Hiking Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Roanoke Sound side of Jockey's Ridge State Park showing dense maritime forest.
Roanoke Sound side of Jockey’s Ridge State Park showing dense maritime forest.

We seem to be lucking into some absolutely exquisitely beautiful weather here on the Outer Banks. It’s been a great time to get out and explore, to see some of the hidden wonders of the area before the summer heat comes.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

With bright shushing, nice breeze from the northwest and temperatures in the mid 60s, today was a perfect day to check out Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.

Jockey’s Ridge is the largest sand dune on the East Coast and most visitors to the Outer Banks probably know it as an amazing place to fly a kite or learn how to hang glide. And the view from Jockey’s Ridge is spectacular.

However, there is a whole other world waiting to be explored at the park.

The 1.5 mile Tracks in the Sand nature trail winds it’s way across the dunes to a narrow beach bordering the Roanoke Sound.

Trail Description

There is a tendency to think of Jockey’s Ridge as a gigantic pile of sand. Although there is a lot of sand, this is a dynamic environment where small groves of maritime trees come to life in pockets of earth where the dunes give protection from the wind.

Sand sculpted by the wind at Jockey's Ridge State Park.
Sand sculpted by the wind at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

But the sand is a mutable force and as it migrates, it encroaches on the root systems of the trees, strangling them over time. Along the edge of every copse of living trees, there is a swath of dead and dying vegetation.

The wind is a constant and as it blows the loose sand away, compressed sand is exposed and carved into the most amazing patterns.

Along the Roanoke Sound, protected for centuries from the harsh salt winds of the Atlantic Ocean, a dense maritime forest has taken root. It exists along a very narrow strip of land, perhaps 200 yards at it’s most wide, before the barrier of the sterile sands of Jockey’s Ridge begin to dominate.

But that narrow strip is remarkably verdant; raccoon tracks can be clearly seen. he sound of birds is a constant, and the forest is dense, almost impenetrable in places.

Although the Tracks in the Sand trail is only 1.5 miles, it is across loose sand and there are some steep sections. Anyone who walks from time to time should have no problem with it, but it’s a level trail across a well packed surface.

Meetings Highlight Outer Banks Beach Nourishment

Julien Devisse of Coastal Planning and Engineering speaking at Kill Devil Hills.
Julien Devisse of Coastal Planning and Engineering discussing beach nourishment at Kill Devil Hills.

With beach nourishment scheduled to begin in May in the towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills–and maybe Southern Shores, the contractor for the project, Coastal Engineering held a series of informational meetings Wednesday and Thursday.

Traveling with Coastal Engineering was a representative from Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, the company that will be pumping the sand on the beach.

The presentation in each town was geared toward the work that was being done there, but much of the presentation was consistent.

Construction

The work, as an example, will be done in 1000’ sections, and as construction is underway, the public, for safety reasons, will not be permitted in the work zone.

Julien Devisse from Coastal Engineering had the task of explaining how nourishment works.

Using graphs he showed how, over time, sand from a nourished beach typically moves off shore to form a protective sand bar that helps to dissipate the fore of incoming waves.

He also discussed the timetable.

Work is scheduled to begin in Duck in mid May with a planned completion date in late June or early July.

Kitty Hawk will begin in mid June and should wrap up by mid August.

Plans call for Kill Devil Hills nourishment to begin in early August and be completed by mid September.

Devisse did caution, though, that there were a number of factors that could influence the schedule—weather is certainly one of the factors. He also noted, however, that the dredges were pumping sand almost continuously and that given the abrasive nature of sand, equipment failures could occur.

Dredging

According to the representative from Great Lakes Dredge and Dock the borrow areas, which is where the sand is located that will be brought to the beach, is about six miles off shore and is considered easily accessible with good quality sand.

Although there are conditions under which it will not  be able to operate, the dredge can continue its work in seas up to 8’.

Federal regulations require monitoring for sea turtles. N.E.S.T. will be monitoring construction zones to insure no nesting sea turtles are disturbed.

Picture Perfect Weather on the Outer Banks

Bodie Island Lighthouse from the trail on the western side of the site.
Bodie Island Lighthouse from the trail on the western side of the site.

Usually when we write about the weather on the Outer Banks, it’s because there’s something nasty to report—hurricanes, n’or easters, that type of thing. Today, thankfully, we get a break from disaster reporting.

Not that we have to report on nasty weather too often, but it’s still nice to have something good to say.

The weather this weekend was spectacular. More like spring than mid February with temperatures almost reaching 70, deep blue skies and bright sunshine.

It was breezy, but the wind was from the west, keeping things warm and dry.

This was a day to be outside!

Bodie Island Trail
Dotted line marks the trail.
Dotted line marks the trail.

Looking for something different to do, Bodie Island Lighthouse seemed like the place to go. Rather than wander around the lighthouse, which is beautiful, the decision was made to take the path less traveled.

There’s a trail that goes out into the marshes as the Bodie Island Road loops back on itself. The trail begins as a dirt access road with a bar across the road keeping unauthorized vehicles out.

About a quarter mile down the road, there’s two bridges; one a modern looking construction that continues the road. To the left of it is a primitive looking bridge wide enough for foot traffic.

Take the bridge to the left.

There is a trail that wanders back into the marshes. At this time of the year, when staffing is low, it does not appear as though very much trail maintenance has been done, but the journey is worth the effort.

Trail entering a grove of trees on the Bodie Island Trail.
Trail entering a grove of trees on the Bodie Island Trail.

As the trail parallels the open marsh, specular views of Bodie Island Lighthouse appear. The marsh grass at this time of the year is a pale brown that waves in the wind. Small groves of trees are a spectacular green against that monochrome background.

There is a constant chorus of wind blowing through the grass and over the tops of trees. Mixed in with that is the chirp and songs of wrens and finches that spend their winters on the Outer Banks.

It truly is days like today that are reminders of how amazing the Outer Banks can be and the beauty that is so much a part of living here.

OBX Valentine’s Day-Create Some Memories

Trio will be offering an Aphrodisiac dinner pairing on Saturday and Valentine's Day.
Trio will be offering an Aphrodisiac dinner pairing on Saturday and Valentine’s Day.

There are very few places anywhere as romantic as the Outer Banks, which makes Valentine’s Day by the sea even better.

Of course the Outer Banks slows down in the winter, but local restaurants and bars are a long way from dead and a number of them have some great ideas for how to celebrate with someone special.

What’s nice is that our local businesses, recognizing that a lot of couples take the weekend as a romantic getaway, have some pre-Valentine’s Day ideas that are a great reason to step out for the evening.

This is a partial list, although we think we’ve got a good sampling of what there is to do; but if there is a special place that has been the regular Valentine’s Day rendezvous, call and see what’s available.

Saturday & Sunday February 11, 12

Ocean Boulevard, Kitty Hawk

Special 4-Course Dinner

Perfect for a romantic evening with someone special. A special 4-course dinner  menu.

Saturday February 11

Trio. Kitty Hawk

Aphrodisiac Pairing Dinner.

Put a little passion into Valentine’s day with the Trio Aphrodisiac Pairing Dinner. These five-course dinners feature ingredients believed to have properties that spark desire. Each course will be paired with a  choice of wine or beer, further enhancing the mood. 

Sunday, February 12

Kelly’s Outer Baks Tavern, Nags Head

Riff Tides

Classic music of the 1950s and 60s done really well. A great date night. It’s also a fundraiser for GEM, providing services for families and their loved ones suffering from memory loss.

Valentine’s Day

Coastal Provisions, Southern Shores

Hannah Buckley

Outstanding vocalist and guitarist Hannah Buckley is perfect for a romantic dinner under soft lights. She’s bringing some new songs as well as old favorites and a few covers better than their original.

Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern

4:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Free flowers for the ladies and live music in the tavern by Graham Outten. Graham is a local talent with a great voice. This should be a wonderful place to be on Valentine’s Day.

Ocean Boulevard

Special 4-Course Dinner

On Valentine’s Day we will offer a unique Special Four Course Menu ($60 per person, $90 with paired wines) exclusively. The Valentine’s Menu itself is offered exclusively on Valentine’s Day. 

OBX Sunset and the Day After the Super Bowl

Kitty Hawk Bay at sunset. The sun will rise and set no matter what the score of the Super Bowl was.
Kitty Hawk Bay at sunset. The sun will rise and set no matter what the score of the Super Bowl was.

It’s the day after the Super Bowl and here on the Outer Banks it’s a beautiful day. Temperatures got to the mid 50s, the sun was out all day and there was a light breeze.

Best of all, it looks as though it’s going to be like that for the next few days.

Like the rest of the country, the Outer Banks went crazy for the Super Bowl. A quick, and what could only be described as unscientific, survey showed a noticeable preference for Atlanta.

Well…the best that can be said for the Atlanta fans was that it was a heck of a game. The kind of game that people look back on 10 or 15 years later and say, “Do you remember Super Bowl XI?”

Of course, New England fans will have a different take on the day, but 10 or 15 years later the question will be the same.

Which brings us to our photo, which has nothing at all to do with football, sports or the Super Bowl

It’s a picture of sunset over Kitty Hawk Bay, and it’s a reminder that no matter how wrapped up we get in sports and our teams, no matter who wins or loses, the sun is still going to rise and set.

Of course here at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates we’re pretty sure the sunrise and sunsets are just a little bit more spectacular, just a little bit better on the Outer Banks than anywhere else.

There’s no more Super Bowl Sundays coming up this year, but there are plenty of other reasons for visiting the Outer Banks this winter. The sunset over Kitty Hawk Bay is just one example of how beautiful our world can be.

The offseason, especially winter, is a wonderful time for a getaway. Our rental rates are the lowest of the year, the selection is outstanding and there’s plenty of time to wander lonely as a cloud along our beaches.

Bonner Bridge Replacement Update

Artist's rendering of the Jug Handle, Bonner Bridge project.
Artist’s rendering of the Jug Handle, Bonner Bridge project.

The replacement for the Bonner Bridge has always been the big cog in the wheel to improve the transportation corridor through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Other pieces of the puzzle are coming together as well, and things are really getting busy as the road project takes shape. 

The Big News

The big new coming from NCDOT is that a contract has been awarded for the Jug Handle that will bypass the S Curves. The S Curves, just north of Rodanthe has, in the past, been prone to flooding and ocean overwash.

A beach nourishment project completed last year seems to be holding the ocean back for the time being. There is, however, wide consensus that beach nourishment is a temporary fix.

The Jug Handle is aptly named; swinging west about a mile north of Rodanthe, the road will cross the marsh on the soundside and extend into Pamlico Sound coming back to NC12 just north of the Island Convenience store.

The winning bid was for $145 million. The scheduled completion date is 2020.

New Inlet Replacement Almost Complete

Opened by Hurricane Irene, the breach just north of New Inlet has been crossed by a temporary bridge since December of 2011. Although the breach filled in with a year, the area is considered unstable and prone to ocean overwash and flooding.

A more permanent replacement bridge is almost completed. NCDOT is confident it will be open by the original estimate of April of this year.

Unlike the Bonner Bridge Replacement and Jug Handle, which are projected to have 100 year life spans, the New Inlet bridge will have a 25 year lifespan while a more permanent solution is researched.

Bonner Bridge Replacement
Pouring decking on the Bonner Bridge in January.
Pouring decking on the Bonner Bridge in January.

Slated to be open for traffic in the fall of 2018, according to NCDOT the project remains on target.

NCDOT is reporting decking is being poured on areas of the bridge that are nearing completion.

Construction is moving from the north and south simultaneously. The final piece of the puzzle will be the high-rise portion of the bridge, designed with seven navigational spans to give boat traffic options the original Bonner Bridge does not.

Seals Return to Outer Banks Beaches

Seal on the beach in Nags Head.
Seal on the beach in Nags Head.

Yes, that is a seal on the Nags Head beach.

There’s not a lot of them, but surprisingly, every winter a few seal do stop by the Outer Banks. For the most part they’re harbor seals, although an occasional gray seal is also spotted.

They seem to be following colder ocean water temperatures, as a 2015 Cape Hatteras National Seashore study noted.

“When ocean temperatures plummet during the winter and spring months, seal sightings are a common occurrence. Coming from the north, the seals migrate along the Outer Banks coast following the colder water while feeding.”  (Marine Mammal 2015 Summary)

When seen on the beach, they are usually resting. It’s almost unheard of for a colony to take up residence along an exposed beach on the Outer Banks.

During the winter months, however, there are small colonies that inhabit some of the islands in Outer Banks sounds, especially Pamlico Sound.

About a half mile south of Oregon Inlet, Green Island is a wetlands patch of grass and sand that seem to be a favorite resting spot of seals. The 2015 Summary pointed to Green Island as a particularly good good belle weather for seal activity.

“Historically, the south end of Green Island has been used by Harbor seals as a haul-out site for consecutive years, therefore a sighting doesn’t necessarily imply one individual; the most observed at one time in 2015 was 2 but up to 33 seals have previously been observed,” the study’s authors wrote.

There are concerns that construction noise and activity as the new Bonner Bridge is being built will scare seals away, but there is some uncertainty about that.

Although a seal on the beach may look cute, it is important to leave it alone. It is Federally protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act so approaching it is illegal. Beyond that, seals are wild animals and they weigh 200-250 pounds.

If there is concern that the seal is injured or sick,  contact N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) at 252.441.8622.

After Dark at All Saints-A Month of Learning

Wes Stepp, executive chef at Red Sky in Duck and creator of Tastefully Fit at an After Dark class in 2016.
Wes Stepp, executive chef at Red Sky in Duck and creator of Tastefully Fit at an After Dark class in 2016.

For anyone thinking there is nothing to do on the Outer Banks in the winter, may we present After Dark at All Saints—that’s All Saints Episcopal Church in Southern Shores.

This is the ninth year for the month long event and what is offers are evening classes on everything from gourmet cooking to planning for retirement. The After Dark classes are a great opportunity to learn a little something that there never seems to be time to study.

Some classes have already filled up, so check out what’s available and spend an evening in education.

For a full list of classes, click here. There’s also registration information on the website.

Here’s a small sampling of classes that are offered.

Cooking

PORK BELLY TACOS

Friday, Feb 3

Enjoy the kitchen creativity of Executive Chef MATT PAYNE as he prepares the Bad Bean Baja Grill’s Pork Belly Taco! Students will learn how this popular pork cut is prepared, and then savor its taste with flavorful accompaniments. Space is limited to 20 with an additional fee of $5.

CLASS 815 – CAJUN SAUSAGE BREAD

Thursday, Feb 9

Are you ready to make a New Orleans treat with just the right touch of spiciness that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner? How about an appetizer that your family and friends will rave about? Join ARLINE ARNOLD for a fun and tasty evening in the kitchen. Class size is limited to 10 with an additional fee of $10.

Friday, Feb 24

WES STEPP, owner and Executive Chef of the Red Sky restaurant in Duck, believes gourmet food can be not only delicious, but healthy as well! Join Chef Wes for a special evening and learn from this experienced Outer Banks restaurateur how to create gourmet food in a healthy style.  Space is limited to 20 with an additional fee of $10.

ARTS, FLOWERS, CRAFTS & HOBBIES

CLASS 829 and CLASS 830 – SURF FISHING – Two Separate Classes

Tuesday Feb 7 & Class 830, Tuesday, Feb 14

STU BALDWIN, Past President of the OBX Anglers Club, will share his experience and know-how learned over 40 years, with over 30 years in competitive surf fishing! There are two classes to choose from.  Surf Fishing 101 (#829) is made easy for the family and will cover equipment, knot tying, bait and equipment choices, and how to read a beach.  Surf Fishing 202 (#830) is for the experienced angler and will cover advanced techniques in fishing for Reds, Specs, and Flounder plus equipment, rigging and bait choices. Class size is limited to 18 in each.

CLASS 823A – DRAWING BIRDS and FEATHERS

Tuesday, Feb 14

Join renowned local artist E.M. CORSA for an evening of drawing birds and feathers! Corsa is known for her paintings of Air Angels, birds with halos. Attendees at this class should bring a sketchpad and drawing tools of their choosing – pencils, pens, and/or markers – as well as one or more pictures of birds. Class size is limited to 8.

GENERAL INTEREST

CLASS 878 – WINE 101

Thursday, Feb 3

Join Chef and Certified Level II Sommelier DAN LEWIS of Coastal Provisions for a crash course on wine. The class will be packed with information from how wine is made, regional characteristics, and food pairings, to deciphering labels and restaurant wine lists.  Best of all, you will taste while you discover.  Plan on having dinner before class –it’s a “big agenda!” Class size is limited to 24 students with an additional fee of $10 for supplies.

CLASS 852 – BLIND DATE BOOK CLUB

Wednesday, Feb 8

JAMIE ANDERSON, bookseller at Duck’s Cottage and Downtown Books in Manteo, eats, lives and breathes books and loves introducing readers to books they otherwise might never have discovered. The $10 fee covers the cost of the book, which will be delivered to All Saints for pick-up. This could be the best (and least stressful!) blind date you ever had! There is an additional fee of $10.

Zack Mexico Rocks Kelly’s Tavern

Zack Mexico performing at Kelly's Outer Banks Tavern Saturday night.
Zack Mexico performing at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern Saturday night.

Zack Mexico took a journey back to their roots on Saturday night, rocking the house at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern.

A local band that’s making a name for itself regionally, the founding members of the group all hail from Kill Devil Hills.

It was a great show and if nothing else, it certainly clarified the rumors of Kelly’s imminent closing are greatly exaggerated. Owner Mike Kelly has told local media that he is planning on selling the five acre lot that is home to the restaurant, but negotiations hit a snag and Mike has made it clear until there is a signature on a dotted line, the restaurant and bar is running full throttle.

A five piece band, Zack Mexico’s music has sort of a psychedelic punk rock sound. Except they throw in some other elements into their music.

They take the stage with three guitars and they use the guitars in their own unique style. They’re loud; they’re lyrics are sometimes off-color; and they are really good musicians.

In their arrangements, the band uses the guitars as another voice to backup lead singer, John Saturley. They’ll harmonize their guitar leads. Sometimes the guitar will play a counterpoint to the vocals.

Their distinctive sound and the quality of what they are doing is really helped by the drumming of Joey LaFountain.

Shaggy hair hanging in his face, he looks the part. More importantly, though, LaFountain is a really good drummer and it’s his pounding, innovative rhythms that drives the energy of the performance.

In short—this is a group of really good musicians who have found a voice in the music they are performing.

It’s not for everyone. This is pretty hardcore psychedelic punk rock—if that is a genre. It’s loud. The beat and the rhythms, especially in their live shows, is an incessant almost frenetic pounding.

But they are good, and if their style is acceptable, it’s a great show.

Southern Shores and Beach Nourishment

From Spencer Rogers presentation: a top ten need to know nourishment list.
From Spencer Rogers presentation: a top ten need to know nourishment list.

Is Southern Shores moving toward nourishment for its beaches?

The Town Council has not taken a vote yet, but if public sentiment is any indication, about a half mile of beach on the southern end of the town where it borders on Kitty Hawk will be nourished.

That is the sentiment that seemed to emerge from an informational forum the town held at the Hilton Garden Inn on Tuesday evening.

The forum consisted of five speakers and a public comment period. Although there was some opposition to from the audience, most of the speakers favored the idea.

With historically stable beaches, Southern Shores chose not to participate in the intra-county plan to nourish beaches in Duck, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills. However, over the past seven years, the shoreline in front of Pelican Watch has retreated almost 120’ and properties in the subdivision are threatened.

Although there had been concern about the beach in that area, Hurricane Matthew caused so much loss of dune and beach, residents felt something had to be done.

Hoping to Piggyback

What Southern Shores is hoping to do is piggyback on the already planned project in Kitty Hawk. Slated to begin in June, if Southern Shores does vote to proceed and is able to get the necessary permits, the cost savings would be huge.

The savings would be realized because equipment is already in place and the amount of additional sand that would have to be pumped onto the beach is relatively minor. The current plan calls for a taper area extending into Southern Shores. Additional sand would widen the beach in the taper area and move the taper north.

What the Experts Said

The speakers were four scientists, Spencer Rogers of Sea Grant, Reide Corbett for the Coastal Studies Institute, Tim Kana of Coastal Studies Engineering and Ken Wilson from Coastal Planning & Engineering. Former Nags Head Mayor Bob Oakes was also on hand to discuss the town’s experience with nourishment. Nags Head is the only town on the Outer Banks that has nourished its beaches.

The consensus among the speakers was that beach nourishment is an effective mitigation tool for the protection of shorelines, but it is not a one size fits all solution.

The scientists did address the situation at Pelican Watch directly, indicating beach nourishment would give at least a temporary reprieve from the encroaching ocean. However, there was also agreement that longer term studies and observations would have to be done to determine if nourishment was a long term solution.

The forum was extremely well attended with over 250 members of the public on hand.