Hiking for Habitat Days 2-5, March 24-27
Day 2: March 24 (18 miles)
Somehow I was able to pack up my stuff this morning before the rain started. I chatted with the park rangers on duty while eating oatmeal and savoring the last few moments of being dry. The hike began with an hour walk over Marc Basnight Bridge. Thunder and lightning and cars screaming at 70 mph created a far from peaceful situation. I reached the end of the bridge through gritted teeth and turned towards Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The beach and wetlands were pristine, without any sign of garbage or other humans. I took things slow, trying to enjoy my surroundings despite the heavy wind and steady rain. Finally, after a long slow slog in the sand, I made it to Rodanthe, NC. Mike at Rodanthe Watersports & Campground was kind enough to give me a discounted tent site. 18 miles today. More rain is forecasted for tonight and tomorrow morning. My sleeping bag is dry, and I have plenty of snacks for dinner. All is good.
Day 3: March 25 (22 miles)
Didn’t get much sleep. A huge storm blasted my tent all night, but it didn’t blow away. Instead of waiting around, I ate a big bowl of oatmeal for motivation then headed out in the rain. The rain kept going until 10 a.m. until FINALLY, the sun came out. I hiked 22 miles from Rodanthe to Outer Banks Motel near Cape Hatteras. Along the way, I met Ed, who, after six years of section hiking the MST is set to finish in a few days. Great conversation and lots of valuable advice. The weather was absolutely perfect, so I took it nice and easy. I watched the surfers catching big waves and chatted with the fisherman about the fish they weren’t catching. I decided to spoil myself after arriving at the motel. I picked up beer and pizza and made it to the beach just in time for the sunset. Looking forward to a full day of hiking tomorrow and, more importantly, a full night of sleep tonight.
Day 4: March 26 (27 miles)
A full day. Chugged a hot cup of coffee before sunset, gobbled up a hearty breakfast of peanut butter-filled tortillas, dumped the sand out of my shoes then hit the beach. The MST took me right up to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. I’m used to Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy Lighthouse, so I was shocked by the sheer size of the structure. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse structure in the United States and second in the world. It was built as a response to the powerful storms and frequent shipwrecks in the area. Shortly after passing the lighthouse, I hiked four miles on the Buxton Woods Trail (also a part of the MST). I was so excited to be off the beach and into the woods. After his friendly beast Bell tried to tackle me, I struck up a conversation with Mark. The excitement in the woods was short-lived as the trail quickly took me back to the windy beach, where I put my head down and hiked hard to catch the 1 p.m. ferry to Ocracoke. The ferry ride took about an hour.
In the meantime, I chatted with one of the ferry operators, Sandy. She reaffirmed my decision to hike across the state and told me to lay off my mom for worrying so much. Her son is a commercial fisherman, and she worries all the time, but she still manages to enjoy her life, as does my mother. After a brief moment of terror, thinking they locked me in the passenger room, I found my way out and onto Ocracoke Island. The wind was intense. Sand blew into every opening. I hiked the island’s length, stopping to watch ponies and scrape sand out of my eyeballs. At last, I made it to Ocracoke Village, a touristy little spot with a reasonable off-season crowd. I found a camp spot and chowed down on ramen noodles and oatmeal cookies. 27 miles today from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Village. I never felt rushed, but I definitely squeezed out every ounce of daylight.
Day 5: March 27 (20 miles)
Today was all about ferries. I woke up early to catch the 7:30 a.m. ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island. I was in the passenger lounge ready to go but was told to get off because the ride had been canceled. There was a sailboat stuck in the middle of the route. I guess the Outer Banks is still earning its name as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The next ferry was scheduled for 1 p.m. so I had over 5 hours to kill in Ocracoke. I spent the time drinking coffee and wandering around a bookstore. The 1 p.m. ferry departed as scheduled. After 2 1/2 hours, we made it to Cedar Island. I decided to take advantage of a campsite right at the terminal. Didn’t travel very far today by foot, but grateful for a service that took me over 20 miles on a boat for only a dollar.
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