Monday, May 7, 2012

From Hatteras to Kitty Hawk

Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the first national seashore in the country and stretches 70 miles long from Ocracoke Inlet to Nag's Head.  Along this coastline are over 600 wrecked ships primarily due to the treacherous shoals and shifting sandbars all along the coast.  However, the German submarines during WW2 sank so many tankers and cargo ships here that the area also became known as Torpedo Junction.

I thought of trying to climb to the top of the lighthouse then my better sense took hold.  The steep staircase was as daunting to me as the thought of being closed up in that almost windowless structure. I also watched a few adventurous fools, close to my age, as they came staggering out of the tower, sucking great gulps of air, covered in sweat,  with feverish red faces and weirdly focused eyes.  As one guy plunked down on the bench next to me I asked, "How was the climb?"  Unable to speak, he just waved a limp hand at me and shook his damp bald head--I got the message.

I did a very leisurely trip going north, stopping to have lunch in a little cove or occasionally to watch a few hardy folks face the strong winds on the beach.   A few brave ones took advantage of the wind out on the water.

It made me think of this poem....

"A Kite"
I often sit and wish that I
Could be a kite up in the sky,
And ride upon the breeze and blow
Whichever way I wished to go.
--Author unknown
The towns along the way are small and mostly deserted because the season is just barely starting.  Often the land is so narrow I could see water on either side.

A movie was filmed here several years back with Diane Land and Richard Gere called "Nights in Rodanthe".  I barely remembered the movie but the scenery stuck in my mind.  

The openness to the water made the buildings seem vulnerable and unprotected.  Many looked as though they had been there a long time and had weathered a few storms and even hurricanes.

Soon I learned that any restaurant with a liquor license was packed throughout the afternoon and evening with motorcyclists.  I decided to skip the 'local fare' and opted for some homemade soup and Sigh Me's companionship instead.

The Sand banks almost looked like snow.  It made me think of Colorado in the wintertime.  Plows have to work here too--clearing the sand from the road.

This patchwork bridge was hastily erected last year when a hurricane hit and took out the old bridge.
There aren't any signs of a new one being built and this one doesn't look too reliable.  I drove very slowly across and hoped Halcyon's weight wasn't going to take me to the briny deep.

Curiosity led me to learn the reason for the name of this area--Nag's Head.  It was named after the practice by pirates of tying a lantern to an old nag and walking the beach at night while leading the plodding horse.  This made ships running along the coast think they were seeing an entrance into a channel between the islands.  When they ran aground on the shoals the pirates would rush out and plunder the ships.
These islands were also the favorite refuge for Blackbeard the pirate in the early 1700's and it was along this coast that he lost his head in a battle with the English.

Here is a good account of the adventures of Blackbeard...

Another community that had an interesting name was Kill Devil Hills.

  It was named after the foul tasting rum that washed ashore after the shipwrecks.  Sailing ships transported the rum from the tropics to markets in the north.  After the ships wrecked the cargo would wash up onto the beach and sit until found by the local population, who, of course, would partake of this unexpected bounty.  These scavengers claimed the rum was so strong it would "Kill the Devil!"


1 comment:

  1. I hope you visited the First Flight Memorial. Been meaning to go out there sometime.