Kitty Hawk to the border... this day has been in the making for a long time.
5AM start time at Jack's house... came downstairs to two bowls, two spoons, two bananas and a vat of whole grain cereal medley. We have learned that our paddle buddies totally "get" our love for quality and quantity. Thank you, Jack Crouch! We decided to do as much gear prep as we could in Jack's driveway, remembering the osprey-sized mosquitoes we met the night before at Promenade Watersports. Once there, we wanted to see if there was a way to the water other than through the driving range and the swamp (all normal entry ways seem to be closed at the hours we would like access)... so we drove around and had the option of jumping the fence to the horse stables, or bushwhacking through the marsh. Neither the horse nor the electric wire around his fence seemed overly welcoming, so we opted for the marsh.
We were on the water by 6:30 and headed 35-ish miles north to cross the border. In the beginning, the wind was mostly at our back. although swinging around off our left shoulders. The Currituck Sound is beautiful!! It is relatively shallow and even 1/2 mile off shore, we were brushing over grasses growing beneath. It's protected in the sense that there are no inlets to the sea, and filled with small grassy islands which are home to lots of fun birds to watch while paddling and a few jumping fish. It's also abundant with what we thought were "fishing huts"... but later learned that all these boxes masked by thickets and grasses were actually "duck blinds." Apparently, this area is a migration path for ducks, Canada Geese and other birds, and thus a haven for hunters. Poor ducks. Maybe that was what was meant on the fishing map duct-taped to our board that said "Danger... Prohibited Target Area." Luckily, we saw, heard, or experienced no hunters, but did enjoy our breaks on the docks of these duck blinds.
If you watched our spot tracker (thanks to Ben Friberg!) throughout the day, we crossed the Currituck Sound not once, not twice, but essentially 3 times. The winds were increasing and kept changing direction, so we kept seeking shelter to save our shoulders. On the east side, it was just us, the islands, and the duck blinds. On the west side, we paddled alongside a shoreline community where we encountered a few other SUP'ers out for a Sunday paddle. Throughout the trip, we giggled when people would throw a hand up and yell out, "Where ya headed?"... Nonchalantly we'd yell back, "Virginia." And, after momentary lock-jaw... "Yeah... where'd ya come from?"... "South Carolina." Enough said, just keep paddling.
Another joy of a shoreline community are the nice low grassy front yards with built in benches for us to stop and have PocketFuel and banana sandwiches. We got over waiting for invitations on about day 2 and lived by the mantra, "if you can't find a spot, make a spot." After a short respite in someone's front yard and about 15-20 miles to go, all seemed well on the west side... protected from the SW winds til we got around the point near Cedar Bay/Coinjock Bay, and a downwind shot straight across to Knotts Island where the border awaited. Unfortunately, as soon as we got around that point, the wind had shifted back from the SE, and our downwind turned into an upwind trek back across Currituck Sound. We headed to the islands just north of the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve, and just south of Carova. From a duck's eye, these islands likely appear to be a simple classical labyrinth pattern... but trying to navigate a throughway from a paddler's perspective is more like the hedge maze in Harry Potter's third task of the Triwizard Tournament. With every twist and turn, we guessed at which waterway would allow us to exit and see Knott's Island. Actually, this little island puzzle offered incredible scenery, and a fun new challenge to our orienteering skills. We popped out on the other side and had a downwind run back across the opening to the Currituck over to Knott's Island where we hoped to see our friend Nik Miller paddling his surf ski out to meet us and lead us to the dock of the first unsuspecting house across the border.
We both saw Nik at the same time... a bright orange dot in the distance with two rotating flickers as he paddled up wind to greet us... hard to explain the joy when we saw him. Thank you, Nik!! When we intersected, he said it was about 2k to the border and another "little bit" to the dock where friendly faces awaited. Of course, there was one last cross-wind cross-chop crossing to get to that A-framed house where we would end our journey, but it was within sight. We shot across to the left and then the wind pushed us straight into the boat ramp where we sat on our boards, looked at our Garmins, looked at each other and gave each other a hug. Our Garmins read 304.65 miles traveled; 77 hours, 54 minutes and 30 seconds paddled; and 25,911 calories burned ... that hug will be long remembered as an inarticulable appreciation of friendship and what we both dreamed of, endured, experienced, and loved about our paddle up the North Carolina coast.
Our new friends... Bill, and Tina... who just happened to live in the first house over the border, welcomed us into their home with quesadillas and beer. We both agreed that a meal never tasted so good. We loaded up Nik's truck and he drove us 2 hours south through rural farms of Virginia and North Carolina, and back to Promenade Watersports where we unloaded and reloaded one last time and headed our separate ways.
We will share more soon about what's next, but safe to say, the mission to protect our coastline will continue, as will our hope that we, and others, will become more and more aware that there is no "away" when we "throw away" plastic. The invitation to work together against ocean pollution together remains. And the gratitude to so many for support, encouragement, and sharing in our journey, and our mission, will remain in our hearts for many, many years to come. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. And paddle, paddle, paddle.
Final push! We returned to "Matt's house" in Rodanthe to finish our mission up the coast. We knew we were facing the wild of the water and the wilderness of the OBX... and sure enough our paddle adventure went from lower case "adventure" to full-on all caps. That morning, we parked a car at Promenade Watersports, at the foot of the Wright Memorial Bridge, 40 miles north of our starting point in Rodanthe. We timed it just right so that we would get pulled from the outgoing tide, up from Rodanthe to the Oregon Inlet, hit the Inlet right at slack/low tide, then get pushed the rest of the day by the incoming tide all the way up to Kitty Hawk. It was a great plan.
We knew we'd be on our own today so we packed the boards for expedition paddling. In our camelbaks we had water, PocketFuel, Clif Shot Bloks, Bonk Breakers, Garden of Life protein bars, Gu, iPhones, and the requisite SPF lip balm. Under the bungees, we had extra water, a "lunch box" with turkey and avocado sandwiches, a leash for the Inlet, and a map mounted with "I love bacon" duct tape. The paddle up to the Inlet was spectacular... the Pea Island Refuge is a very special place... it is what we both envisioned of the Outer Banks... wildlife, wildlands, wading birds and a piece of our coast well worth preserving. We didn't get the "pull" up as we anticipated until we got to the Bonner Bridge and the opening of the Inlet when we finally hit 6.5-7.0 mph. Was fun, albeit short lived. Pretty soon, we hit a shoal and literally walked/waded our way to the Inlet.
Once back on the boards, we learned that "slack tide" in the Oregon Inlet is a farce. The water was still gushing out and at one point, our Garmins read 0.0 mph, there was a guy in a yellow Chris-Craft boat fishing with his motor off, and drifting at a rapid rate straight towards us, other boats whizzing by with massive wake, and the water below us swirling as if we had just turned on the jets in the hot tub. Only one option here: paddle, paddle, paddle. It was survival mode for a few minutes, and once on the other side, we both breathed a great sigh, gave ourselves a little praise and kept moving. For the next 15-20 miles, we expected that the switch in tides would get us going pretty fast but it seemed like the water kept gushing against us. It's a bit of a mental blow when its after 1pm, we have 30 miles to go and our mph speeds are in the 3's.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed our paddle past Bodie Island and the lighthouse there... got an extended look as we hit another shallow shoal and did some more walking. We paddled up the Roanoke Sound, stopped for lunch on the beach of a tiny little island (our lunch and snack stops in the middle of the wet wilderness will be a special memory from this adventure), then on to the 64 bridge. It was a long hot day, and we were feeling the effects of the heat, dehydration, and having to ration our fluid intake, so we hailed down a boat and pled for extra water - and like everyone else on this trip, they seemed excited to offer a respite and talk about how much they love our coast.
Once past the 64 bridge, we left the Roanoke Sound, paddled across the Albemarle Sound, past the kiters off Jockey's Ridge and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and then got pushed into Kitty Hawk Bay by the wind and for hours paddled to "the never ending point," around which we could finally see the Wright Memorial Bridge. We were starting to lose daylight, but got an extra lift after we tucked in around the point, out of the wind, and past a big tent party on the water with a live band playing old punk favorites. We rolled into Promenade Watersport around 8:30, which I'm sure in the daytime is a lovely place. At night, trying to navigate our boards up steps, around algae covered swamps, over a driving range and to our car, with the thought of gators and the full awareness of mosquitoes... creepy at best. We called Jack Crouch with Outer Banks Paddleboard, who had graciously offered a place to stay and with pits in our stomachs, we told him that we had to drive back to Rodanthe to pick up our other car and wouldn't arrive at his house after 11PM, and would leave again at 5AM to finish our last day. Jack didn't blink twice, welcomed us into his home, had water and electrolytes waiting, a warm shower and beds, and breakfast on the counter for in the morning. What a special person and what a special community of which we are all a part.
35ish miles to go!! So close.
The alarm went off at 4:15 and we prepped for a 45 mile paddle up the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, across the Oregon Inlet, through the Roanoke Sound, past Kitty Hawk and on to Duck. We were excited by two emails from local friends and watermen... Patrick Riley with Outerbanks Kiting and Jack Crouch From Outer Banks Paddleboard... both of whom offered support and kind words of encouragement. We knew the winds would be strong but we thought we could navigate the predicted 15-20 mph SSW winds.
Loaded with PocketFuel (pineapple coconut and chunky coconut cherry today :)), Garden of Life protein bars, Clif Shot Bloks, Erin Baker's cookies, and 2 camel baks with 2 scoops of EFS in each... and the requisite sun protection lip balm tucked in the leg of our tights... we headed up to Matt's house where we had stopped and stored our boards the night before. When we got out of the car, the winds had increased to 25+ and were way more west than south. We considered tacking back and forth, but with no support boat, 20+ miles of unprotected open water, and the Oregon Inlet, we thought perhaps it would be safer to head to ocean side of the Outer Banks for a little protection from the dunes. The protection wasn't enough...at least our kiteboarding friends would have a fantastic day.
Throughout this trip, there have been many unexpected reminders of why we chose this adventure. Today, the reminder was what we saw when walked across the dunes to assess paddling on the ocean side. We immediately noticed how much plastic littered the sea grass. There were bottle caps, bottles, take-out everything, plastic bags, balloon strings, lighters, an empty pack of Marlboros, the "TOR" from a TORO lawnmower, Styrofoam cups, fishing line, and fortunately/unfortunately a full trash can in the 20-25 mph wind with no lid. We decided that rather than risk getting blown out to sea, we would pick up trash, enjoy some time in the waves, and get back on our boards as soon as conditions improve.
Our Garmins are holding fast at 225 miles, with 75 miles to go, and we plan to press start again and complete the paddle part of our mission this weekend. In the meantime.... we made a promise to ourselves, and to each other, that until we got back on the water we would commit to refusing single-use plastic. The bottled water, plastic bags, straws, plastic utensils, and take out boxes are no brainers. It will be interesting to notice the impact in our daily routines by refusing food in single-use packaging at the grocery store and personal care products in plastic.
We have gotten texts and messages along the way from friends who shared little changes they made as we were paddling - Katie Elzer-Peters talked about how to wrap her homemade energy bars in reusable plastic bags from EMS, Patty Tikkala shared her story about switching from single plastic bottles to refillable water containers at her party, Patty Davis told us how she planned to take a reusable water bottle to tennis rather than buy water, Jackie Hill is planning to purchase a carbonation machine to make seltzer water at home, instead of buying it in plastic bottles.
So, we will end this post by sharing how excited we are by the friends and partners we have made thus far, and an invitation for anyone to join us in our adventure in refusing single-use plastic.
Back on the water in a few days....
The miracle mystery tour continues, OBX style. We woke up on the boat in River Dunes and went to sleep in a hotel room in Buxton. The local boating community said that the gators along the ICW *might* not bother us but we should be particularly careful of the water moccasin. Duly noted. It was about 30+ miles across the Pungo River Canal and another 25 or so up Alligator River...with no support boat, and no obvious place for us to exit the water. We emailed Will Rich, who had done a Key West to Maine paddle two years prior for SUP Clean-up and Wounded Warrior Project. Will said he and his paddle partner had come up through NC on the inside of the Outer Banks and didn't know anything about Alligator River. Thanks for the inspiration Will! We decided to avoid the gators and snakes, do a lateral move and find a drop in point around the Buxton/Avon area in order to finish our trip along the OBX. Surprise to the spot tracker checkers!
Our trip has been filled with dropping in and pulling out of many strangers' (and now friends') properties. Today, we did a quick street side clothes change and dropped in between a couple houses. It was a beautiful afternoon paddle 20 miles up to Rodanthe. We paddled across miles of shallow shoals, beside and over marsh land, and giggled each time we saw a skate beneath us, a big turtle beside us, or a white egret posing at water's edge. Along the way, we were reminded of the purpose of our paddle when we found a black mylar balloon with the words "Congratulations grad!" fading away as it floated in the water. We scooped it up, bunggeed it down and kept moving. Shortly thereafter, one of us went to retrieve a red mylar balloon on a red string trapped in the grass at the edge of the water, while the other found a yellow balloon with a white ribbon floating in the water. We thought again about the skates, the turtles, and the egret we just saw, and whether they could distinguish between their food and our party remnants.
The skyline lit up as the sun set and we pulled in to the next stranger's dock right at dark - who happened to be a kiteboarder with a rack in his garage big enough for at least 8 SUP's. Thanks Matt! We stored the boards there and left with great satisfaction about the decision to come to the Outer Banks and excitement about the mere 75 miles to go.
We stayed up til midnight pouring over maps crafting our strategy to navigate the tides of the Oregon Inlet, an increasing SSW wind, a goal of 45 miles and where to stop to refill our CamelBaks.
We started and ended the day in River Dunes, but it's often what happens between the lines where the stories lie. We stopped paddling Thursday in Oriental and headed to River Dunes to sleep, connect with Andrew, Richard and Oliver, and organize our new support boat. Our plan for Friday was simple... go back to Bobby and Heather's, put in where we got out, and paddle 40 miles north... Bobby offered to boat with us until the guys could meet us out in the water... Bobby would take off, and we would just keep paddling. We were up at 4:30AM, on the water around 5:30, and paddled into the most beautiful sunrise. The morning 8 miles northward was spectacular and another one of those moments where we both said there was no place that we'd rather be than on our boards paddling on the water in which we were paddling.
We made it to River Dunes, but unfortunately had a valve issue with our new support boat and were unable to continue with Plan A... so had lunch on the dock and crafted Plan B (or are we on about G or H by now??). Because of a strong wind out of the north and 2 large open water crossing with no support boat, we decided to try to confuse those watching the spot tracker and drive north, put in and head south to connect back with our morning stopping point, where we could then figure out how to keep moving without a boat.
It was set up to be a pretty sweet downwinder and we definitely got in a little bit of that... We crossed the Pamlico River, then hugged the marsh side as we watched ginormous yachts and barges push up the ICW. We caught some bumps, told stories to each other, giggled, and paddled our way down Goose Creek. As Goose Creek opened up onto the Bay River, we tried to set it up so that we would downwind across Bay River and around Maw Point where we would loop back into protected waters and have an easy paddle back to River Dunes. We got pushed too far west and holy sketchtastic, getting back out and around Maw point and the "fishing house" on the point was a paddle that will be etched in to the lifetime memory bank. But the special part of our paddle all along, and especially today, has been accessing points of our coast that are inaccessible by boat or car. The picture we posted of the "fishing house," the beat up wooden box on stilts... we now wonder how many people get to see that up close. It was worth loosing a hat and sunglasses, and some character-building moments to get to for sure.
After we came around Maw Point, we tucked in out of the wind a bit and paddled another 5-6 miles back to River Dunes where we were we VERY happy to see Richard and Oliver who had commandeered the dock master to come out and escort us back in to a warm shower and a meal from Andrew. As you saw from our earlier post, the challenge now is to figure out how to make it up Alligator River unsupported where we have learned that gators and water moccasins are abundant. Plan J in the works. More soon...
Often times unanswered prayers lead to unexpected blessings. Two things have been forefront with this little paddle adventure… how beautiful our coastline is with all the various landscapes and bodies of water, and the generosity and kindheartedness of people who care about our coastline.
Our day began saying goodbye to Captain Ron who spent the past 3 days keeping us hydrated and safe. Ron, we are so grateful for you, your support, and the "Ronisms" that kept us smiling throughout. Thank you.
We thought we were going to be on our own up Adams Creek until, out of the blue, Bobby and Heather Brewer - who had seen our post on the TownDock.net website - emailed at 5:57 AM this morning to say that they were in Oriental, had a boat, and would love to run up Adams Creek and across the Neuse River to Oriental with us. In fact, they offered to do this on a day they had taken off to spend their 15th anniversary together. Thank you Heather and Bobby!! (We will all be here for support when you kayak the NC coastline in 2014.)
Through Adams Creek, we paddled over lines of rays swimming underneath, began to see frequent white and purple jellies floating along, and caught a little bit of current and wind at the end for a fun ride. We stopped just before the creek opened up into the Neuse to assess the crossing which would involve some fairly significant wind out of the south west and while "assessing", 2 dolphin were mating next to our boat. We all decided that it was the first time any of us had seen a dolphin penis in the wild. The crossing was dicey and a lot of work, but we made it in to Toucan Harbor for a warm welcome from Andrew, Richard and Oliver (our next support system, and loved ones), a fish sandwich and sweet tea.
After lunch, we intended to try to run up the left side of the Neuse to River Dunes Marina, and beyond, but with a huge storm coming in, and 25-30+ mph winds pushing us straight into the shore, we decided to go for it early tomorrow AM instead. Bobby and Heather let us store our boards at the place and we headed to River Dunes Marina for a good night's sleep. River Dunes was the first marina to respond to our messages inquiring about what initiatives marinas were taking to keep the ocean healthy. And we have learned since that, not only are they a designated "NC Clean Marina" with the NC Dept. of Coastal Management, they also have the most beautiful, welcoming marina with charming cottages that have offered a much needed respite as we sit watching the front moving over us, and trying to figure out what route to take tomorrow.
As we prepare for the rest of our adventure, we want to say a special thank you, again, to Patty and David Tikkala, who have graciously offered Fishy Pursuits to head up to Virginia with us, and to Andrew, Richard and Oliver for captaining Fishy Pursuits and keeping us entertained and well-cared for throughout the last 150 miles.
As we sit down to think about our daily gratitudes, we are grateful for Costco and its family sized tub of pretzels and hummus, since the pizza man got confused and thought we were in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Hard to believe we woke up in Cedar Point this AM as it feels like ages ago. Enjoyed Pocket Fuel and bagels on the dock and then had a pretty morning paddle out of the Swanboro area... saw dolphin a couple times throughout the day... entered the Bogue Sound with fairly mild conditions... and pretty shortly thereafter the winds picked up off our right shoulder and we fought to catch a downwind ride into Morehead City. And while the fight to the bridge was slightly brutal, we had a warm, friendly face from Flatwater Paddling to greet us as the bridge to guide us into Beaufort... the calmer way. (Thank you Miriam Sutton!).
Short stop for lunch and then we tried to make our way out and up Adams Creek. Our intention was to catch the rising tide and some wind for an easy 10 before bed, but instead the tide hadn't quite risen enough and we had an unanticipated swim on a sandbar... Kim found a little shark friend who liked her board and her toes and didn't want us to leave. Also didn't quite hit the 6-7 mph run up Adams Creek but all is good.
The best part about today was when we realized how little trash we saw in our waterways. It is so beautiful here and it's been an amazing journey thus far to see our coast and meet all the fun people who care about it along the way. Thank you for being part of it! .
And this one time... at SUP camp... Saw beautiful coastline the whole way today. For our SUP friends, you'll be happy to know that we got in basically a 43 mile downwinder today. Stoked to see the water towers at Surf City, and Renee waving below the bridge. Enjoyed avocado, hummus and potato chip sandwiches for lunch. Snuck up on a covert military operation that started with 3 guys in camo hunting gators with branches, to at least 100 military friends training in the dunes. Talked to a few fishermen, who seemed surprised to learn we were headed to Virginia. Paddled into Cedar Point about 6pm for another avocado and potato chip sandwich and some recovery drink. Headed to Beaufort (and hopefully beyond) tomorrow. Thank you for all your fun posts and texts along the way... keeps us entertained. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. And paddle!!
Everything about this day was perfect. We woke to a delicious breakfast with Marybeth and George, downed some coffee and groats and headed out to meet Captain Ron. Ron showed up out of nowhere like an angel from the sky... a boater who loves the environment, just retired, has a huge heart, and thought it would be fun to go on an adventure. He volunteered to support us for 3-4 days as we make our way to Oriental, NC. He is a blessing.
Our first obstacle was the Cape Fear River. We had paddled into the night on Sunday, with "Old Baldy" flashing in the distance, to make it to Southport, knowing that the incoming tide on Monday morning would push us up the river. It worked!! We went flying all the way into Snow's Cut, then all the way up the ICW, hitting a few 8+ mph runs. FUN day!!
Best part of the day were friends who came out to visit... special yells from Katie et. al., Kohl's ice cream from Dave, a surprise visit and a hug from Kim's dad, and some good cheer from Jarrod... and then Guy and Patty... the visitors who couldn't get rid of us. We passed them once to say hello, paddled another 10 miles and then decided to come back and stay the night!
Dave delivering Kohls to the boat ramp!
Jarrod motored up the waterway to cheer us on
Guy and Sadie
Kim's dad, Pete & us
Welcoming committee - Katie, Guy, Patty and Sadie
We had a great first day. Took the boat to the border, (YES, we started at the border...Spot Tracker doesn't keep all the dots on the map all day long!)
Lots of changing conditions, and a fun head wind for the last few miles. But, we made our goal and made it to Southport, where we were generously greated by a flashing headlight, warm meal and a place to stay from Marybeth and George Ray of Southport Paddle and Sail.
Special thanks to Marybeth and George, and our support boat captain and crew: Ryan Bowie, Chris Sutton and Richard Stockmans.