July 1-5, 2014, Morehead City, Beaufort, and the Crystal Coast of North Carolina
Wednesday we drove to the Crystal Coast on the Island of Bogue Banks. This is the southernmost portion of the Outer Banks and lies between the Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. We drove through the many small towns on the island and stopped at one of the beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side where we enjoyed the water and collected some seashells.
On the eastern tip of the island sits Fort Macon State Park. Fort Macon was built to protect the North Carolina coast. Construction of Fort Macon was begun in 1826 and the Fort was garrisoned in 1834. At the start of the Civil War, North Carolina seized Fort Macon and it was held by the Confederates until 1862 when it fell into Union hands once again. For the duration of the war the harbor served as a coaling station for Union Navy ships. Fort Macon was a Federal prison from 1867 until 1876. It was deactivated in 1877 only to be re-garrisoned by state troops once again during the summer of 1898 for the Spanish-American War. The fort was shut down in 1903 and in 1924, by a Congressional Act, was given to the state of North Carolina to be used as a public park. During 1934-35 the Civilian Conservation Corps restored the fort and established public recreational facilities and Fort Macon State Park officially opened on May 1, 1936. At the outbreak of World War II, the US Army leased the park from the state and actively manned the fort with Coast Artillery troops to protect a number of important nearby facilities. On October 1, 1946, the Army returned the fort back o the state.
After touring the fort we were ready to call it a day – it sure is hot and humid here in North Carolina!
Thursday morning we checked with the resort office about the approaching Hurricane Arthur and they assured us that it was only a category I hurricane so we had nothing to worry about. We decided to drive into Beaufort and spend the morning then check on the weather conditions again later in the afternoon. We enjoyed walking around looking at the old houses and the dock area. We stopped at the North Carolina Maritime Museum where we enjoyed the maritime exhibits and a special exhibit on the Search for Blackbeard’s flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge. The famous pirate, Blackbeard, ran his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, aground just outside the Beaufort Inlet. In 1996 a commercial salvage company found an unidentified shipwreck just outside Beaufort Inlet and it is believed to be Queen Anne’s Revenge. The museum has many of the artifacts from this shipwreck on display along with a history of Blackbeard’s escapades.
After a great lunch at Clawsons 1905 Restaurant, we headed back to the resort to check on the weather conditions. Hurricane Author is still classified as Category I but is expected to make land fall in our area. So we made sure everything was put away and safely secured, turned the television to the weather report and settled in to wait out the storm. The eye of the hurricane was suppose to pass by us around midnight so we figured it was going to be a long night. It started raining and getting windy around 5 pm. It would be windy and rain hard for a short time and then calm down and then start up again. Around 10 pm the weatherman said that the hurricane had been upgraded to a Category II with 100 mile and hour winds – that’s when we really started to worry as we are sitting in a 5th wheel! He went on to explain that the 100 mile an hour winds were going to be on the sea side of the storm and that we could expect 60 mile an hour wind gusts - we felt better but were still concerned. Around midnight the eye of the storm officially came ashore around Cape Lookout which is just northeast of where we are. The wind got stronger and rattled the 5th wheel a few times and we had lots of small branches hitting the roof. We finally called it a night around 12:30 after the storm started heading back out to sea. It continued blowing and raining until around 3 am.
Friday morning we awoke to a very nice, calm, sunshiny day – we survived our first hurricane! Happy 4th of July. The residents who left before Hurricane Author hit are now returning and everyone is cleaning up the leaves and limbs that were blown off the trees during the storm. A lot of people are also coming in for the long holiday weekend so it is really getting busy around here. Rex cleaned up our yard and our neighbors from across the street hauled the branches to the dumpster on their golf cart for us. It seems like everyone here has a golf cart and the cart traffic is pretty heavy. Rex also checked the roof and we are relieved that the tree limbs did not do any damage.
Nancy spent part of the afternoon getting caught up on laundry and other chores. The resort had a concert in an outdoor amphitheatre in the evening and we walked down with the dogs and listened for a while. It was country western music which is not our favorite type of music so we didn’t stay long. The activities sheet said to bring your lawn chairs most people brought their golf carts and sat in them to listen to the concert. We were really tired after staying up most of last night so we did not look for a fireworks event but stayed in and went to bed early.
Saturday morning we drove back into Beaufort and took a harbor and Cape Lookout cruise on a small boat. It was nice as it was just 10 on the cruise - the two of us and another extended family. Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse can only be reached by boat and there are no roads so we decided to see it from the water. A few boats in the harbor got washed ashore during the storm.
Cape Lookout Lighthouse was first built in 1812 and was only 107 ft high. Mariners found that the tower was too short and the beacon unreliable. The second lighthouse was completed in 1859 and stands 163 ft high. The black diamonds are aligned North/South and the white diamonds East/West. The lighthouse was transferred to the National Park Service in 1950 but is still a functioning lighthouse and is maintained by the US Coast Guard.
After spending some time at the lighthouse we cruised by Shackelford Banks one of the barrier islands that comprise Cape Lookout National Seashore. The wild horses of Shackelford Banks descended from a core group of Spanish horses over 400 years ago. It is thought that the horses were released on the island when a ship grounded near here in the 1580s. Researchers from Princeton University have been studying and documenting the social behavior of the wild horses for over two decades. The horses were beautiful to watch and were not bothered by the boats.
On the way back to the docks we spotted some dolphins. The captain stopped the boat and we realized we were surrounded by dolphins. We enjoyed watching the dolphins surfacing and diving.
After the cruise we drove to Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center on Harkers Island. This area was close to where the eye of Hurricane Arthur made land and has a lot more damage. We saw many roofs with damage and one house had the siding blown off one side. There were a lot of large tree limbs down along with many trees blown over.
We enjoyed our visit to this area of North Carolina and are very glad we survived our first hurricane with no damage.