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  • Writer's pictureMiranda

OBX for the Win(d)

We broke up the 400+ mile trek across North Carolina, from Asheville in the far west to Waterlily in the far east, with a stop at a Harvest Host distillery in Pittsboro. The unique development in an industrial center was also home to a brewery, hemp clothing store, winery, and art studios. We enjoyed some snacks and local libations before heading back to the RV for dinner and a family game night of Apples to Apples and Phase 10.

Travels the next day took us through a small harbor town of Edenton where we stopped for lunch, a work meeting and to stretch our legs. It was a gem of a town with busy shops in the downtown, a local musician playing his keyboard along the sidewalk, trolley service, and historic homes lining the streets. While getting lunch, Chuck was asked how we stumbled upon their little oasis. As we walked back to our RV to depart, after a little shoe shopping, a local pulled up next to Chuck and invited us to stay the winter in their town. They needed more "young families like us around". A grateful smile and we were on our way, but this is definitely a place to visit again in the future.

We have found the predictability of KOA campgrounds comforting as we plan our specific route and destinations usually 2-3 weeks in advance. They have had clean bathrooms, laundry, dish washing station, and kid/teen friendly spaces (basketball or volleyball courts, arcade, playground etc). So we typically research to see if any are in the area we are headed, along with searching a few other blogs and resources.

The KOA we booked for our Outer Banks (OBX) stay was located at the end of a narrow road on a peninsula in the Currituck Sound. This lagoon is 3-8 miles wide and 30 miles long sandwiching the Outer Banks on the west side while the Atlantic Ocean is on the east. It's fresh water, but gets diluted with salt water during heavy storms forming a water mixture called brackish. It was a consistent 4-6 feet deep throughout. We were fortunate to have a campsite that overlooked its beauty.

We settled in with Chuck setting up camp, me on laundry duty and the kids checking out all the fun stuff to do at this campground. It was clearly the end of the season for them, closing at the end of November. There were very few families and mostly seasonal campers.

From where we were staying it was 40-minute drive to get to the Outer Banks, so planning was important to make the most of the daylight. We would rise early and drive to Kitty Hawk where I worked at the library and then from there adventure as a family in the afternoon.

The first day we went to the north end of the Outer Banks to Corolla. I had researched about the herd of 100 wild Spanish Mustangs who roamed the beach and 75,000 acres of the Currituck Wildlife Refuge. The numerous jeep tours offered in the area were closed for the season. Kate is a horse lover, so I knew we had to at least try to see them. Since we had our own four-wheel drive vehicle, we did a little research, stopped by the visitors center to check our information with the locals, and went on our own self-guided tour.

It started with airing down our tire pressure to 20 pounds so we had more surface area and wouldn't get stuck on the beach and sand dunes. Then we proceeded on a 12-mile drive down the beach where the pavement ended. This stretch of beach is traveled regularly by the locals and is the only way to access the homes on this part of the Outer Banks. We definitely felt like locals, but did not look the part with our kids hanging out the windows, music pumping, snapping photos, and grinning ear to ear.

We stopped to check out a dead dolphin being consumed by turkey buzzards (or something like that), picked shells on the beach, and wet our toes in the ocean. It was low tide, so there was plenty of room to park, drive and experience the undeveloped beach.

The beach ended after 12-miles with no horses in sight. We stopped to ask a local for their recommendation on where to go to see the horses and snap a family photo, of course. She directed us over a sand dune and said to just keep driving until we saw some. With a punch of the gas, over the sand dune Chuck drove us into the wildlife refuge. The area had the feel of gravel hunting roads in northern Minnesota where I grew up, except the roads were sand and the forests were beach like brush and palm trees with rustic beach shacks scattered here and there.

It didn't take long and Ben spotted our first group of three horses that even included a foal. We paused briefly, not wanting to disturb them, and moved on in search of more. The winding roads and intersecting trails was an adventure in itself. Ben and Kate kept a look out for horse apples and hoof prints in the sand to help us decide if we should keep going strait or turn. After about 20 minutes we came across our second group of horses. The four of them let us watch them, unphased by our presence. We had found the wild Mustangs!

We drove back down the beach and once on the pavement refilled our tires to the normal 32PSI. On the way back down the Outer Banks we stopped at a few beach shops, a Cookie Crumble (this had been on Mallory's must do list) and tropical smoothie shop. Before returning to the RV, we scoped out a fishing pier for the next day. The kids did school in the evening and Chuck rigged fishing lines for the next day.

The next day we got up with the sun to drive to the Avalon Fishing Pier in Kill Devil Hills so I could wet a line in the Atlantic Ocean with the rest of the family before my work day began. Spotted trout was the hot bite, but the ones we caught were all pretty small - under the 15" minimum slot requirement.

The family dropped me at the library and returned to the pier to fish some more. They saw dolphins swimming out in the ocean and other anglers reel in a nice black drum as well as sting rays. Shortly before coming to get me, Ben hooked into a 4-foot angel shark. He fought the fish back to the base of the pier, but the next challenge was getting the shark up the 20 feet from the ocean level to the pier above with only an 8-pound test line. Before the net could be lowered below the shark darted around a piling of the pier and broke the line, but the video and memory of the one-that-got-away live on.

The afternoon we fished a bit more while the kids ate lunch and played on the beach. Then headed out to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills (not Kitty Hawk as I remember learning). It was interesting how these brothers from Ohio picked the soft sand dunes and ocean breezes of the Outer Banks for their first flight.

Just a few miles down the road was Jockey's Ridge State Park, home to the tallest sand dune east of the Mississippi. It is 80-100 feet tall and always shifting it's shape with the ocean breezes. We trekked to the top, made sand angels and Mallory and Ben did some sand wrestling. Definitely worth the stop, you can even take hang gliding lessons.

We returned to pier to fish the final hour before sunset. Our fee for the day allowed us to come and go. The atmosphere was fun with the locals as well as tourists like us. There was chatter about the winds coming the next day and if the bite was going to change. We should have taken note...

Back at the campground we made a late dinner of chicken and fresh veggie stir fry, coconut curry sauce (thanks cousin Judy), and rice. We all showered and planned for our next few days on the OBX.

At 2am Chuck and I awoke to our bikes crashing over, dishes clattering and the wind howling off the sound. We spent the next 20 minutes securing the items outside and chasing down the shoes, dishes and other items that had blown to the neighboring sites. Mallory had woken up too, she was researching the weather to be certain it wasn't something more serious. She informed us that the wind was gusting to 23 mph and would be windy most of the day. This was what the fishermen were talking about. Chuck and I fell asleep to the waves crashing against the shore. Mallory kept watch most of the night. We were rethinking our plan for the next day.

We hunkered down in the wind for much of the day, slept in, and did work and school. Both hands were needed to brace the RV door when we tried to open it, Chuck loudly reminded us about the wind each time someone reached for the door.

Late afternoon we headed back to the Outer Banks to visit the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. They are a rehabilitation center for sea turtles and have many opportunities for hands on learning. We finished up just in time to drive to a near by park and watch the sunset before a stop at the grocery store to stock up on snacks for our road trip the next day to the southern end of the OBX.

We left shortly after sunrise. Our destination was Ocracoke Island, the furthest point south you can drive to in the OBX. Getting there would involve three hours of driving over bridges connecting islands, through roads with banks of sand on each side (reminding us of snow banks), and an hour long ferry ride each way. We made one quick stop to buy a boogie board, volleyball and a few souvenirs we put to good use:

  • playing volleyball in the parking lot waiting an hour for the return ferry

  • boogie boarding on the sand at the National Seashore and in the ocean

  • eating all the snacks that we packed, plus ice cream

On the way back we stopped at the Hatteras Lighthouse, tallest brick lighthouse on the east coast, just as the sun was setting. Mallory got to practice her night driving for a few hours as we made our way back up the Outer Banks, only seven more weeks until she turns 16!

We ended the day with dinner at the Kill Devil Hills Brewery around 7pm, still an hour from the campground. It had been a long day. In hind sight, I'm not sure that it was worth the extra time to take the ferry to Ocracoke Island as there wasn't much there that we couldn't have experienced along the way.

Our final day we spent "embracing" (Kate's word) what the campground had to offer. Our morning started with french toast and bacon followed by attending Timberwood Church virtually. Then bike rides, fishing, playing at the park, laundry, watching the Vikings beat the Packers, family volleyball games, campfire, and a game of Scrabble.

We had experienced the OBX and will definitely return. In fact, Ben declared he wants to live here someday, keep in mind this was as we were driving down the beach and he was hanging out the window. We loved the sea, and the sand, and laid back atmosphere!

However high winds and rain were in the forecast so we moved up our departure a day early. The Harvest Host farm we planned to stay at in Snow Hill, NC, graciously allowed us to boon dock with them two nights instead of just one when I called to ask if that would be okay. You'll get to meet Mrs. Mary Betty and Ozzie as well as PBS cooking star Miss Lillie, who taught us how to make southern biscuits, in our next blog post.


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2 commentaires

Alaina Bundy
Alaina Bundy
07 déc. 2021

So fun to read up on all your adventures! You have a wonderful writing style, Miranda. It feels like I am right there experiencing it all with you. What amazing memories you are making. Blessing to all of you!

-The Bundys


01 déc. 2021

Correction Ben caught a dog fish/stingray not a shark!!🙄

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