Postcards from the Albemarle Sound Sketches, skiffs and seafaring tales

Albemarle Sound Postcard 2017

We’re sagging south on the Long Trail—the trail that is always new
– Jack London, The Sea-Wolf

As we welcome autumn to the region of the Albemarle Sound, we take time to reflect back on some of the exciting adventures we shared this spring and summer. Although most of our journeys were short excursions around our beloved Albemarle Sound, we also enjoyed day trips to inland treasures, overnight excursions to state parks and summer vacation island hoppin’ the Outer Banks. Coastal byways took us from Corolla to Ocracoke and Belhaven to Camden. Blackwater streams and intracoastal waterways led us to natural heritage sites, secluded beaches and wild wetlands. We skiffed, sailed, paddled, fished and kayaked skinny creeks, open bays and a number of sounds.

Along our travels, we met innkeepers, brewers, anglers, captains, tourists, artists, environmentalists, fish doctors, volunteers, retirees, old salts, and boat builders. The folks living in our region where land and water merge always inspire us. We discover something new and wonderful every time we venture out. This reminds me what a wise old neighbor once suggested. The Englishman softly spoke, “Learn young, learn fair; learn old, learn more.”

Here are a few of our favorite outings the past several months. Hope you enjoy!

 

2017 Postcards from the Albemarle Sound

 

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Autumn Events Happening along the Albemarle Sound Sneak Preview

AutumnEventsalongAlbemarleSoundThe dog days of August are upon us and some folks are eagerly looking forward to fall adventures. Autumn along the Albemarle Sound transitions well from the summer tourist season along the coast. Cooler temps, clear skies and a refreshing breeze beacons all of us to continue our outdoorsy ways and celebrate whatever season blows our way. Here’s a fall sampler of serious fun and excitement. Take advantage of the “coastal comfort” and check off a few of these outings on your fall calendar. There’s a little something for everyone – from the artist to the outdoorsman to the wine and craft beer enthusiast or history buff. How about a challenging hundred-mile bike ride through the countryside or a point-to-point foot race along the Outer Banks? We may have to weather a few hurricanes or tropical storms in the near future so get ready for an active autumn and cheers to an endless summer!

2017 Pocosin Arts Annual Benefit Auction

Pocosin Arts Annual Benefit Auction
September 23, 2017
Columbia, NC

Pocosin Arts welcomes you to an exciting evening under the stars to view and bid on more than 100 handcrafted works of art in their silent and live auctions. Great food, fellowship, arts and crafts and local craft beer!

Proceeds help support the arts center’s scholarship programs. These scholarships allow countless students to participate in the workshops, classes and weekly programs at Pocosin Arts. Béatrice Coron is this year’s featured Artist. The local culture, flora, fauna, and wildlife inspire her art. $

 

Cotton Country Century 2017

2017 Cotton Country Century
September 24, 2017
Greenville, NC

Welcome in the fall season with your two-wheeled friends and cycle along scenic country roads through the flat countryside of Eastern North Carolina. The Cotton Country Century offers three routes and distances — a 30-mile route, a metric century (62 miles) and an English century (100 miles). The routes are on lightly traveled country roads in the heart of cotton country USA. The 2017 CCC will start and end in Greenville, NC at Trollingwood Taproom & BreweryRegistration is required by Thursday, September 21, 2017. $

 

The Lost Colony Wine & Culinary Festival

The Lost Colony Wine & Culinary Festival
September 30, 2017
Manteo, NC

Fine wines, food, and craft beer and highlight this year’s fest held at the Lost Colony. Entertainment and seminars will compliment the event. The Roanoke Island Historical Association presents the inaugural two-day event. $

FR (9/29); Vintners Dinner at the Duck Woods Country Club. Tickets and more info.
SA (9/30) The Grand Tasting takes place at the Sound Stage Theatre surrounded by the beautiful views of Roanoke Sound. Local restaurants will pair their fine foods with a variety of wines from Virginia Dare Winery. More info.

2017 Duck Jazz Festival

2017 Duck Jazz Festival
October 7 & 8, 2017
Duck, NC

Enjoy live music from a variety of jazz performers at the beautiful outdoor town green. Food and drinks will be available to purchase from local restaurants. Festival participants are invited to bring food, coolers, chairs, blankets and pets.  Beach umbrellas and tents are prohibited. Click here for an updated line-up of performers and more information. FREE.

 

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Elizabeth II Sails to Edenton
October 13 & 14
Edenton, NC

In celebration of the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse 250th Anniversary, the Elizabeth II will leave their Festival Park port in Manteo, NC and travel up the Albemarle Sound to Historic Edenton. On Friday, NC students will tour the boat. The boat will be available for touring by the public on Saturday. More info. FREE.

Event Update: Due to the shallow waters of Shallowbag Bay, the Elizabeth II will not sail to Edenton this year.

 

Sound Rivers

31st Annual Oyster Roast for Sound Rivers
November 11, 2017
Washington, NC

Come out and join the non-profit organization to celebrate the lowly oyster and the beautiful Tar-Pamlico River. Steamed oysters and chili served under the stars with The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery on tap. Soft drinks and other beers will be available, with a silent auction for your bidding pleasure.

Oysters served from 6:15pm until about 8:30pm. Music begins at 7:30 for dancing and fun.

Sound Rivers monitors and protects the Neuse River and Tar-Pamlico River watersheds, which cover nearly one-quarter of North Carolina. Through partnerships with concerned citizens, members and three riverkeepers, the non-profit organization strives to preserve the health and beauty of the river basin through environmental justice. More info. $

2017OuterBanksMarathon

12th Annual Outer Banks Marathon Weekend
November 10-12
Outer Banks, NC

A full weekend of competition, fitness, fun and running events for the entire family. Choose your flavor from a full-fledge marathon to a family fun run with a number of options and distances sprinkled in between.

Here’s a summary of races and information to get you started. Click here to register and more info. Please check the event’s website for specific times and dates of the various events. $

SU (11/12), 7AM- Towne Bank Outer Banks Marathon & Southern Fried Half Marathon

Running Swag
Relays
Custom Medals For All Finishers
Free Shuttle Service (26.2 & 13.1)
Event T-Shirt
Free Runner Food & Beer (21+)
Runner Expo – Open To The Public
4 Challenges
5k & Full | 5k & Half | 8k & Full | 8k & Half

 

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Goose Creek State Park Pamlico River Connections

Panoramic view of Flatty Creek

The Tar Heel State offers a lifetime of cultural, natural history and outdoor recreation opportunities from the mountains, foothills, sandhills and coast. Last year, North Carolina State Parks celebrated their centennial and nearly 17 million people visited the NC State Parks in 2015.

The NC State Parks System is managed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, which includes 41 state parks and state recreation areas, as well as 33 undeveloped conservation areas. These state protected properties feature ancient mountains, pristine beaches, lazy rivers, open waters and diverse forests. In 1980, Goose Creek State Park was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. A plaque along the Goose Creek Trail states, “This site possesses exceptional value as an illustration of the nation’s natural heritage and contributes to a better understanding of the environment.”

As a 27-year resident of the Old North State, I’ve camped, fished, run, hiked, cycled and paddled most of the system’s parks. Since moving to the coastal plain, Goose Creek State Park has become one of my favorites!

Paddle boarding on Goose Creek

Natural Beauty, Nationally Recognized

The park is located approximately 12 miles west of Washington, NC in Beaufort County on the north side of the Pamlico River. The peninsula-shaped property encompasses 1,672 acres and a variety of coastal plain habitats – from extensive wetlands along the rivers and creeks to cypress swamps and saltwater marshes. These areas provide ideal habitat for birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Wildlife sightings include alligators, bears, otters, bobcat, foxes, red wolves and a variety of waterfowl.

There are plenty of things to do for both outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The park can be enjoyed all seasons and is open year-round with the exception of Christmas Day.

Friends of the park volunteer hiking along Goose Creek Trail

Take a hike!

Goose Creek State Park has one of the longest and best-maintained trail systems on the NC coast. There are 8 miles of maintained trails that meander through the property and more trails are currently being constructed. The entire trail system can be hiked leisurely in one day. Some trails have trail benches, boardwalks and interpretive signs to enjoy along the way. Most visitors prefer to break up the trails into sections varying from .2 miles to 2 miles. Trails are blazed in unique colors and different shaped markers. The Flatty Creek Trail offers a convenient and scenic stroll from the parking area along Campground Rd. The .3-mile orange-blazed trail loops through an upland pine forest and leads visitors to an outstanding vista overlooking Flatty Creek and the Pamlico River. The 2-mile Goose Creek Trail begins at the campground near the mouth of Goose Creek and snakes along the Pamlico River to a nice sandy beach and swimming area.

The half-mile Palmetto Boardwalk Trail is a good family friendly option. Various wildlife and plant ID markers assist visitors along the self-guided tour of the freshwater marsh.

Campground at Goose Creek State Park

Goose Creek State Park Activities

The parks’ family campground is ideal for families, hikers and anglers who plan on spending a night or two in the park. The facility offers 14 private tent sites each with tables and grills. Toilets and drinking water are centrally located in the campground. The park also has a reservation-only group camping area available from March 15 – November 15. Registered campers can easily access the six-mile Goose Creek State Park Canoe Trail  from the campground’s put-in area.

Anglers fishing on Goose Creek

Boating and fishing are both very popular activities at the park. There is a public boating ramp and parking area on the west side of Goose Creek at Dinah’s Landing.

Park visitors can access three picnic areas in the park. Picnic shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis or can be reserved for a fee. Pets are permitted in NC State Parks so long as they are on an attended leash no longer than 6 feet. Whether you are day tripping or camping for a week, be sure to stop in the park’s Visitor Center to pick up a map, learn more about the park and view the wonderful exhibits.

Goose Creek State Park's Discovery Room

journey notes to road trip

 

Goose Creek State Park is an excellent “jumping off” point for Outer Banks-bound travelers heading to the Swan Quarter Ferry Terminal. The park is within and hour’s drive for tidewater townies looking for a day-outing chock full of adventure. Cyclists touring on the NC 2 Mountains to Sea Route should plan on a convenient overnight camp during their 700 mile, two-wheel odyssey.

Local eats ~ Grab a cup of NC-roasted coffee at Rachel K’s Bakery in the historic waterfront town of Washington. Be sure to try one of their delicious pastries, scones and hand tarts — yummy artisan sandwiches and wraps for lunch too! Experience Washington Crab and Seafood Shack for some of the best fried shrimp you’ve ever tasted. Quirky, quaint, quick and delicious! Not in a hurry? Kick back, select a steamer plate with a cold beer and enjoy the friendly staff and patrons!

Eats & Drinks at Washington Crab and Seafood Shack

Washington Crab and Seafood Shack

 

 

Register for one of the park’s upcoming events! The park organizes a number of monthly events. A quick peek at the park’s calendar revealed a children’s scavenger hunt, kayak fishing and a guided hike. Another way to plug into the park’s resources is to get involved with the Friends of Goose Creek State Park to join fellow members on paddle trips, hikes and volunteer projects!

Map of Goose Creek State Park

 

 

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Currituck, the Road Less Traveled

morrisfarmmarketcurrituck

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

The summer traffic coming and going to the Outer Banks is heaviest on Saturday during the biggest check-in day. My wife and I found this out through firsthand experience. We had embarked on a Saturday trip to Corolla from Edenton, NC. At the intersection of Hwy. 158/Hwy. 168 in Barco, we noticed a travel time message sign indicating “delayed traffic” toward the beach. Following the lead of the Pulitzer Prize poet, we decided to take the one [road] less traveled and turned north and “that made all the difference.” We shifted gears, took an alternate route and ended up having a delightful afternoon touring the back roads of Currituck County.

Just a couple of miles north, we stopped at Morris Farm Market – a place that has blossomed into an authentic quintessential Northeastern NC family experience. What started as a roadside stand in 1982 has now grown to include “acres and acres” of produce, baked goods, ciders, NC craft beer & wine, tractor-churned ice cream, farm animals, tractors and more! We picked up a variety of grab-n-go snacks for an afternoon picnic then stopped by the outdoor bar to savor a pint of Mother Earth Brewery’s Sister of the Moon IPA. We listened to a local duo perform a few nice acoustic tunes while we planned the rest of the day’s backup itinerary. The chalkboard sign above the bar suggested to “Sip while you Shop” confirming that we had made a good decision to adjust our original travel plans. Down-home, down east and pet-friendly, Morris Farm Market is a “must do” stopover on your next outing to the OBX!

outdoorbarmorrisfarmmarketcurrituck ­­Currituck \KURR-i-tuck\

With our alternate plans settled now, we had a little extra time to explore the area before we set off on the afternoon ferry. The thin strip of land stretching down Currituck County mainland is primarily farmland, wetlands, open space and water. This peninsula connects the coastline and is bounded by Currituck Sound on the east, the North River on the west and the Albemarle Sound south of Point Harbor. The Currituck Courthouse and the Old Currituck Jail are both near the ferry terminal so we parked our car and walked over to the historic site and learned that the jail was constructed circa 1820 making it one of the oldest extant jails in North Carolina. Both buildings stand sentinel above the expansive backdrop of Currituck Sound.

oldcurrituckjailApproximately 15 vehicles loaded the ferry and we departed on schedule at 3 p.m. The 45-minute ferry crosses a 5-mile section of the sound, which according to the ferry captain averages depths of eight feet. The Currituck/Knotts Island Ferry is a year-round free ferry that’s managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry System. It makes six round-trips daily during the summer season.

Currituck, Adventures Past & Present

Local islanders refer to travelers who visit their paradise as “daytrippers.” Our Knotts Island adventure started with a scenic driving tour of Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Fish and Wildlife Service administers the refuge located on the NC/VA state line along North Landing River. The majority of the refuge’s land is located in Currituck County. The island is actually a peninsula connected to Virginia’s mainland with a solitary road along a man-made causeway. The peninsula appeared as Knots Isle on early pre-colonial maps of the 17th century. Water and the geographic isolation has always defined the region and its inhabitants so naturally, it has developed a rich heritage of hunting, fishing and outdoor life. Locals claim that the origin of the name “Currituck” was loosely derived from Carotank; a Native American word for “land of the wild goose.” Today these lands provide a sanctuary for thousands of migratory waterfowl including numerous species of geese.

MackayIslandNWR

The peninsula changed ownership several times since 1728 when NC commissioners drove the first stake in the ground to mark the Carolina-Virginia border. One of the most influential landowners was Joseph Palmer Knapp. The wealthy New York publisher and philanthropist purchased property on the island in 1918 and built a hunting lodge and grand resort. He also experimented with innovative wildlife management practices. Knapp and a small group of conservationist pioneers became concerned about dwindling waterfowl breeding habitat in the U.S. and Canada. The group began fundraising across the country to create a conservation organization in 1930, which eventually became Ducks Unlimited. From these humble roots, Ducks Unlimited has become one of the preeminent sportsmen-based conservation and wetlands conservation advocacy organizations in North America.

The refuge is located primarily in the southwest region of the marshy peninsula. Basically, three access roads provide entry into the refuge. Sections of the refuge may experience seasonal closures during the winter because of prescribed burns and other management-related activities. A variety of habitats can be discovered along the Marsh Causeway (NC-615), the refuge internal roads, various overlooks and pedestrian trails. Cycling is allowed along some roads and trails. The .3-mile Great Marsh Trail can be easily accessed directly on NC-615. We opted for a convenient stop at the Kuralt Trail Overlook. The observation site is popular among birders and wildlife photographers. Two spotting scopes located on the elevated platform above the Great Marsh allow excellent, up close viewing of birds and other wildlife. We also stopped by Corey’s Ditch where we enjoyed a short break throwing a cast net in the creek and observing the wide-open marshlands.

cyclingcurrituck

Take Me Home, Country Roads

We chose to explore the terrestrial way home instead of back tracking on the ferry. We saw several groups of cyclists riding the rural roads. NC-615 and other low motor traffic roads along the peninsula are popular bike touring routes. The Tidewater Bicycling Association in Chesapeake, VA utilizes these routes each spring for their signature cycling event. This year they celebrated the 40th Annual Knotts Island Century, which included five route options – two that include ferry ‘hops’ during the rides.

Before our own ‘century trip’ ended, we stopped by Frog Island Seafood located at the junction of Hwy 158/168 in Barco, NC. We took their advice to “Buy Today – Feast Tomorrow!” and purchased some fresh scallops. We also sat down for a delicious meal in their diner section of the market and reflected on the day’s journey. The country roads and scenery along Currituck Sound proved to be a delightful retreat away from the bustling beach season along the OBX. We feel like we know this charming slice of land a little better now and it makes us appreciate the northeastern most region of NC we now call home!

frogislandseafood

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Going Green in the Tar Heel State

ncgreentravelalbemarlesound

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.

 

ncbirdingtrailalbemarlesound

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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Craft Beer, Small Batch & Big Rewards!

Weeping Radish - craft beer on the Albemarle SoundA fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.

I laughed when I walked in the pub and read the quote inscribed on the chalkboard. Down near the bar, a couple was test-driving a flight of small batch beer crafted on site at Weeping Radish Brewery Butchery & Pub. Over the past decade, North Carolina has quickly sprouted into one of the top craft-beer states in the nation. According to the NC Craft Brewers Guild, “The state boasts the greatest number (132) of craft breweries in the American South.” Weeping Radish can claim fame as being the Tar Heel State’s oldest operating brewery and one of three microbreweries located within the Albemarle Sound corridor.  The Currituck County brewery has “proudly brewed on the Outer Banks since 1986.”

The unique brewery-farm-pub often surprises travelers making their manic drive to or from the Outer Banks. The brewery is located on the Caratoke Hwy. which straddles a narrow strip of rural mainland bordered by Currituck and Albemarle Sounds.

My wife and I scheduled a brewery visit while looping the sound on a 180-mile driving tour. I wanted to sample the “handcrafted 100% natural beers” so I set off on my own flight plan which included a chance to taste the microbrewery’s signature brews and a couple of their seasonal ales. The friendly waitress delivered us a paddle of seven, gently brewed beers. I reviewed the laminated beer cheat sheet which was placed below the paddle and in the same order as the flight of craft beers. Perfect!

 

Weeping Radish's flight of craft beersThe Bitter Bee was first choice in my flight and definitely the one which sounded the most intriguing. This was the brewery’s version of an American IPA but distinctively brewed with locally sourced honey. My wife & I took turns sipping on the golden-colored ale. We both noticed a subtle yet lingering taste of honey. The IPA was light on the “hoppy” side and it had a  ‘creamier’ texture than most traditional IPA’s. My first take: A refreshing summer IPA with a slight hint of citrus.

The flight guide described their Ruddy Radish as a “bright ruby colored, well-balanced dry hopped with strong malt character.” The medium body ale had a slight but pleasant buttery aroma and mild notes of caramel. The OBX Kolsch may have been my favorite! The crisp, light and fruity flavor and medium carbonated beer paired well with the pub’s soft baked pretzel — so well, that I treated myself to a 4-pack of OBX Kolsch to share with my friends back home. Oh yeah, and a mixed pack of Ruddy Radish, Bee Bitter and Corolla Gold.

On your next outing to the Outer Banks, be sure to stop by the brewery or search for the fine local craft beer at this location.

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