Weather or Not, Here We Go! Midwinter Sound Sampler

Midwinter Sound Sampler of things to do around the Albemarle SoundSo far this winter, we’ve experienced a baffling pattern of weather. A series of cold, windy days gives way to near record high temperatures the following day. Just when you start to take advantage of a spring-like day, the weather changes. Regardless of the unpredictable forecast, we’ve designed a sundry list of things-to-do for the next month or so. This midwinter sampler of events includes a celebration of Black History Month and a state park rain-or-shine outing. We’ve also featured a local Mardi Gras fundraiser and a spring gardening workshop. As you all know, when February rolls around, we coastal plain dwellers optimistically predict that spring is only a few weeks away. Some years, that’s certainly the case so keep your fingers crossed and sync one or two of these events to your personal calendar. We tried to make it easy for you by including indoor and outdoor events. And just in case the fickle weather continues, we added a few more options under the quick-links listings.

Judging by the early display of flowering quince and daffodils blooming in my neighborhood, it looks like smooth (spring) sailing ahead!

Featured Events

Black HIstory Month events along the Albemarle Sound

Slave Voices in North Carolina
Creswell High School Auditorium
Saturday, February 18, 1pm

Somerset Place State Historic Site will share a Black History Month lecture “Slave Voices in North Carolina,” at Creswell High School. The free program will present words from the enslaved including the personal narratives of Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, and Harriet Jacobs; and the poetry of George Moses Horton.

Lucinda MacKethan, Ph.D. will present the lecture drawing from these narratives and interviews from the Works Program Administration. She will discuss how these works offer an authentic picture of how NC slaves lived, worked, created families, worshipped, and sometimes escaped from bondage.

The lecture will focus on Somerset Place in Creswell, and Historic Stagville State Historic Site in Durham. A reception will follow the program. This project is made possible by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council. More info.

 

Programs at Goose Creek State Park

Wetland Wonders!
Goose Creek State Park
Washington, NC
Saturday, February 25, 2017 – 2:00pm

Spend the afternoon with a ranger while learning about the amazing animals that call our wetlands ‘home’.  This program will take place in the Discovery Room which is located in the visitor center. More info.

Goose Creek State Park's Discovery Room

 

 

Goose Creek State Park Trip tip ~ Plan on taking some extra time before or after the program to explore this natural treasure perched along Goose Creek and the Pamlico River. Check out the trails, enjoy a picnic and discover the coastal gem. Be sure to tour the wetlands along the .5 mile Palmetto Boardwalk or enjoy the family-friendly Discovery Room that includes interactive exhibits and a bird observation station.

2017 Mardi Gras Gala for the Outer Banks Children @ Play Museum

The 2017 Mardi Gras Gala for the Outer Banks Children @ Play Museum
Saturday, March 4, 2017, 7:00pm
Jarvisburg, NC

The event hosted by Sanctuary Vineyards features a traditional New Orleans style buffet, wine and beer, live music, dancing, a silent auction and more. Proceeds from the gala benefit the Outer Banks Children @ Play museum – a family interactive museum designed to encourage families to learn and grow together through play! Tickets sell out quickly. $65/person.

 

The Elizabethan Gardens Spring Annuals Workshop

Spring Annuals Workshop
Saturday, March 11, 10am – 12pm
Manteo, NC

The Elizabethan Gardens invites folks to come out from under the winter chill and join the staff for the hands-on workshop. Gardens and Facility Mgr. Jeffrey Wuilliez will discuss and demonstrate techniques in cutting, setting up and designing dormant beds, design layouts and the plantings of spring annuals. Advanced registration required. Limited to 12 participants. $15 for members. $30 for not-yet members.  Some events are subject to change and availability. Please call ahead to confirm details and interest 252.473.3234.

 

things to do along the Albemarle Sound

Midwinter Quick Links

Through February – College of the Albemarle’s Annual Jewelry ExhibitDare County Arts Council host this annual exhibit of jewelry and metalwork, featuring the talents of College of the Albemarle’s Professional Crafts: Jewelry Program.

The Historic Edenton State Historic Site celebrates Women’s History Month with Daily tours throughout March. The guided tours focus on the women who lived and impacted the town and beyond. Historic sites include the James Iredell House, St. Paul’s Church, Cupola House, Barker House and the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse.

SA (3/11), 8am – Running of the Leprechauns, Nags Head, NC. The annual event offers a choice of 5K & 10K routes. Post race party with Irish Stew, Sweet Potato Biscuits & Beer. Packet pick-up will be held at Outer Banks Sporting Events from 4:30-7pm on Friday and race morning from 7-7:45am.

SU (3/12), 1:00-2:30pm – Merchants Millpond State Park invites you to Canoe the Pond in a canoe or kayak.  This is a good time to get a closer look at the mistletoe deformed water tupelo trees, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and various plant life. Meet at the visitor center located at 176 Millpond Road, Gatesville, NC. 27938.  Canoes and kayak provided by the park. FREE. For more information call: (252) 357-1191.

(3/23–27) – The Outer Banks Restaurant Association presents the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach which features four days of food, drink, fun and festivities. This year’s festival includes beer pairings, wine tastings, cooking classes, special multi-course menu presentations, brewery tours, tapas crawls, cook-offs, showdowns and progressive dinners. Over 30 participating venues and nearly 60 events along the Outer Banks showcase the innovative culinary opportunities and talents of the region’s creative chefs.

 

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10 Outings around the Albemarle Sound

passport to 10 albemarle sound outingsWe’ve assembled a collection of outings that circumnavigate the region of the Albemarle Sound. Most of these explorations have been featured in our blog posts, digital guides and maps. Others are recommendations from some of our soundside friends, local guides and park rangers.  Sample a few of these destinations on your next day trip or create your own Albemarle Sound Passport and visit each of the ten locations listed below. You’re sure to develop a better appreciation of our beloved Albemarle Sound! Check out the interactive map to help guide you effortlessly along your next journey through the area. Some of the links direct you to more in-depth information that we’ve showcased in our articles while others land you directly onto a map or website. Either way, we’d like to point you in the right direction and encourage you to get out and explore the enchanting region of land and water.

If you discover other hidden treasures along your journey, please let us know and we’ll add them to our growing list of special places along the Albemarle Sound. Our “Things to Do” map includes over 200 regional listings devoted to those who travel with adventure in their hearts and a guide in their pocket!

Choose Your Flavor

10 Outings around the Albemarle Sound

 

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Paddling the Scuppernong River

pocosin lakes nwrMotorists heading east to the Outer Banks on Highway 64 get one of their first panoramic views of a tributary estuary from the arching, high rise bridge spanning over the river. The NCDOT River Basin Sign identifies the body of water as the “Scuppernong River, Part of the Pasquotank River Basin.” The blackwater river slowly merges with the Albemarle Sound four miles north of the bridge but it’s the enchanting scenery south that has always intrigued me. This summer, my wife and I recently mapped out a half-day paddling trip and finally charted the alluring waters of the Scuppernong.

scuppernong river rendering

The Scuppernong River – Where Water meets Land

The meandering coastal river flows through Hyde, Washington and Tyrell Counties. Its headwaters originate in Lake Phelps and by the time it reaches Bull Bay at the sound, it is nearly two miles wide. This is one of the least populated regions in North Carolina and one of the wildest landscapes in the southeast! The Scuppernong River characterizes a dynamic coastal natural community where water and land merge. Together, they form a contrasting environment of swamp forest, tannic waters, mystery, marshland, floating vegetation and elevated wetlands. This unique geography offers a lifetime of outdoor recreational opportunities including paddling, fishing, hunting, boating, wildlife viewing and so much more.

More than 540,000 acres of federal and state lands are currently under conservation management along the peninsula that lies between the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. This includes Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes. The refuge headquarters and Walter B. Jones, Sr. Center for the Sounds is located on the south side of Hwy. 64 on the Scuppernong River in Columbia, NC. A canoe/kayak launch is conveniently located behind the headquarters.

scuppernong river floating dock

Not so Perfect Landing

As we were launching our kayaks, a group of visitors were taking photos of a young river otter frolicking in the shallow waters. After a surprising launch calamity, I soon joined the otter as my stern got hung up on the awkwardly designed landing slide and I instantly capsized into the water. A cable had been placed under the metal slide preventing it from gradually sloping into the water’s edge. It was like launching a kayak off a pool deck four inches above the water. A boater friend of mine had warned me about the hazardous launching platform. We often joke that engineers have good intentions but their designs often do not function well in the field. I’ve witnessed several landings in the region where the launch chute is not large enough to accommodate touring kayaks over 12’ long. Next time, I’ll launch parallel to the floating dock and utilize a more conventional method that relies on my paddle as an extension to the dock.

kayakerscupperongriver

Anyway, my wife had a good laugh about the wet entrance as we headed upstream along the placid river. A moderate wind blew directly into our path but we easily glided forward beside the marshy flats and enjoyed a beautiful start to a blue-sky day. The Scuppernong River Interpretive Trail Boardwalk traverses through the wetlands ¾’s of a mile on the east side of the river. We noticed several large cypress trees, gum and a forest of snags along the banks. The standing dead trees provide excellent habitat for bats, owls, wood ducks, chimney swifts and other cavity dwelling species. During the day, we casually noticed a variety of birds including a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks, Herring Gulls, Wood Ducks and several songbirds along the brushy banks. I remember reading the refuge’s brochure that informed, “More than 300 different wildlife species, including the endangered red wolf and red-cockaded woodpecker, inhabit the refuge.” Other wildlife encountered along the river corridor includes deer, bobcat, bear, foxes and a variety of reptiles and amphibians.

Riders Creek joins the river along a southeastern cove where the river begins to narrow. We paddled a mile or so above the creek’s entrance then turned around at the Scuppernong Paddle Trail mile marker 10 and let the tail winds guide us home. Before we called it a day, we continued beyond the landing and spent some time paddling along the town’s waterfront. A steady stream of Outer Banks’ westbound motorists sped along the bridge overlooking the river. Maybe one or two of them will see our kayaks drifting on the Scuppernong and decide to explore it themselves when they return back to the region between the sounds. The river piqued my interest a couple of years ago but today, it captured my full attention!

day's end paddle scuppernong river

 

 

So what exactly is a pocosin? Derived from a native American word for “swamp on a hill,” these flat, swampy coastal communities naturally occur along the Atlantic Coastal plain of the US from northern Florida to southern Virginia. They are also called southern shrub bogs and form in elevated wetlands between streams and creeks. Pocosin wetlands enhance wildlife habitat, lessen the impact of flooding and protect estuarine water quality.

 

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Paddling Season!

Perquimans River

Historic Hertford, NC along the Perquimans River

My wife and I have officially begun the 2016 paddling season. April Fools Day marked our first anniversary residing in northeastern NC. This year we’re expanding our paddling region so public access and boat landings have been on our minds ever since we’ve been researching the countless options along the creeks, rivers and open waters of the Albemarle Sound Basin. Here’s two paddling parks on the north side of the sound that provide convenient access, safe parking and additional amenities that enhance the paddling experience –one’s a hometown favorite and the other’s just a short drive down the sound.

Discover the Perquimans River

Every time I drive over the Perquimans River, I slow down, stretch my neck out and look out over the broad body of water and the cypress-lined banks. There’s several paddling trails along the river and it’s tributaries. On a recent scouting trip, my wife and I drove to Historic Hertford and spent an afternoon paddling a section of the Perquimans. We put in at Missing Mill Park, which is located just a few blocks from downtown Hertford. The park facilities include picnic tables, a canoe/kayak launch, a fishing pier and a boardwalk.

missing mill park

Missing Mill Park paddle sport launch

There are several route options paddlers can access from Missing Mill Park including Raccoon Creek Trail, Mill Creek Trail and sections of the Perquimans River Trail. Most of these trails offer overnight camping platforms for multi-day trips. We launched our boats in 15 mph winds with gusts over 20 mph so we opted for a shorter trip upstream. We paddled along the eastern side to avoid a strong headwind and turned around at Windfall Park, which provides an alternative launching area. On our return we wanted to explore Tom’s Creek but a large power line was obstructing the entrance under the railroad trestle. These “discovery” trips give one a taste of paddling in a new area and a chance to check out other trails and public access areas for future adventures. Up next for us will be a morning excursion along the Mill Creek Trail.

Pembroke Creek Park

Chowan County has recently completed a public water access for paddle sport and fishing at Pembroke Creek Park in Edenton, NC. The improvement project included new handicap parking areas, installation of two 50’ piers, and a floating dock for kayak and canoe launch. A storage shed, solar lighting along the boardwalk, a new bulkhead and an improved entrance were also part of the project, which was funded through a $149,720 grant from the NC Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program with matching funds from the county. The park is located at 716 West Queen St. approximately 1.5 miles west of downtown Edenton.

Pembroke Creek Park

Pembroke Creek Park improvements include a new floating paddle sport launch

My wife and I recently utilized the new floating launch pad and found it very user-friendly for both launching and take out. The two 50’ piers, which were built perpendicular to an existing boardwalk allow anglers access to deeper water and provide more surface area for casting. We also noticed new picnic tables and a few new benches installed along the boardwalk. Be sure to come by for a picnic or a day-trip along the creek and enjoy the new improvements.

The 4-mile Pembroke Creek Trail includes a couple of point-to-point options requiring a shuttle or multiple vehicles. There are three sets of camping platforms located on John’s Island. Most local paddlers put in at the Edenton’s Town Harbor floating dock or Pembroke Creek Park. There are several smaller creeks to explore, light development and beautiful cypress and gum forested banks. The area is popular among bass anglers so there can be moderate motorboat activity especially on weekends during fishing tournaments. Boaters should also be cautious on the stretch of open water while paddling along the shallow bay that can quickly turn rough on windy days and storms.

Both of these paddle trails offer many options from short day-trips to overnight camping. So if you’re looking for a couple of convenient paddle-friendly parks, check out these two gems and set aside a little time to visit the charming waterfront towns while you’re exploring the area.

 

 

 

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Bennett’s Millpond

bennettsmillpond

Bennett’s Millpond is one of those places where you can feel a bit of history right up under your feet. In my case, I stumbled upon a piece of its history as I explored the spillway along the earthen dam. One of the gristmill’s original millstones embedded in the leaves caught my foot as I walked along the banks of Rocky Hock Creek. For nearly a hundred years, Bennett’s Millpond was an essential regional industrial resource. It operated as a water-driven corn mill and served as a gathering place for community activities.

millstone at Bennett's Millpond

Original millstone along Rocky Hock Creek

On this crisp February day, the only activity I noticed was a lonely heron feeding along the shallows across the pond. The site has become one of my routine stopovers on a 30-mile cycling route in Chowan County. Earlier in my ride along rural Paradise Road, I saw hundreds of Tundra Swans feeding in fallow fields. I also witnessed a Bald Eagle devouring a deer carcass in a roadside ditch. It was so enthralled with its meal that it appeared unruffled as I cruised within a few feet of the massive bird of prey.

cycling to Bennett's Millpond

Cycling in Edenton and Chowan County has been a great way for me to learn more about the area. Thinking back about the winter avian resident, I reflected on my own migration to the region. My wife and I moved here last spring from the mountains of Western NC. We’re now discovering ourselves immersed into the land, culture and natural history of the Albemarle Sound. Most of our explorations have been self-discovery tours on foot, bike or from the cockpit of a kayak.

The Albemarle Sound Basin encompasses nearly 3,900 square miles of wetlands and large areas of open water in northeastern North Carolina. So when you’re cycling the flat, rural roads of the region, you often observe small streams, open bays and expansive views of the sound.

Bennett’s Millpond Extensions

The ride to Bennett’s Millpond is no exception. Roadsigns with names like Chamber’s Ferry, Emperor Landing and Gum Pond reveal the region’s connection to land and water. Local cyclists refer to this route as the “North of Sound” ride — a 38-mile circuit from downtown Edenton. Some riders include Dillards Mill Road (north of Rocky Hock Rd.) to add another 10 miles to their itinerary. Most of the routes includes low-volume roads, scenic farmland and flat coastal plain terrain.

NC DOT’s Division of Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation publishes a handy map and route guide entitled Bike Albemarle. Unfortunately, the digital version is no longer available online. The map features 15 loop routes and four connector options. Some include state and local signed routes, extended state routes and sections of national routes including the developing trail system along the East Coast Greenway. Bike shops, campgrounds, visitor’s services and local landmarks such as Bennett’s Millpond are highlighted on the map.

After nearly four decades of adventure travel, backpacking and long distance touring, I’ve refined the ‘art’ of taking a break. Bennett’s Millpond is one of my recommended rest stops and local landmarks while cycling around the sound.

 

Trip Notes: Bennett’s Millpond facilities include a covered pavilion, boardwalk, primitive camping, hiking trail, paddling trail, fishing and the NC Birding Trail. The park is located approximately 6 miles north of Edenton off Hwy 32 at 2100 Rocky Hock Rd.

 

spillway along Bennett's Millpond

 

 

 

 

 

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Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge

tundra swans at Lake Mattamuskeet NWR

waveLINKS birding category

A visit to North Carolina’s largest natural lake has been on my ‘to-do’ list for nearly twenty-five years. I’ve read about the history of the lodge, the world-class birding and wildlife as well as the excellent outdoor recreation options. Last month, my wife and I took a day-trip to Lake Mattamuskeet and we instantly discovered it was well worth the wait.

Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula and encompasses 50,180 acres of water, forest, marsh, and open fields. The shallow lake, which averages a depth of only two feet, covers approximately 40,000 acres. The surrounding marshes and woodlands provide habitat, cover and food for more than 200 species of birds. November through January is the prime season for bird watching considering the fact that over 12,000 ducks, geese, swans, herons, bitterns and other waterfowl winter on the refuge’s grounds.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has a comprehensive conservation and resource management plan for the refuge that includes water management for waterfowl, shorebirds and fisheries; cooperative farming; prescribed burning and deer management with public hunting. Through the preservation of wetlands and habitat, they also protect and conserve migratory birds and other wildlife. Education, interpretation and community partnerships are also vital strategies that the refuge implements. The Annual Wings Over Water Festival in October is a stellar example of how our national wildlife refuges successfully collaborate with local communities.

Great Egret Mattamuskeet NWR

Great Egret observed along the Wildlife Drive

 Seasonal activities

Whether you’re walking or driving, a number of trails, roads and levies provide excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. During the winter, the refuge management restricts access to some roads and levees from November 1 – February 28. However, approximately eight miles of levees and 12 miles of road are open year-round. Boating, canoeing and kayaking are not allowed during the winter. Check with management at the refuge headquarters for additional information about refuge regulations, restricted areas and permitted hunts.

The Hwy 94 causeway, Wildlife Drive and the refuge entrance road offer premier birding opportunities. The observation platform along Hwy 94 affords a panoramic view over the lake. The New Holland Boardwalk Trail along East Canal Drive provides convenient access to a cypress swamp and marshland. Also, there’s a trailhead kiosk, photo blind and benches for photography and observation.

Mattamuskeet Lodge

Mattamuskeet Lodge – originally a pump station

My wife and I took advantage of a beautiful January day and visited the refuge. We enjoyed the exhibits inside the Visitors Center and the grounds adjacent to the Mattamuskeet Lodge. This facility was originally built as a pumping station designed to drain the lake into productive farmland. Eventually, the project proved to be too costly and impractical. Three decades later the U.S. Government acquired the land and the refuge was established in 1934. The lodge and surrounding acres have been transferred to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Efforts to secure funding and restore the lodge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, are currently being planned.

American coots at Mattamuskeet NWR

American Coots – Mattamuskeet NWR

Further adventures

While touring Wildlife Drive, we stopped at several locations to observe Tundra Swans, Great Egrets, Northern Pintails, American Coots and White Ibises probing for food in the shallow waters. Several groups of birders and photographers were lined along the banks taking advantage of the splendid views.

Our first exploration to Lake Mattamuskeet turned out to be a sneak peek but a real treat and a good overview of the refuge, trails, facilities and access points. With spring in the forecast, we plan to return and explore the refuge in our canoe, skiff or on our bikes – maybe all of the above!

map of Mattamuskeet NWR

Map data by ©OpenStreetMap & contributors

Directions: Mattamuskeet NWR is located approximately 70 miles east of Washington in Hyde County, North Carolina. The headquarters entrance road is located off Hwy 94 1.5 miles north of U.S. 264 between Swan Quarter and Engelhard.

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Dog Friendly along the Albemarle Sound

dogfriendlyalongthealbemarlesound

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.

dogfriendlysandyrunpark

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.

dogfriendlyalbemarlesoundouterbanks

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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Sound-to-Sea Adventures

soundtoseabeach

October can be one of the best times to visit the Albemarle Sound and the Outer Banks. Autumn ushers in cooler weather, subtle fall colors and secluded beaches. WaveLINKS recently hit the road on a sound-to-sea day trip filled with yummy food, hiking adventures and seasonal discoveries.

1st stop: Belcross Bake Shoppe

The River City Cycling Club includes this delightful bakery along their 33-mile Tarwheel route from Elizabeth City through Camden, NC. After trying one of the bakery’s famous sweet potato biscuits, I found myself willing to extend the distance and cycle all the way from Edenton! Check out their popular ham & cheese or bacon & cheese pinwheel biscuits specially baked on Tuesdays only. Or pick up some their takeout baked goods and sweet treats too. Lunch specials include Shepherds pie, biscuit potpie and a fiesta taco salad. Family owned and very friendly service!

Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

According to the Nature Conservancy, which owns and manages the preserve, Nags Head Woods is one of North Carolina’s most significant natural areas and one of the Outer Banks’ most important community resources. The 1,400-acre preserve features a variety of fauna and flora including a maritime deciduous forest, a maritime shrub forest, several interdunal ponds, more than 50 species of birds and over 300 species of plants. The ancient wooded dunes afford a steep contrast to the adjacent seaside landscape. Large holly and beech trees remind me of the forested coves in the southern Appalachians.

soundtoseapreserve

Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

The preserve offers several hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities – a .5-mile handicap accessible loop trail to longer, more strenuous hikes of up to five miles. We opted to combine a couple of trails including the scenic Roanoke and Discovery Trails. From the visitor’s center parking lot, the trail immediately introduces you to the lush, wooded dunes and fresh water ponds throughout the forest. We picked up the Roanoke Trail after crossing over the sandy Old Nags Head Rd. The 1.5-mile out and back trail meanders through the salt marsh, crosses over a board walk and ends at a beautiful beach and overlook along the Roanoke Sound.

dogfriendlyalbemarlesound

 

The Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve’s ADA Trail is ideal for families with small children and those with disabilities. The ½-mile loop trail is a combination of paved surfaces and boardwalks that overlook an interdunal freshwater pond and a brackish marsh.

Hideaway Beach

Sorry but we can’t give away all of our secrets! Here’s a hint though, south of milepost 16, beyond the vacation rentals and north of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Some O’bankers call autumn the tranquil season or the season of tranquility. Sounds good to me especially when I find convenient parking, vacant beaches and a Carolina blue sky all to my lonesome. This is the perfect season to pack a lunch or stop by the deli at Kill Devil Hills Stop N Shop and grab a beach lunch to go. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with your beachside picnic.

soundtoseamarina

Coinjock Marina & Restaurant

Migration Season

I recently heard that the general rule of thumb for the return of migrating Tundra Swans to the Albemarle Peninsula is the first full moon in November. The month before begins another seasonal ritual when southbound boaters sail toward southern latitudes along the Intracoastal Waterway (IRC). My wife and I witnessed this funky phenomenon while taking the road less traveled to Coinjock Marina and Restaurant. Happenstance can lead travelers to some of the most entertaining adventures and this was definitely the case as we enjoyed an autumn sunset while dining along the waterfront of the IRC. The captains and the deckhands amusingly provided the entertainment for the evening. We heard tall tales from the sea. One young sailor talked about snow on the bow just a few weeks ago after he set sail from New England. Another captain and his wife shared adventures of their four-week odyssey and “loose” plans to sail to “Key West and beyond!” All the while, deckhands offered their assistance along the marina’s long fixed face dock.

Coinjock Marina & Restaurant is a mariner’s delight and a favorite stopover for boats making the “cut” between the Currituck Sound and the North River, which empties into the Albemarle Sound. Part of the attraction is the friendly customer service but some of it is the restaurant’s reputation for fine food and drink. Boaters often call in advanced dinner orders for its famous 32 oz. prime rib.

My wife and I chose a selection of specials including their Hatteras Clam Chowder, a ‘skewered’ catch-of-the-day sampler of tuna, shrimp and scallops, along with a tasty appetizer of lump crab cakes. During our meal, over 15 boats came in to dock and nearly all of those on deck had a cheerful smile on their face but no shoes on their feet!

Our day trip along the north side of the Albemarle could be charted exactly like one of the salty dog’s take on his day on the ICW. “Eight bells and all’s well!”

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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.

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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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