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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some different fall colors

While fall along the coast does not have the magnificent canopy of colors that you often see in the fall in the mountains of North Carolina.  We do have get some fall colors that are unique to the area.

I find that the clear fall skies and bright sun often combine for an unbeatable show of color.  The picture at the top of the post was taken on the White Oak River on November 19 just after sunset.

The colors out on the river that evening were so stunning that it was hard to stop snapping pictures, and head back to my dock.  As you can see from the album that I posted the colors were really amazing.

The river isn't the only source of wonderful colors in fall along the Southern Outer Banks.  You also find some amazing displays of beauty on Bogue Sound and even on the beaches at sunset the light can be spectacular.
I also really enjoy the fall colors of the marshes.  We just took a wonderful cruise through the marshes courtesy of Hammocks Beach State Park which was collecting Toys for Tots.  The golden color of the marsh grasses against the backdrop of blue skies and beautiful waters is hard to beat.

We do get some color in our trees, and late in the evening when the sun is shining on them or even reflected in the water, you can almost imagine yourself in the mountainsSome maples stand out even in our pine dominated forests.  Bradford pear trees also put on a colorful show here on the coast, and I even enjoy the contrast of dark berries against the yellow-orange color of crape myrtles as they prepare for winter.

Still it is hard to beat a nice sunset on the river for fall color.  It puts a very colorful exclamation point on the day as it draws to a close.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kayaking on the White Oak River

Almost everyone has been pleased with our recent weather here on the Southern Outer Banks.  We might quibble a little with the high surf that has made surf fishing difficult for a few days, but blue skies and temperatures in the mid-sixties are hard to beat in the middle of November. Saturday afternoon was a nearly perfect day. Sunday there was not a cloud in the sky, so there was no reason to expect anything but nice weather for an outdoor adventure.

After church and our grilled lunch, I briefly thought about leaning back in my easy chair and watching some football, but the weather was just too good to waste it on football.  I decided that it would be a great time to go kayaking.  Our home is right on Raymond's Gut which leads out to the White Oak.  Saturday's boat ride in our skiff had taken care of my longing for flying across the water, so I was ready for some paddling.

We have a grassy area behind our bulkhead, and that is where I slide my kayak into the water. It is a little slope so when I am ready to exit the water, I usually have my wife pull my kayak in with our pickup truck.  That way I don't get in trouble for wet or dirty clothes.

The water Sunday afternoon was creating some beautiful reflections of the blue sky so it was also a good time for some photographs.  I loaded my trout rod, a couple of cameras, life vest,  floating bag with cell phone into my kayak and headed out just after 2 PM.

The coast has been experiencing some very high tides, and one of the first things that I wanted to do was investigate an area in the marsh grass that I can only get into when the tides are very high.  I did not have any trouble getting in there Sunday afternoon, and as I suspected I found our great blue heron hiding back there.  Of course he saw me before I saw him.  I got a couple of pictures, but neither of them is good enough for public consumption.

It is a neat spot back in there.  I love the gnarly old live oaks that surround the area.  After checking out the blue heron's lair, I fished a little out in the channel before I paddled out to the river.

I made it out the Red Sixteen Buoy which is the buoy which marks the spot where on our trips back up the river that we turn to go back to Bluewater Cove.  I did "check in" with Foursquare at Red Sixteen.   I fully expect to continue being the mayor of Red Sixteen on Foursquare.  It will be a hard spot for someone to dislodge me, especially with winter coming.

The picture at the top of the post was taken just beyond Red Sixteen looking towards Swansboro.  I did a little fishing out in the river, but the current and winds were strong enough that each time I made a cast, I ended up having to paddle for five minutes to get back to where I started.

There were only a couple of distant fishing boats on the river so it was relatively quiet as is usually the case.  I finally gave up on the fish and started making movies.  I have a friend who is unable to kayak so I thought he might enjoy the feeling of a movie instead of just static shots.

Before I knew it, time had slipped by, and it was four PM.  My wife was due to take our cat to the vet for some medicine before 5 PM so I focused on paddling myself back to the dock.  I found my wife waiting for me by our pickup.  She had gotten carried away with the good weather and was cleaning out my pickup.  Hopefully I will still be able to find everything when I need it.

The water was so high, it didn't take much of a tug to get me onshore.  I had a great time, got some exercise, and managed to relax a little.  That is hard to beat.

I posted three short YouTube videos, Kayaking on the White Oak, Bluewater Cove, and Headed Home.

You get a real feel for being in a large coastal river with the first one, Kayaking on the White Oak.  The Bluewater Cove one is just my kayak riding the currents and wind back into the main body of Raymond's Gut.  My favorite YouTube one out of this batch is the final one, Headed Home.  I did some fancy paddling with one hand in that video.

I hope the weather stays this way for a while.  I would love to get some more kayaking in before it gets too chilly to sit in a kayak.   If you have never been out on a coastal river in kayak it is well worth trying. Where I do most of my kayaking, the White Oak is nearly two miles wide.  If it is your first trip, you might want to wait for a calmer day.  Sometimes there is hardly even a ripple in the water.  I really enjoy sunset kayak trips on the White Oak.  Early in the morning and just before sunset are the best times to catch calm waters.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Quiet on the river

When I got up this morning, it was cool and windy.  Twenty-four hours certainly made a difference in the temperature.  My blue jeans added some welcome warmth as I wandered out to the get the morning newspaper.

Sunday night, October 31, I took a boat ride on the river in my standard summer uniform of shorts and tee shirt.  I was a little cool coming back up river at just under thirty miles per hour, but when I was idling around waiting for the sun to get behind the trees, I was fine.

While it warmed up nicely the next day, it was still somewhat cooler than Halloween evening.  I spent most of the day after Halloween catching up with things after our recent trip to Virginia.  Each time I come back from Northern Virginia, I am reminded that I made a conscious choice to live somewhere that traffic does not come close to gridlock on a regular basis.

We were at Tyson's Corner Shopping Center on Friday afternoon before Halloween.  My wife wanted to drive by the apartment that I shared with our grown children for a couple of years.  It is just north of Tyson's Corner on Route 123 which seems to have grown to about twelve lanes.  It was about 4 PM when we drove by our old spot, and it was clear than the southbound lanes of Route 123 were not moving.  I remembered a back way over to the Toll Road so we escaped unharmed though we did have to get off of the Toll Road an exit early because of everyone rubber necking an accident.

We hung around the Northern Virginia area until about 2 PM on Saturday and then headed back to North Carolina.  It wasn't long before we were in stop and go traffic on Interstate 95 for about 20 minutes just north of Fredericksburg, but that was our only hitch on the trip home.  We stopped for breaks a couple of times and once for gas.    Even with that, we passed through the intersection of Routes 24 and 58 near the Emerald Isle Bridge at 8:10 PM, just a few minutes over six hours after we left Reston, Va.

While we love visiting our children in Northern Virginia, we have no desire to live in a spot where you avoid going out on weekends for fear of traffic.  While we might skip visiting the grocery stores here on the Crystal Coast for a few hours on each of about six or seven weekends during the summer, most of the time we go wherever we want, whenever we decide that we need to go.

I had also forgotten how small the parking spaces are in Northern Virginia.  Here on the Southern Outer Banks our parking is designed for big trucks, and we even make accommodation for those pulling boats.

Of course if you need to buy something, there is hardly any place better than Northern Virginia.  The malls in the area have almost any store known to mankind.  Actually the women have heard of almost all the stores, and like most men, I am clueless about most of them.  I did enjoy LL Beans, Levengers, and of course the Apple Store.  I was amazed but not surprised that the Apple Store has done away with cash registers.  The employees have a gadget that swipes your credit card, and then they can email your receipt to your smart phone.

Besides shopping, Northern Virginia has some very nice restaurants.  We managed to eat at Sweet Water Grille, Coastal Flats, and Chicken Out which was one of the places I would often run by after work when I was working out of the Reston, Virginia Apple office.  I also got to make a trip to Whole Foods which is my favorite grocery store.  Where else can you find an ostrich egg when you need one?

Every place has its pluses and minuses, but at this stage in our lives, the Southern Outer Banks is the right spot for us.  Being able to drop a boat in the water for a sunset cruise and be back at the house in ten or fifteen minutes is not that unusual here on the coast.  It is a great way to soothe your soul, and I use it often.

A just-before-dusk trip on the water is how I got the picture in this post. The evening after Halloween I had to wear blue jeans and take a jacket, but it was still nice out on the water.  In fact it was even more peaceful than it was the previous night. Of course the light is always a little different, and I got some great photos.

The feeling of peace and quiet that you get on an uncrowded. wide coastal river at sunset is hard to duplicate when you get near major populations centers.  Access to water is one of the main reasons that we are here on the Southern Outer Banks. Of course a climate favorable taking boat rides in November is pretty good reason in its own right.

Boat gridlock is also not something we worry about on the White Oak River or out in Bogue Inlet. And we have some mighty fine small, family owned restaurants just around the corner even if they are mostly local secrets.