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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Time To Be Out and About on the Crystal Coast

This is the kind of weather that we live for here on the Crystal Coast. I love the warm days and cool nights. I do most of my writing at night, and there is nothing that I enjoy more than feeling the cool evening breeze through my office while hearing the fish jumping in the water behind our home. This has been close to a perfect weekend here on the coast after a couple of days of rain. The azaleas have started blooming, and not to be outdone the dogwoods have also opened up over the last couple of days. Today and yesterday, I even saw folks put their boats in the water for some early spring boating. It was a little windy on Saturday, but the winds backed off some on Sunday. While I am waiting for a little warmer weather before hitting the water, we did have a busy weekend which is typical of this time of year on the Crystal Coast.
Saturday found us heading for Newport for the annual Pig Cook off. It is a wonderful town festival, but the most important thing is that they have great barbecue which they start serving at 11:00 am Saturday after all the pigs have been judged. We got there a little after 1 PM and spent a short time waiting in line before getting our barbecue lunch consisting of pulled pork, beans, slaw and hush puppies. They have tables where you can eat. We met some nice folks from Salter Path and Beaufort while having lunch.

After finishing our iced tea, we took a short walk around the craft exhibits, and then headed off on another adventure. We were determined to visit the Core Sound Museum on Harkers Island. The distance is probably close to twenty miles from the Beaufort drawbridge, but it takes thirty to thirty-five minutes to drive because of the traffic in and around Beaufort.

It was a great day for the drive. I love the road to Harkers Island. It reminds me of southwestern Nova Scotia where we lived for a few years. You are never far from the water and most of the time the water is on both sides of you. It is true Down East country with wide expanses of water as far as you can see.

Just after Otway, you make a turn for the four mile run to the Harkers Island Bridge. Just after you cross the bridge there is a small marina filled with honest to goodness fishing boats. The four mile drive up the length of the island to the Core Sound Museum takes you through a closely knit community with some wonderful traditional waterfront homes surrounded by live oaks. There are some great old houses along the way. You also pass some local ferry services that will take you over to Cape Lookout or Shackleford banks.

We have made use of Calico Jack's Ferry Service a couple of times for magical visits to Cape Lookout. It is not a place you can visit without it touching your soul. Still the water on Saturday would have been a little rough for the short ten minute ride even if the ferries had been running. On top of that Cape Lookout is a summer activity not an early spring one so kept on going to the Core Sound Museum.

By the time we arrived the other visitors had disappeared, and we had the museum to ourselves. We even got our own personal guide in the form of the local lady who was running the gift shop. I was amazed at how much history is in the community exhibits from all over Down East. The museum is a wonderful community resource. In addition to the history there are some fantastic craft exhibits from carved decoys to hand stitched quilts which are still done by the local ladies in the museum. There are also several scale models of boats that have been important to the history of the area.

The museum is free and supported by donations and fund raising events. We really enjoyed our tour and will look forward to new parts of the museum as they open. As we were leaving we picked up a brochure on the self-guided nature trails around the museum. Since the day was drawing to a close, we chose the short Willow Pond trail. We were not disappointed. The trees on one side of the pond were full of white Ibises. The beautiful birds were there in numbers that I have never seen. The trail also included a bird blind to make taking pictures easy. I did see one white heron and one green heron among all the others. I made a slide show of our visit and hike.

On our way back to Cape Carteret, we stopped by the Fish Town Seafood Market and bought some shrimp. When we got home my wife cooked up some spicy cheese and garlic grits from Savor the Flavor in Sumter, SC. I cleaned the shrimp and then she sauteed them in a little olive oil with some onions. Then all it took was a scoop of grits, a big scoop of shrimp, and some crumbled bacon, and we had a great meal of home cooked shrimp and grits.

It was a great finish for one of those days that just demand that you spend time outside. The great news is that Sunday was just as nice. We managed to get in a hike on the Croatan Tideland Trail.

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