The heat followed us. The only escape, once again, was in the water. And so it was we spent some beautiful days along the North Carolina coast – at the southern tip of Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks. It’s a place we’ve visited many times before, but this year I was especially delighted that we had the opportunity to stay in an artist’s house – they call her “Sea Rider”, as she had just barely ridden out Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
The house’s owner is a painter and artist, and her beautiful house along an open stretch of Cape oceanfront is definitely a muse – filled with a number of pieces of her modern abstract art, seascapes, and beautiful views of the Atlantic ocean. Ms. W, the artist, had apparently done lettering design for 12 of the well-known Dr. Seuss books, before going on to become an administrator/director at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati. For me, it was just inspiring to be in the house – the light, the views, the solitude on the quiet stretch of beach… and my camera at hand, of course.
We did some biking on most of the mornings – mostly to our favorite little coffee house, The Dancing Turtle – but the heat was just too oppressive past about 10 am to be doing much cycling. So it was to the beach and into the water and reading under the beach umbrellas for the remainder of the day. We didn’t even bring our road bikes or the Xtracycles, as past experience here with the amount of sand, salt and sea spray in the air proved to be horribly corrosive to chains and other bits of bicycle hardware.
We paddled Pamlico Sound at sunset … which was absolutely breathtaking – but not to be outdone by sunrise on the Atlantic side.
While the southern end of the Cape is typically not packed with vacationing tourists, it did seem a bit quieter and less populated than in years past. While I personally feel the dismal economy may be to blame, there is also local war being waged against the National Park Service and several environmental groups, all surrounding habitat preservation and nesting shore birds vs. off road vehicle use (and restrictions) and shoreline closures. Sigh.
In a nutshell, large stretches of coastline along the Hatteras National Seashore have traditionally been open to 4WD vehicle access – which brings large numbers of surf fishermen and vacationers who are water sport enthusiasts (surfers, kiteboarders, etc.). Over recent years, in an attempt to preserve shorebird nesting habitats and sea turtle nesting grounds, legislation was enacted to limit off-road vehicle use as well as pedestrian access in certain areas. The last time (2008) we wanted to walk out to Cape Point, I remember it was closed due to Piping Plover nesting season. Personally, I had no problem with the closure – I was glad to see that the area was being protected, even though it meant I couldn’t get out to the Point.
These closures, however, have infuriated the small local business owners, who are up in arms against continuing ORV legislation. Groups like the Outer Banks Protection Association (OBPA) have sprung up, claiming that the local small business economy is being destroyed by the legislation. Several small businesses have posted signs against the “evil misguided environmentalists”, and some are even selling stickers that “flip the bird” at the Audubon Society. In a rather harsh video on the OBPA website, the narrator states:
… An agenda-driven group of opportunists have drawn a target on this community’s back in the name of the environment.
Can you guess my point of view on this one? Yeah, I suspect that anyone who knows me, will know that I am not in line with OBPA – even if it were to mean that I was never again able to step foot on the beautiful coastline of Cape Hatteras for the sake of some beautiful shorebirds and endangered turtles (and may end up with a bunch of nasty comments from Cape folks telling me to never come back). Sorry, I stand firm in what I believe.
The fact that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore remains one of the few stretches of coastline on the eastern seaboard that remains largely undeveloped and untouched has always been – and will always be – the draw for me. It is why I love the place. The legislation being proposed still allows ample opportunity for recreation and access, albeit perhaps without using your 4WD vehicle to get out there. If you want to surf fish Cape Point – carry your gear and take a walk when the stretch is of shoreline is open for access and leave your ORV at home.
While I am not meaning to entangle myself with another environmental feud (Olin’s mercury dumping has been more than enough for me, thanks), I have send my note to Congress on this one. Whatever is decided, I sincerely hope that the Cape can remain largely in its beautiful and natural state. It is a place for footprints in the sand and artist’s images … not a parking lot for 4WD vehicles.
I may not be the artist the Sea Rider’s owner is, but I was enchanted to stay in this amazing house and take away a few of my own images – by camera. Sea Rider, I hope you will be my muse again next summer.