Outer Banks Cape Hatteras National Sea Shore

CORE and Friends made our annual Halloween trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Recreation Area the last weekend of October.

At Ramp 59 (the last one before the ferry), we went back to the beach and up to the point where we stretched a bit more and watched the dolphins frolic in the channel.

Joining us this year from CORE were:

  • Mike and Deb K plus daughter Carolyn and four-legged family, Merlin and Dottie in the Expedition;
  • Mike V and Donna E in their Rubicon TJ;
  • Bill and Kathy plus four-legged Molly in their TJ;
  • Keith and Betty in their Colorado; and
  • Friends Gene and Brenda plus four-legged Monty in their recently acquired Unlimited TJ.

A number of other friends were unable to join us this year. Although we missed them, we had a great time. Great weather, great friends and great times. As is quickly becoming custom, the “weekend” started early for some and lasted late for others.

There was an early trip to Carova at the northern end of the Outer Banks right up to the Virginia State Line. After the pavement ends on NC Hwy 12, the road moves out to the beach. In the 1960s, a developer subdivided the land behind the dune line and mapped out streets. The lots were sold and the homeowners began building. There were plans for a highway south from Virginia Beach but it never got built. In fact, the land between Virginia Beach and Carova was designated as a state wilderness preserve. The town of Carova would have no access from Virginia Beach and it wasn’t until the 1980s that Hwy 12 was paved north to Corolla, the next town south from Carova. So Carova has become known as the four wheel drive area. The town fire trucks and ambulances are four wheel drive. The mailman drives a four wheel drive. The HVAC repairman drives a four wheel drive. The building supply company delivers lumber in four wheel drive truck and the children go to school in a four wheel drive bus.

There was shopping and a tour of a stained glass dealer’s home. Surprisingly this one was on several folks’ list separately! While some were viewing stained glass on Friday morning, Mike, Deb and Carolyn headed to check out the beach, starting by the airstrip at Ramp 49. They continued along the beach until they hit the closed portion in the village of Hatteras.

Early Friday afternoon, Mike and Donna and Keith and Betty met them at the Hatteras Ferry landing and then all headed to South Point by Hatteras Village where we wandered a bit and enjoyed the sun, sand and surf. There were a number of fishermen although we didn’t see that anyone was necessarily catching anything as the wind and wave action was pretty strong. We cut back through the Pole Road come back from the sound side of the point. Along the way, we discovered several of the trail markers had fallen. In the manner of “good” four wheelers everywhere, we grabbed the shovel and started “planting” the marker poles. It is absolutely amazing how much easier it is to plant a Carsonite marker in the sand than it is in a rocky National Forest.

By Friday evening, most had arrived and we gathered together for dinner at the Sandbar. We noticed several businesses that we had previously patronized were closed for the winter. It was not clear exactly why they were closing earlier this year. Had business been slow and they decided the costs of staying open were more than the money to be made? Or perhaps they had done relatively well this year and decided it was time to take some time off. Or??? Most of them were at least leaving indication that they would be back in the spring.

After dinner, we made the traditional night trip to point by the Hatteras light. The sky was unbelievably clear and we played “Name That Constellation”. It was blowing and a little on the chilly side so we didn’t last long before heading back to the comfort of our rooms.

By Saturday morning, Bill and Kathy had joined us and our group was complete. We headed to Ocracoke via the ferry. After a little while wandering about town where Howard St and the crafters’ gallery were discovered, we had lunch at Howard’s Pub and then headed to the Point. We found it well-populated, although not crowded and staked out a spot on the shore where we could all get out and stretch. The dogs took everyone for a walk and had a romp in the surf. The breezes had warmed and softened a bit from Friday and the weather was almost perfect. After a bit of that, we were back to driving on the sand as we headed towards the ferry landing via the sand route. We continued up to Ramp 67 where the signs indicated we could not get through to the next ramp on the beach so back to pavement we went. At Ramp 59 (the last one before the ferry), we went back to the beach and up to the point where we stretched a bit more and watched the dolphins frolic in the channel. We then boarded the 5:00 ferry for Hatteras. Dinner followed at the Diamond Shoals. We looked for something different on the ferry and considered a place called Dinky’s but apparently business is better than we thought as they preferred to turn us away rather than agree to splitting the check 5 ways for 11 people. We said our good night and goodbyes as most were headed home Sunday morning.

Another great trip. With luck, we’ll be able to do it again next year in April but the next chapter in the saga of the Audubon Society, Defenders of (Some) Wildlife, the Southern Environmental Law Center and their accomplice, Judge Boyle of the 4th District may be upon us soon. The National Park Service is required by the Consent Decree which currently governs the ORV use in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Recreation Area (CHNSRA) is required to publish an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in preparation for a final management plan and the deadline looms near with doubts about their ability to comply. Should the deadline be missed, it is not clear what will be the next interim measure. Will it be to continue under the consent decree? If so, for how long? Or will Judge Boyle decide to implement something even more restrictive? Only time will tell.

Whatever your personal politics, these are facts as they stand. Piping plovers and other birds are given priority in management of the CHNSRA currently. Their protection and large boundaries around them are enforced by law to exclude vehicles, pedestrians and natural predators. The birds’ natural predators, some of them also protected elsewhere, are removed from the area, sometimes by killing the predators. There is a great deal of controversy about the quality of the science used to support these decisions and a great deal of emotion concerning the current state. Business in the area is down, whether or not directly attributable to the beach closures. As a matter of opinion, it is quite likely that the court involvement is far from over, too. Stay tuned, stay informed and stay active.

But for now, CORE and friends has had another great weekend enjoying the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Recreation Area responsibly and safely. If the powers that be allow it, we’ll be back next year. Maybe you can join us? Even a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at work.

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

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