wife Brenda arrived. The group had dinner at the Sandbar Restaurant where certain “bird” decal with a message for the Audubon Society with the hit of the restaurant with the wait staff.

After dinner the festivities continued at the Holman’s room where good company and good conversation was enjoyed by all. Here is where we learned of the secret recipe for the Keith Holman “Mystic Pizza Poncho” specialty drink and the story behind its inception.

Saturday awoke to another wonderful day, clear skies and a mild breeze filled the air. We hooked up with Brandon Wells who arrived with Amanda and their new born late Friday night. Today’s adventure took us to the beach access points north of Avon. Here we entered one of the beach access points and proceeded along. Soon after entering the beach we noticed that Brandon’s Sonoma was stuck immediately after entering the beach. The rear of his truck had sunk into the soft sand and his differential was resting on the sand preventing forward and backward motion.

We broke out the shovels and cleared sand from under the axle. We initially tried to push his vehicle forward. Several of us, including me got behind the vehicle while Brandon attempted to go forward with a bit of a heavy foot. A huge “rooster tail” of sand kicked up and hit us all. We all scrambled and spit sand from our mouths and brushed lots of sand from hair and every part of our body. Apparently others in our groups saw these events unfold and said it was a hysterical site to see us all running from behind a sand storm.

We got Brandon free by digging out some more sand and this time pushing his vehicle from the front backwards onto solid ground. We could see that that the reason he got stuck was because even though his vehicle was in four wheel drive, the front axle was not engaging. With some fiddling in the parking lot, he got the front axle engaged and joined us on the beach. We drove on the beach north for many miles. We rode up to and under the Avon Pier and continued until we could go no further because of a beach closure area.

At some point in time the four wheel drive issues on Sonoma returned. Again the rear axle sunk in the loose sand with his front axles not pulling at all. This time we used Paul’s winch to pull Brandon’s truck onto more solid footing. We investigated the problem a bit and found several vacuum lines that control the front axle modulator cracked and spongy.

By this time lunch was upon us so we got off the beach and stopped at a local deli for food and relaxation. After lunch Brandon and I went to his motel to replace some of the the vacuum lines while the rest of the group headed to the beach access points near the ferry. With new vacuum lines in place Brandon and I joined up with the rest of the group on the near the South Point beach.

From here more beach access points were hit on the way back to Buxton to get ready for dinner. Another evening was enjoyed with the entire group at the Sandbar Restaurant again. Good company and good food was enjoyed.

Soon Sunday morning was upon us and the long drive back home. We found Maryland exactly how we left it – damp, raining, and cloudy. On the drive home we reminisced about the wonderful time we just had at the beach where the weather was wonderful, the wheeling was relaxing, and the company was great. I am already looking forward to doing this again in the fall.

Trail report written by Mike Vincenty. Pictures courtesy of Keith Holman and Mike Vincenty.

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