Traveling as far east in the United States as we are
likely to get for now, we have been exploring the Outer Banks of North
Carolina. These long and narrow islands are actually sand dunes that are
constantly in motion and despite that fact, humans are determined to build
houses and roads and bridges on them, allowing for easy travel for Lilypad. We
saw pelicans, cormorants, sea ducks, sandpipers, loons and egrets sharing the
waterways. We were very impressed with spectacular salt marshes and shorelines
lined with shell fragments, and we also got to see one of the five wild horse
herds that have roamed these outer banks since they swam ashore from Spanish
shipwrecks in the 1500’s.
Shipwrecks are a prevailing theme everywhere we stopped,
including at Kill Devil Hill, where the Wright brothers accomplished their
amazing feat of flight. It was the lifesaving corps from Kitty Hawk (stationed
there to provide aid to ships in distress) that helped the brothers position
their “machine” on the top of the hill for the take-off on December 17,
Talking to the NPS volunteer
at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (who by the
way, also served at American Camp on San Juan Island), we learned that this
area is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and there is estimated to be
more than 2000 ships and boats at the bottom of the surrounding sea. It always gratifies
us to find places where nature prevails over the futile efforts of humans.
We took the North Carolina state ferry between Hatteras and
Ocracoke Island, delighted to learn that it was a state-supported free ferry.
We stopped to chat with a Maine couple in their eighties who were onboard driving
their 40-foot motorhome plus tow car, on their 27th
trip to Florida.
Ken and Helen started RVing in 1959 with motorhomes he built himself, and have
been through countless rigs. They have traveled all the way to Alaska twice. For
fun they “went for drives” and seemingly every weekend and every vacation was
spent RVing with their three daughters. They have been all over the US and
remembered dates, campgrounds and roads effortlessly. When we questioned Ken
about their plan to boondock at the Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry terminal (given
the sign proclaiming “No Camping”) Ken responded, “Hell, I ain’t camping, I’m
waiting for the ferry.” We ended up boondocking beside them.
We have to add this little island to our list of places that
intrigue and attract us. It has the right blend of spectacular nature, history,
arts, and real people scrambling to make a living. We ate spectacular seafood,
walked on deserted shell-lined beaches, encountered folks intent on preserving
historic buildings, viewed sand dunes, marsh habitat and wild horses, read
about lifesaving traditions and witnessed the creativity of artists at every
turn. Ocracoke village itself is a
walking town and visitors are urged to “park your car and visit us up close”
either by foot or via the ubiquitous golf-cart or bike rentals. In spite of a
long season, and the impending winter closure of most of the seasonal
businesses, we found locals cheerful and happy to chat.
Further down the road, and following the campground advice
of Ken and Helen, we ran into them again in a North Carolina National Forest
campground. Another couple of hours passed as we plied them with questions
about destinations, campsites, roads and RV maintenance. For every issue we
could raise they had great tales of experience, misadventure, how to save money
and lots of good advice. They’ll be back home in Maine for the summer. We have
their phone number.