Going Green in the Tar Heel State

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There appears to be an increasing trend of responsible travelers who consider the environment and sustainability when booking a trip, visiting a park or dining out at a local restaurant. Today it seems, “Going green is more than being cool, it is also smart!” From “green city” travel apps to eco-friendly lodging, more and more travelers, vendors, and travel organizations are choosing eco-friendly options. In May, Mandala Research and Sustainable Travel International released an 80+page report that surveyed nearly 3,000 travelers. Sixty-three percent of all travelers say they are much more likely to consider destinations where there is a strong effort to conserve and protect natural resources. Fortunately, the Tar Heel State offers a wealth of resources for the green-conscious traveler.

Businesses Strive toward a Green Standard

North Carolina’s GreenTravel Recognition Program is one of the most comprehensive in the nation. It was launched in 2011 becoming NC’s first statewide sustainable travel recognition program. Businesses that demonstrate a commitment to green tourism practices and achieve voluntary standards are eligible for recognition. These standards include compliance to regulatory rules and regulations, environmental protection policies, sustainability practices, waste reduction and recycling, energy management procedures and other guidelines.nc green travel initiativeGreen tourism operations include lodging, food service, attractions, museums, parks, vacation rentals, convention centers, festivals and other travel-oriented businesses. The initiative has been developed through a partnership of the North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service; The Center for Sustainability at East Carolina University; Visit North Carolina, and the Waste Reduction Partners program.

Tim Rhodes, Program Director of the NC GreenTravel Initiative, recently explained, “The purpose of the NC GreenTravel Initiative is to encourage a strong economy and promote sustainable tourism by awarding recognition to those businesses that apply and are accepted into the program.” The recognition program promotes robust economic growth and environmental stewardship in the travel and hospitality sector through the recognition of “green” travel-oriented businesses. Best of all, there is no cost involved in becoming a recognized NC GreenTravel business.

Digital Directory & Helpful Links

The website is a valuable toolkit for both residents and visitors traveling in North Carolina. Visitors to the site can browse a list or navigate a state map of Recognized NC GreenTravel members across the state. Tourism sectors are broken into several categories from lodging, dining, attractions, parks, festivals, vine & wine, nature-based and breweries. More than 100 businesses, parks, travel centers and other tourism sites are listed on the map and crisscross the state from Walnut Hollow Ranch in Hayesville to Cape Hatteras B & B in Buxton. Rhodes noted that there are 14 North Carolina State Parks participating in the NC GreenTravel Initiative including Merchants Millpond State Park in Gatesville, NC. The initiative has recently announced that Sustainable Farms can now apply for recognition. Farms currently listed on the program’s website include Hop’n Blueberry Farm in Black Mountain, Summerfield Farms in Summerfield, Ninja Cow Farm in Raleigh and Good Karma Ranch in Iron Station. These farms have met and exceeded the required criteria for becoming recognized as a Sustainable Tourism Farm.

merchants millpond state park

NC GreenTravel recognized Green Park – Merchants Millpond State Park

Whether you’re a business or traveler, you’ll discover a number of sustainable travel resources and links throughout the website – from NC Agritourism, tips for sustainable practices to green dining. Thanks to this exciting green travel program and partnership, NC travelers can now easily discover and support sustainable businesses throughout the Old North State.

Want to learn more? The North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (NC DEACS) can help businesses become more sustainable by providing them with non-regulatory, no-cost technical assistance and information. For information about the services provided by NC DEACS, contact tom.rhodes@ncdenr.gov or call (919) 707-8140.

Green Trips & Tips Along the Albemarle Sound Region

 

 

Step back in time and stay at the Beechtree Inn located in Hertford, NC. Choose among five pre-Civil War houses perched along 40 acres. A few of the cottages are pet-friendly. After a hearty country breakfast, take a road trip to Merchants Millpond State Park. Rent a canoe and paddle the enchanted cypress swamp and millpond.

 

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Day 2. Enjoy a lovely north-of-the-sound drive to the Outer Banks. Start the morning along one of NC Birding Trails at North River Game Land in Camden Co. Spend a casual afternoon fishing or strolling along NC Aquarium’s Jennett’s Pier in Nags Head, NC. Be sure to buy some NC Local Catch seafood while your dining out or shopping at the local market.

 

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Paddling Milltail Creek

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A group of Edenton paddlers recently traveled across the sound for an adventurous day exploring the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to black bear, deer, reptiles and a variety of waterfowl. Alligators and red wolves also inhabit the 152,000-acres of wild land, wetlands and water. Milltail Creek and Sawyer Lake are popular recreational areas within the boundaries of the refuge and a network of paddle trails is easily accessed from Hwy 64 approximately 15 miles west of Manteo, NC.

Milltail Creek Paddle Trails

Twelve of us caravanned from the Peanut Mill in Edenton, NC to the trailhead, which is located two miles off Hwy 64 at the end of Buffalo City Rd. Paddlers can choose among four paddle trails in the Milltail Creek/Sawyer Lake region of the refuge. Each trail has a color-coded marker along the route that directs paddlers to trail changes and/or trail intersections. Our group was excited to explore these designated paddling trails, which are also called water trails or blueways. Multi-agency coordination, non-profits and volunteers have developed hundreds of miles of trails throughout the Albemarle Sound. Developed paddle trails provide printed and digital information, convenient access, signage, safe parking areas and alternate routes that can accommodate a wide variety of user groups.

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Novice paddlers and families with young children can enjoy the 1.5-mile loop (red) trail that includes a paddle through a narrow canal and a strand along Milltail Creek. There’s also a 5.5-mile point-to-point option (blue trail) along Milltail Creek, which requires a shuttle or a vehicle drop from a canoe/kayak access point along Milltail Rd. The yellow trail follows Milltail Creek west for four miles to the confluence of the Alligator River. The round trip out-and-back is approximately eight miles. The green trail follows the small canal to a passageway that leads paddlers to beautiful Sawyer Lake.

Spirited Trip Leader

Allan, our group leader, always prepares well when he plans a group outing. He does his homework with the research, shoots us a trip summary and invitation. A few weeks later, a dozen or so local paddlers show up for the annual adventure. Allan also has a knack for keeping things fun and maintaining a “go with flow” attitude on each trip.

milltailcreeklanding

After we parked and surveyed the scene at this year’s outing, our energized group offloaded the boats and gear then shared ideas about which paddling trails we wanted to explore. A couple of others intuitively scouted out the launch options to various routes. Immediately from the launch area, boaters face a decision to paddle up a narrow canal (red trail) filled with alligator weed or sneak through a narrow passageway underneath a small bridge and escape into Milltail Creek. Since the wind was light in the morning, we opted for the wide-open space and methodically launched each of our boats, paddled under the wooden bridge, scooted through a weed-clogged barrier and eased into a panoramic view of Milltail Creek.

Even though we were only an hour or so from our paddling commute, we were now paddling in paradise on a gorgeous day and one filled with endless possibilities.

Milltail Creek

Our colorful kayaks provided a delightful contrast with the tannin-soaked water and green alligator weed-choked shoreline. Milltail Creek appeared more of a lake than a creek in some areas. We chose to hug the eastern shore where we soon noticed a trail marker with multiple colors that indicated the intersection of the green Sawyer Lake Trail. We continued along Milltail Creek and paddled approximately 1.5 miles into a beautiful cove. Once out of the cove, we noticed a significant headwind blowing from the south. We paddled another half mile and crossed over the expansive creek then continued along the west bank. A few of us noticed the blue markers along the trail as we completed a circuit on Milltail Creek.

redtrailmilltailcreek

Returning back to the landing, we took advantage of a restroom and snack break then forged ahead up the small canal trail. This section parallels the Sandy Ridge Wildlife Trail – a half-mile footpath that heads out of the parking lot. The narrow passage proved to be lots of fun as our train of boats zigzagged through alligator weed thickets, over downed trees and under outstretched limbs. After twenty minutes, we reached the same intersection that we had scoped out earlier and picked up the blue trail leading to Sawyer Lake.

Sawyer Lake

As we entered Sawyer Lake, OBX Kayak Adventures was leading an Alligator River NWR tour with approximately ten paddlers. The refuge offers licensed commercial outfitters special permits for guiding activities. Several outfitters from the Outer Banks conduct paddling tours to the area.

The lake is surrounded by wetland forests of bald cypress-gum, cedar, loblolly pine, and a variety of bay forest species. Remnant stands of Atlantic White Cedar can be observed throughout the refuge’s forests. We noticed several cavities hammered out by woodpeckers in a number of snags lining the shore. The shoreline is quite deceptive and really isn’t defined by solid ground. A few of us stuck our kayak paddles into the water as depth finders near the islands of alligator weed and lily pads. In most cases, we didn’t hit bottom.

fragrantwaterlilymilltailcreek

In a secluded cove, we instinctively huddled into a rafting group on the northeast corner of the lake and simply let the wind direct our course of travel. We seemed quite content drifting along as we marveled at the natural landscape and mirrored reflections of the lake, forest and sky. Conversations of the historic past were casually discussed. Days of moonshining, dodging revenuers and Buffalo City memoirs were tossed around as we unconsciously shared the natural wonders of wild space.

Reluctantly, we slowly paddled our final leg of the day’s journey. Combining the various trails, our group covered approximately seven miles while utilizing three different trails. Even though we didn’t observe any bears or alligators, the Milltail Creek paddling trip gifted us with a “taste of the wild” and a greater appreciation of the region we work live and play in. Our paddling experience in the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge reminded all of us how good it can be when we successfully balance conservation, education, research, and wildlife with nature, recreation and wilderness. Paddle on!

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A Moveable Fest along the Albemarle Sound

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Even before the summer season officially begins, three towns along the Albemarle Sound and Outer Banks kick off a trio of festivals that highlight our region’s wonderful resources. Here’s a summer sampling of early festivals that welcome the season and promise to be filled with lots of summer fun! One features craft beer, one showcases the black bear and water takes center stage for another festival. The only challenge may be the fact that they take place along the same week or weekend. I’m opting for a moveable feast checking out the bears on Friday, paddling on Saturday and sipping on a delicious cold brew on Sunday. Three fests, spread out over 60 miles but connected by the Albemarle Sound!

outerbanks craft beer summer events albemarle sound

Outer Banks Craft Beer Week

May 30 – June 5
Various Venues along the Outer Banks

This year’s celebration of small batch brewing has grown from a single day craft beer fest in Nags Head into an exciting week-long marriage between the craft beer industry and the arts! The Outer Banks Craft Beer Week features multiple venues and sponsored events along NC’s Outer Banks! Event organizers have taken the best of last year’s favorite happenings and added six more days of brews-infused experiences including the OBX Brewfest, Brewathlon, a craft brewer retreat, live music, an art show, beer-meets-yoga, beach parties and more.

Over 80 breweries and soda purveyors will be featuring more than 180 styles of craft beverages. Tickets sold out last year so order early and enjoy one of the region’s best craft beer festival. More info and tickets.

 

Edenton Music Festival_Flyer

18th Annual Edenton Music and Water Festival

Friday & Saturday
June 3 & 4

Edenton, NC

Jump start the summer in style with a sizzling weekend of music, paddle sports, demo’s, children activities and more! A Friday evening sunset paddle kicks off the festival at 6:30 pm. Kayaks and canoes will be available for free with advance reservations. This year’s event promises to be an exciting fest with the addition of live music and a beverage garden on Friday, 7 – 10 pm.

Saturday is chock full of music, free boat rides, paddling clinics, arts & crafts, food vendors and other family-friendly fun. Be sure to watch the U.S. Coast Guard’s simulated rescue along Edenton Bay! More info.

 

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2nd Annual NC Black Bear Festival

Friday through Sunday
June 3 -5
Plymouth, NC

The NC Black Bear Festival celebrates and recognizes one of our region’s precious natural resource — part celebration, part education and all about fun! The 2nd annual festival offers a variety of events from bear tours in the wild to a 5K Run with the Bears. Other activities during the weekend include paddling events, a classic car show, wooden boat show, beauty pageant, storytelling, live music, fireworks, crafts, free boat tours, children’s events and more. Check out the entire schedule of events. More info.

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Spring Outings along the Sound

4 spring outings the Albemarle SoundApril can be one of the best months of the year to enjoy the region. Refreshing weather, fragrant blossoms and seasonal events fill the spring calendar. So get outside, beat the summer crowds and checkout these four spring outings along the Albemarle Sound.

Climb Bodie Island Lighthouse

Lighthouse Climbs and Tours
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Beginning Friday, April 15

Cape Hatteras National Seashore includes three lighthouses. Two of these are open seasonally for self-guided climbs. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse open their lighthouses beginning the third Friday in April through Columbus Day. Reward yourself after the strenuous climb with the towering views of the sound, surf and sea. Climbing tickets: $8 adults/ $4 senior citizens (62 or older), & children (11 and under, and at least 42″ tall).

 

spring outings easels in the garden

Easels in the Gardens
Edenton, NC
FR & SA (4/15 & 16)

The weekend of “open air” painting includes regional artists’ inspirational works of art in local gardens including the Colonial Revival Gardens surrounding Edenton’s iconic Cupola House. Activities include garden tours, music, food, workshops and art for children. Tickets for the two-day event includes admission to Saturday’s Garden Party, which features food, drink, an art sale and auction. $30 advance/$35 on day’s of the event. More info.

 

spring outings events albemarle sound

OBX Cares
Kill Devil Hills, NC
FR (4/22), 2 – 7pm

The Outer Banks Brew Station and OBX Cares team up for the 3rd Annual Earth Day Celebration and Benefit. OBX CARES is dedicated to the focus of earth-friendly mindfulness and animal rescue in Dare and surrounding counties. Come out and support the OBX Community for Animal Rescue & Earth Sustainability and enjoy live music, food, CARES Beer, pony rides, local art and crafts and a silent auction.

 

spring outings the elizabethan gardensThe Elizabethan Gardens
Manteo, NC
Open Year Round

Seasonal Sensations! The Gardens celebrate their 65th anniversary this year and April is a prime season to tour the gardens. Spring is in full bloom so enjoy a stroll through the Great Lawn and Colony Walk to observe everything from dogwoods and Columbine to roses and azaleas. The Elizabethan Gardens were established to honor the first English colonists in the New World at the site of the original settlement. The 12-acre garden provides cultural and educational opportunities that encourage an appreciation of the art of gardening. Be sure to stop by the gift shop located in the historic gatehouse. The gardens are open year-round, seven days a week. April hours of operation are 9am-5pm. Admission fees: Adult/$9, Youth/$6, Children/$3, Dogs/$3.

things to do along the Albemarle Sound

 

 

 

 

 

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Dog Friendly along the Albemarle Sound

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Winter often ushers in a season of nor’ easterly winds, dreary days and sub-freezing temperatures. Here in Eastern NC, we also have lovely stretches of milder weather. And those of us who own dogs are certainly glad to have several pet-friendly options available to us when the forecasts are favorable. Here’s a winter sampling of all things dog friendly along the Albemarle Sound.

Parks, trails and wagging tails

There are endless opportunities for dog friendly outings along the Albemarle Sound and Outer Banks. From county parks and multi-use trails to National Seashores and waterfront boardwalks. Many towns and parks encourage a pet welcoming environment. Some accommodate pet owners with user-friendly pet waste stations, dog-friendly parks and courtesy fountains for canines.

I live in the very pet friendly town of Edenton, NC. I recently walked my dog Harper with my friend Doug and his dog Wanda. I was talking to him about how friendly our town was and he quickly smiled and added, “The dogs are nice too!” We both met several months ago while walking our dogs in Queen Anne Park. Several of the small parks, neighborhoods and open spaces along Edenton Bay and the Edenton Cotton Mill Village offer ideal dog walking opportunities with convenient waste stations, open space and beautiful views of the bay. Unfortunately, there are no off-leash parks in the region of the Albemarle Sound. If you’re looking at scouting out new parks and facilities, be sure to check their rules and regulations and obey all leash laws. Some parks have restricted seasons when dogs are not allowed so it’s best to do a little research before you and Fido head out to a new place.

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Dog lovers and explorers

Traveling around the sound, I’ve discovered several parks in the region that are dog friendly. Nags Head Woods Preserve offers several designated dog-friendly trails of various lengths including the Roanoke, Discovery, Town and ADA Trails. The town of Kitty Hawk operates the year-round Sandy Run Park, which adjoins the two-mile Paul Pruitt Multi-Use Path along The Woods Rd. Together, their trails and paths offer an extended winter outing for your family, friends and canine. My wife and I have a hyperactive chocolate lab so we recently took Harper out along the half-mile boardwalk at Sandy Run then ventured out on the paved multi-use path for an additional two miles. The paved trail is generally sheltered from coastal winds and there’s parking and restrooms available at Sandy Run Park.

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Canines on the coast

The beaches along the Outer Banks become less restrictive for pets during the off season so be sure to consider the seventy-plus miles of open beaches during your next mild winter outing. Most beach towns and public beaches still require leashes and in most cases, leashes which are not longer than 6 feet. The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau provides a comprehensive one-stop resource concerning dog-friendly beaches and town regulations for visitors to the OBX.

North Carolina State Parks provide pet-friendly facilities as well. Jockey’s Ridge in Nags Head and Pettigrew State Park along the shorelines of Lake Phelps both allow leashed pets.

dog friendly along the albemarle sound

Finally, our own National Parks celebrate their 100th anniversary this year! The park service permits dogs year-round (must always be restricted to a 6’ leash and designated swim beaches excluded) so load up your dogs when you travel along Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Last month, I was pleasantly surprised to find a handy pet fountain during our last canine adventure to the Bodie Island Visitor Center and Lighthouse.

wavelinksdogfriendlymap

Fore more dog friendly info, visit our interactive map and use our category filter “dog-friendly” to browse more resources including lodging, pet supply stores and restaurants who love dogs. Have fun, be safe and enjoy all the dog-friendly retreats along the sound!

What’s in Your Doggie Bag? Be sure to pack treats, toys, water, bowl, waste bags and a towel. Always be courteous to others and pick up/dispose of waste. Make sure your pet is wearing a secure collar, I.D. and registration tag. You’ll be set for your next excursion.

 

 

 

 

 

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North Carolina Guides to Craft Distillers & Breweries

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Two new guides have recently been published just in time for the holiday season. The publications conveniently package their products into a resourceful map and guide that showcase the Tar Heel State’s craft spirits and brews. One leads the adventurer along a Craft Distillers Trail while the other entices folks with a comprehensive tour of North Carolina’s 181 breweries and 43 craft beer festivals.

North Carolina’s Craft Spirits

No doubt about it, from early colonial days to prohibition North Carolina has always had a rich heritage in the culture of making spirits. But instead of the bootlegging or moonshiner reputation, today’s legal craft distillers are often described as artisans, scientists and entrepreneurs. The state’s recent craft distillery business is beginning to blossom. Across the state, from the mountains of WNC to the Outer Banks, distilleries are creating spirits crafted from family recipes, locally sourced ingredients and lots of l-o-v-e. Some craft spirit enthusiasts refer to the growing trend as the farm-to-flask movement.

Recent NC legislation has made it a tad bit easier for distillers to sell their artisanal spirits on site with some mandated restrictions. The new law enacted October 1 2015, allows distillery permit holders, which offer guided tours, to sell one bottle, per person, per year.

Perfect Timing

About the same time the ABC Ominbus Legislation was passed, The NC Distillers Association and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services published a free Passport to the state’s Craft Distillers Trail. The handsome “Collector’s Edition” includes a 30-page pocket guide which features a map, an alphabetical listing of all of the distillers and detailed information about each craft distillery. Sticking with the passport theme, patrons can have their passports stamped at each distillery they visit and true to form, “Each seal is unique as its location.”

Our Albermarle Sound neighbors, Outer Banks Distilling are members of the NC Distillers Association and of course, they’re included in the Craft Distillers Trail. The local distillery is located in historic downtown Manteo and they lay claim as the first legal distillery on the Outer Banks. The small batch distillery creates Kill Devil Rum and Buffalo City Rye, which according to the guide are both named after local lore. I’ve personally enjoyed their delicious “molasses to glasses” premium white rum.

Speaking locally, Scott Smith, one of the four owners of Kill Devil Rum recently informed me that their Carolina pecan honey and seasonally spiced rum has hit the shelves at regional ABC stores. The premium dark rum was hand crafted in Manteo with pecans from Manns Harbor and honey from Wanchese. Can’t get more local than that! The seasonal rum can also be purchased at their distillery located at 510 Budleigh St. Come out and support the guys at Kill Devil Rum and pick up a bottle of rum and a copy of the passport. Last time I checked, the distillery was low on the popular passports. Also check for copies at all NC Welcome Centers. Click here for more info.

thegreatN.C.beer map

Photo courtesy of EDIA Maps

The Great N.C. Craft Beer Map

Charlotte-based EDIA Maps published this fun and clever guide in October. It is the brainchild of “map makers and adventure takers” Amanda Fisher and Paul Bright. In their original press release, the cartographers stated that, “The Great N.C. Beer Map provides detailed information on all the craft breweries in the state and can be used as a resource for planning a trip and tracking one’s travels. It is also an educational resource for understanding the art, science, and history of craft brewing.”

Over 200 breweries and beer festivals are featured on the map. Creative sidebars compliment the map and include information about the Science of Ordering, The Wild World of Beer and even an Illustrated History of Beer Games. Sounds like a spendid gift for those who love craft beer and boutique maps. Fisher suggested that The Great N.C. Craft Beer Map is the perfect tool for planning an excursion to various craft breweries in the state. She added, “We wanted to give people an idea of what the brewery experience would be like and what to plan for, while still leaving a few surprises to be discovered.”

Gift one of your friends, family or loved ones this holiday with a unique NC-crafted niche map or poster. Colorful folded maps are available online for $9.99 and unfolded NC beer memorabilia poster versions sell for $29.99. You can also pick up copies at the breweries and various retail locations.

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Autumn Solitude on Bodie Island

bodieislandlighthouse

We’re still on our fall discovery tour and taking advantage of good weather and fewer crowds. I call this the “edge effect” which occurs between two seasons. I’ve sneaked in some of my best adventures during these opportunistic times. I’m back on the road and trail and this time I’m exploring Cape Hatteras National Seashore. In 1953, Congress protected this coastal resource, which was designated as being natural and recreational significant to preserve forever. Cape Hatteras National Seashore is administered by the National Park Service, which preserves and protects the windswept seacoast stretching nearly 80 miles. The seashore spans north to south across three islands – Bodie, Hatteras and Ocracoke.

Seasonal Notes

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is open year-round although facilities, programs and activities change with the seasons. For example, the three lighthouses along these islands are not open for climbing after Columbus Day and don’t reopen until the third Friday in April 2016. Cape Point Campground located on Cape Hatteras, is the only National Park Service campground open during the fall through the end of November.

So during the off-season, I’ve personally found you give up a few perks offered during summer’s peak season including interpretive programs but you end up with rewarding self-guided and intimate adventures.

Editor’s note: The Ocracoke Island Lighthouse is not open for climbing year round. Only base tours are available during the summer.

bodieislandlighthouse

Accessible Adventures

One of the first points of interest on the northern section of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the Bodie Island Visitor Center & Lighthouse. It is located off of NC 12 between Nags Head and the Oregon Inlet approximately eight miles south of Whalebone Junction (US 158 and US 64 intersection).

From the parking lot in front of the lighthouse, visitors can conveniently discover a variety of habitats including open fields, remote wetlands, maritime forests, salt marshes, beaches and dunes. During a recent trip, the only visitors I observed were wildlife photographers, birders and birds. According to the NC Birding Trail, late fall and early winter is the perfect time to observe wading birds and numerous waterfowl species which migrate and/or winter along Hatteras.

The wildlife trail from the parking area leads visitors along a half-mile boardwalk to an observation deck that overlooks an expansive freshwater pond. The last day of October, I observed Horned Grebes, Northern Shovelors, several Black Scoters, and a Tri-colored Heron feeding among the cordgrass.

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American Black Ducks – Bodie Island

Another wildlife area to explore begins at the gravel road near the south end of the parking lot. A gated service road extends out to a tidal creek and a dock owned by a private hunting club. Anglers are often seen fishing this local creek from the dock and small skiffs. I enjoyed watching two fly fisherman or “water whippers” roll casting along the edge of the bank.

Visitors often see marsh rabbits, turtles, crabs along the creek and marshlands. Occasionally, one can hear the short series of clacking sounds from the Clapper Rail but seldom do hikers get a chance to view this large rail species– one that locals refer to as a marsh hen or mud chicken. Both of the walks reward the hiker with wide open vistas, wildlife viewing and of course, strategic views of the 170’ lighthouse.

Bodie Island can be enjoyed as a brief stopover or a half-day excursion. Binoculars are recommended to get up close and personal with our feathered friends. Also, be sure to check the local hunting season scheduled during the fall/winter. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is open daily, 9am to 5pm, September – May; 9am to 6pm. Oh yeah, act like a local and be sure to pronounce Bodie correctly (Body).

 

 

 

 

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Cycling Around the Albemarle Sound

Views of Croatan Sound reward cyclists along Manteo's multi-use path.

Views of Croatan Sound reward cyclists along Manteo’s multi-use path.

My wife and I recently moved to the land along the Albemarle Sound. Cycling the area has been a great way to discover the coastal region. I’ve always enjoyed exploring a new place while I’m running, hiking, walking or riding. You instantly get a ‘feel’ of the topography, smell the fresh tilled farms and develop a muscle memory of the landscape. There’s something about cycling that causes me to reflect upon a pleasant nostalgia of distant journeys, dirt-ball adventures and happenstance encounters. So whenever I clip in, saddle up and ride along the white line of the highway, I eventually contemplate the past, present and future. If you’re planning your own cycling adventure along the Albemarle Sound, here’s a few pre-trip planning resources that might assist you with your next ride.

Albemarle Sound Advice

North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) Division of Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation designated a system of bicycling highways. They publish free maps of each route. The state system of bike-friendly routes offer nine different routes that cover over 3,000 miles of lightly traveled highways. Several years ago, I traveled the 300-mile Ports of Call Route (NC Bike Route 3) from South Carolina to Virginia. The route leads cyclists along a historic colonial-era rendezvous of the Tar Heel state’s historic port cities and towns.

bike route

The Division of Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation also publishes regional and local maps. One of the ‘go-to’ guides I suggest for cyclists of all levels is Bike Albemarle. The guide offers more than a dozen local loop routes, several connector routes and additional state and extended routes. The resourceful guide showcases interesting towns, points of interest, bicycle shops, restaurants and camping facilities. I’ve found the map the perfect planner and companion guide for local day-trips to weeklong outings. All of the maps provide a section of bicycle safety and NC state laws, which are useful for both novice and experienced riders.

Cycling the Outer Banks

There are several cycling options along the OBX albeit summer months may not be the best season for cyclists due to the increased traffic and visitation to the coast. The Dare County Bicycle Map offers a series of contiguous rides along wide paved shoulders, multi-use paths, and other longer routes including a section of the Mountains to Sea cross-state bicycling highway. The 7-mile side-path option along Roanoke Island offers a perfect outing for families. A number of historic sites and parks can be conveniently accessed along the trail including Roanoke Island Festival Park, NC Maritime Museum, NC Aquarium and Fort Raleigh Historic Site.

Part of a rewarding and successful cycling experience begins with a detailed map and a trip checklist. So order a free set of maps to help you navigate the scenic backroads along the sound. Be safe and invite a friend along for your next ride!

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Roanoke Island Paddling Excursion

 

break along Roanoke IslandSugar sand beaches, calm waters and Carolina blue skies welcomed us on our paddling group’s first summer outing. Allan, our trip leader, had sent us three wonderful options along the Albemarle Sound corridor. The group’s top choice was a half-day circuit on the southern shores of Roanoke Island. The paddle trail description showcased a variety of interesting features including views of Jockey’s Ridge, open waters, beaches, tidal creeks and numerous areas to observe wildlife. Boaters often see dolphins playfully swimming and feeding around the Roanoke Sound Channel.

We put in at the convenient Washington Baum Bridge landing east of Manteo which dropped us directly onto the channel. Since the wind was light, we opted to paddle the open water section first then complete the loop through a series (maze) of tidal creeks, ditches and cuts. The total distance was approximately seven miles.

The five of us never saw any dolphins in the sound. However, as we paddled around Broad Creek Point, we spotted a sweet little sandbar perfect for our first snack break. The water was so clear that we observed several crabs in the shallow waters. Blue Herons and Great Egrets were feeding in the marshes and we sighted an armadillo scurrying along the banks.

We looked over the large creek and noticed the secluded fishing village of Wanchese, NC. Allan said he had heard of paddlers who paddled directly up to the marina for cold beer and delicious fresh seafood. But today it was P & J sandwiches, a banana and lots of water. The first summer heat wave had come early this year and today’s forecast predicted mid-90’s. With this on all of our minds (and cold beer) and the fact that we would have zero shade for the rest of the day, our group packed up and launched the boats back into the water.

Using a primitive map of Roanoke Island, we navigated our way up a diminishing creek. I’d been stranded at low tide on tidal creeks before so I was a bit anxious about finding the correct cut through the island. The map revealed several dead-end waterways so I continuously checked the map and looked for telltale landmarks. Unfortunately, there were no trail markers so we were now on a discovery tour – or scavenger hunt as it turned out.

Most of the land surrounding the creek is managed and owned by the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. According to the Nature Conservancy, this tract of 1,766 acres includes one of the most undisturbed black needlerush marshes remaining in North Carolina. Smooth cordwood grass is also common along the brackish waters. The marshlands and associated waters offer a rich biological soup of nutrients and habitat for wading birds, shorebirds, mammals, fish and crustaceans.

After a few hours in direct sunlight, some in our party were beginning to second guess our current route and the “biological soup” metaphor wasn’t exactly the best choice of words since we were slowly starting to “stew” ourselves in the blazing sun. We ventured into a couple of smaller creeks only to have to turn around and search for another outlet. This created a chain reaction of boats having to reverse their course, sweep their paddles wide and turn back toward the larger opening. Finally, just when we were getting close to a modern day mutiny of the bounty, we found the opening to John’s Ditch. More importantly, a motorboat full of enthusiastic teenagers assured us that we were back on track. Allan and I knew it all the time. Sure thing!

The final couple of miles of paddling turned out to be some of the best as we meandered through the waters of Sand Beach Creek to the beautiful beaches at Johns Creek along the Roanoke Sound. Just beyond the point we discovered safe haven and the expansive bridge above the take out. A few of us took a break on the sandbar and I finally ate my delicious sandwich, swam in the refreshingly clear water then tanked up on more water for the last section of the trip.

Back again on the sound, the wind was still light but the increased afternoon motor boating around the landing created lots of chop within the wake zone. Tough day out in the sun but a great trip and one which I’ll do again and again!

 

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