13 September 2009
A week ago people were ready to bury summer. Fortunately this is the North Carolina coast. Here on the Crystal Coast our south facing beaches will not slide into fall and winter without a battle.
Today the forces of warmth, blue skies, and emerald waters stormed back into town. I was happy to see the invasion, especially the blue skies. We really have not been cold, we just have not been hot.
With the absence of hot, people assume that winter is around the next corner. It did my soul good to see people swimming in the ocean today. I was also pleased to hear my wife say that she needed cooler clothes for a beach walk.
These are all signs of a summer that is fighting to stay in place as some places to the north of us are facing frost for the first time this weekend. If we see frost by December that will be soon enough for me.
If you listened to the weathermen last night, today's blue skies and warm temperatures were something of a surprise. The forecasts did not have us clearing up today.
When I rolled out of bed this morning, I thought that we were in store for even worse weather. Fog had blotted out the sun and blue skies were only a memory.
Fortunately it did not take long for us to get some better looking skies. The improved local weather quickly changed my plans for the day. First we headed off for a boat ride to Swansboro.
After that we took a quick trip to the beach to enjoy some ocean breezes. We were surprised by the large number of people on the beach at the Eastern Regional Access in Emerald Isle. There were a number of people fishing. There were also several people swimming with some of them a good distance off the beach.
It was actually pretty warm on the beach so there were a lot of umbrellas spread up and down the beach. This is such a great time of year. We have warm days and at night, we can sleep with the windows open. It is so nice to not have to run the air conditioning.
I also do not mind that the grass no longer needs to be mowed every week. There are some other signs of fall. Today when we stopped at Winberry's Produce Stand, they were selling their large bags of sweet potatoes. That is a definite signal that the growing season is drawing to a close.
There was a special treat waiting for me at the produce stand, scuppernongs. I have been eating those grapes since I was a kid growing up near Winston-Salem, NC, in the fifties. Considering that they are recognized as one of North Carolina's native grapes, they are a little challenging to find in the stores. However,they are well worth the effort.
It has been a good week here on the coast. I even managed to sneak in some kayaking during our impressive high tides.
With the sweet potatoes ripe, the skies blue, and the weather warm, all we need now is for the fish to start biting.
Getting out on the water early in the morning is one of the best ways to start a day that I know.
When the skies and water are that special morning blue, it seems like you can see forever. If on top of that the winds are calm, it really does feel like you have limitless possibilities with your day.
A morning of great weather with no winds makes a trip to Shackleford Banks easily imaginable. Perhaps even a trip to Wilmington by boat crosses your mind. That one would be a stretch for me. It is more likely that I might have thoughts of spending the day over in Bogue Inlet chasing bluefish or flounder.
Of course just because you are out on the water does not mean that all your thoughts have to be related to water. Sometimes morning waters are like a clean slate on which to write your day. Here on the Crystal Coast there are some neat things to do coming up this fall, and you do not need a boat for any of them.
First on the list should be the Beaufort by-the-sea 300th Anniversary Celebration. There are a number of events scheduled throughout September to celebrate this historic occasion. On the schedule is everything from boat rides, to concerts and even stories about menhaden. I suspect everyone could find something to do and enjoy.
Next on my list would be the 55th annual Swansboro Mullet Festival. There will arts and crafts, a parade, several bands, a duck race, and a mullet fry among other things. This year I actually plan to try some mullet. I have always worked a booth, and the mullet has always been gone by the end of my shift.
Before we get to the Mullet Festival we have some lobsters to eat. A week from this coming Saturday, on September 26, there is the St. Peter's by the Sea Lobster Festival. If those lobsters are not enough to fill you up, then just wait for the St. Francis by the Sea and Bogue Banks Lobster sale on Saturday October 10. And of course our local oysters are back in season this time of year.
If after eating all that lobster and mullet, you need to get a little exercise, you could sign up the 3rd annual Flounder Surf Fishing tournament sponsored by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department. What better activity could there be than sticking your toes in the salt water in an attempt to catch a nice flounder?
Beyond these organized events, fall is a great time to walk the beaches, fish for some spots or bluefish and enjoy the endless blue skies. We are lucky on the Crystal Coast, the glow of summer lasts well into the fall. While the waters might have cooled down some, the air is plenty warm, and the sun can still provide lots of warmth.
September or October is also a great time to catch a ride on the ferry over to Hammocks Beach. Make sure you check the schedule since it changes in the fall. There is nothing like being on a beach where vehicles exist only in your memories.
Normally when you are out on that glassy smooth morning water, bad weather is far from your mind. However, if you do get caught in some showers or experience a rainy day, you can visit the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores or the Maritime Museum in Beaufort and enjoy them without summer's crowds.
The possibilities are limitless here in the fall on the Southern Outer Banks.