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!

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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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Paddling Milltail Creek

sawyercreekmilltailcreek

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.

millcreekpaddletrailmarker

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.

 

ncblackbearfestivaleventsalongalbemarlesound

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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Take a Virtual Tour of the Roanoke River

Roanoke River TrailA partnership with GOOGLE Trekker and The Conservation Fund is helping to connect people all around the world with NC’s Roanoke River Paddle Trail and five other historic American trails. Carol Shields, Executive Director for the Roanoke Rivers Partners, Inc. explained, “This project was the result of RRP’s long-time partnership with The Conservation Fund.”

According to the The Conservation Fund’s news release, the project used Google’s Street View Trekker; a 4-foot-tall, 40-pound camera and backpack. Using this technology, staff from the Fund and its local partners set out to create a 360-degree digital view of the trails, waterways, landscapes, vistas and outdoor sites where America’s story begins.

Be sure to check out the virtual tour and plan on scheduling an outing this year along one of the Southeast’s finest and wildest rivers!

NEWS RELEASE

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF AMERICAN HISTORY WITH THE CONSERVATION FUND AND GOOGLE MAPS
Featuring Iconic Lands Where Natives, Pioneers, Soldiers and Other Heroes Shaped America

ARLINGTON, Va. (March 8, 2016) – For the second year, The Conservation Fund has teamed up with Google Maps to provide Street View virtual tours of some of America’s most renowned and treasured places. From the hallowed battlefields of Gettysburg to the rugged trails that Lewis and Clark explored on their journey west, people can now explore, hike and paddle—via their digital devices—important historic and cultural sites protected by The Conservation Fund and its partners at Google Map’s Street View.

Using Google’s Street View Trekker, a 4-foot-tall, 40-pound camera and backpack, staff from the Fund and its local partners set out to create a 360-degree digital view of the trails, waterways, landscapes, vistas and outdoor sites where America’s story begins. Read more…

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Edenton National Fish Hatchery & Aquarium

Striped Bass at Edenton National Fish Hatchery

NC boasts one of the nation’s best striped bass fisheries

Last week, I spent a leisurely afternoon strolling around the Edenton National Fish Hatchery & Aquarium (ENFH). The facility is operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and serves as one of the oldest in the nation. For more than a century, the Edenton Fish Hatchery has been raising warm water fish for public use and restoration.

Some visitors are surprised to discover that the hatchery includes a small aquarium, which features various aquatic species living in Eastern NC. The aquarium has a number of interesting interpretive displays, a 700-gallon tank and three smaller tanks.

Visitors are also invited to walk around the rearing ponds and enjoy the scenic wetland boardwalk, which overlooks Pembroke Creek. The raised boardwalk is an ideal wildlife observation area. During my tour, I spotted a variety of woodland birds, several species of waterfowl and a Bald Eagle perched in a towering cypress.

Edenton National Fish Hatchery boardwalk

The Edenton National Fish Hatchery plays an important role in our state’s concerted efforts to maintain healthy fish populations in the region’s waters. According to their brochure, the ENFH “produces more than 200,000 striped bass for interjurisdictional restoration each year.” Naturally, fish migrate across various state boundaries and waters. Some of the fish raised and tagged at Edenton have been caught as far away as Cape Hatteras to New England.

From Restoration to Recreation

The hatchery currently provides restoration efforts for American Shad, repopulates or restores fish species impacted by natural or manmade disasters and assists in fishery management to other National Wildlife Refuges in the Carolinas and Virginia.

From a recreational perspective, North Carolina anglers are very appreciative of all of the fish hatchery projects around the Tar Heel State. Results from a 2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Participation Survey revealed that 1.5 million NC residents and non-residents fished our state’s waters. And thanks to the ENFH’s historic conservation, preservation and enhancement efforts, they continue to provide great angling opportunities for our region.

The fish hatchery is located at 1102 W. Queen St., Edenton, NC and is open to the public year round, weekdays from 7:00 am – 3:30 pm.

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Bennett’s Millpond

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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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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.

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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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waveLINKS things to do…

thingstodo2016albemarlesound

As the dawn of the traditional New Year approaches, it’s time to start the year anew and scout out some options for winter’s long voyage. Here’s waveLINKS’ 2016 first quarter roundup of things to do – from a first day hike of the year to a beer fest and more! Indoors or out in the wild, there’s plenty of events, outings, art exhibits and winter workshops going on along the Albemarle Sound and beyond!

ncstateparks

First Step into the New Year

North Carolina State Parks will be hosting 1st Day Hikes to start the year off right. Join the staff at Merchant’s Millpond State Park for a 2.5-mile hike along the Lassiter and Bennett’s Creek Trail. Hikers will be rewarded with hot chocolate, cookies and natural treats like bird watching. What a great way to start the year off on a healthy note! Friday, January 1, 2016; 12pm. Pettigrew State Park will also bring in the New Year with hikes along the trails at Phelps Lake. Click here for more info on First Day Hikes.

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jollybeerandwinefestival

Road Trip! Eastern NC Brew Fest & New Craft Brewery!

Grab a friend and take the year’s first road trip to the 6th Annual Jolly Skull Beer & Wine Festival in Greenville, NC. Sample over 125 craft beers and regional wines. All proceeds benefit the Beer Army Foundation. January 23; 2:30 – 6 pm at the Greenville Convention Center. Online tickets.

trollingwoodtaproom&brewerySpeaking of Greenville, for years it was one of the largest cities in North Carolina NOT to have a brewery. Not any more thanks in part to two childhood friends and an East Carolina brewer who recently joined forces to open Trollingwood Brewery & Taproom. The guys preserved a 90-year old building on Dickinson Avenue. The restored building features 2000 square feet of brewing and taproom space including a brew house floor and long bar with plenty of open seating. Other amenities include convenient on-site parking and a roomy outdoor patio. According to their website, Trollingwood’s brewer, Grayson William’s “brewing background is geared towards developing traditional yet innovative American style ales while using local ingredients whenever possible.” He has perfected four staple brews as well as a lineup of rotating seasonals.

 

frankstickmemorialartshow

Art for the Ages and All Stages!

The 38th Annual Frank Stick Memorial Art Show is one of the Outer Banks most established fine art exhibitions. Frank Stick was a national renowned illustrator who produced work and cover art for Field and StreamOutdoor America, Colliers, Sports Afield and The Saturday Evening Post. His influence on the Outer Banks as a preservationist and artist made him an obvious choice for the arts council’s first full-fledged, annual exhibition – and one that remains the longest running visual arts exhibit in Dare County.

The exhibition reception will be held Saturday, January 30, from 6p.m. – 8p.m. The exhibition, sponsored by the Dare County Arts Council in Manteo, NC runs through February 27.

Pocosin Arts Albemarle Sound

Share the love of art with younger students at the After School Arts at Pocosin Arts in Columbia, NC. The Session Three series (February 23rd – March 31st) features two exceptional classes.

Ceramics class for all grades meets every Tuesday from 3:30-5:30 pm. Students will have fun learning to work with clay with resident artist, Matt Repsher. Techniques in constructing sculptural objects and fundamentals of wheel throwing will be taught. Participants will use color and surface decoration through texture, glazing and firing as their final steps to create their own unique piece of work.

The Jewelry/Metals Class (Grades 6th – 9th) meets every Thursday from 3:30-5:30 pm. Resident artist, Phil Ambrose will introduce students to the fascinating world of working with metal.  Students will learn introductory skills using a jeweler’s handsaw; create texture with a hammer, rolling mill and other tools. They will also learn to connect elements together with rivets and soldering.  Finally, they will learn how to patina copper in a range of colors from a rich brown to black to enhance their unique sculptures and jewelry.

Food, Drink, Fun and more!

outerbanksrestaurantassoc

Taste of the Beach

The Outer Banks Restaurant Association presents the popular event 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 40 participating venues and nearly 50 events along the Outer Banks showcase the innovative culinary opportunities and talents of the region’s creative chefs. March 17 – 20, 2016. Info & tickets.

wavelinksthingstodorunning
Kelly’s Running of the Leprechauns 10K

No excuses! Now is the time to jumpstart your training and get back in shape just in time for the Kelly’s 8th Annual Running of the Leprechauns 10K. The 6.2-mile race will be held on Saturday March 12, 2016. The course begins at Kelly’s Restaurant at 2316 S. Croatan Hwy. (10.5 Milepost) in Nags Head. All net proceeds benefit the Outer Banks Community Foundation. March 13, 2016

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year from all of us at Connecting Corridors!

 

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