Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Camping in the Sand Dunes

Have you ever gone to the beach for the day and after having been lulled into the comfort of the rhythm of the waves, the cool briney air in your face and the sun on your back and wished you could just sleep right there? Evenings and night times on the beach were exactly what we were looking for when we researched camping on the dunes of the Outer Banks: the wild and crazy waves and the abandonment of the area, so battered by the ocean that nothing permanent seems possible.
The Oregon Inlet Campground was the only site that had space left on Memorial Day Weekend and their spaces were on a first come, first served basis.
The campground was easy to find and we tried to get there as early in the day as we could so we wouldn't be left with the last available campsite. We had about a five hour drive so we arrived in the early afternoon. The camp rangers were friendly and seemed quite jovial between themselves. They gave us maps and explained the setup and let us pick a site from the available openings. Since the camping was a bit closer than we were used to and there were no trees - only sand dunes for privacy, we chose one that sheltered us from the wind and most of our neighbors.

It was windy! Normally, I absolutely love the windy ocean, but putting up our tent was a little challenging and we were not convinced the wind wouldn't blow it over so we used extra rope to tie it down to the picnic table and the grill, both of which were well anchored. Once settled in, we set out to explore the area. We could hear music and climbed over the dunes (on the pathways provided) and saw a long row of trucks. Apparently, this was an area where folks could drive in and park on the sand. A few kids were swimming but most of the people were enjoying the sunshine in spite of the cool air. We meandered along the sand, stepping into the water and checking out the amazing collection of sea shells littering the beach. 

The fresh air made us hungry and we went back to our site to cook up some specialty sausages that Eric had found earlier in the week. We brought a butane stove as open fires are not allowed and it worked well even in the wind. By the time the sun set, we were ready to crawl into our tent. We could hear the wind from the ocean and the waves, but no people. There were no bugs because of the strong winds, but there were sand thorns - a little sharp 1/4 inch sized bit of plant that blows along the area, clinging to anything, including your skin. We did read the literature about them and were prepared with shoes, but they were so aggravating when they got in the tent. Our remedy was duct tape used like a lint roller.
 The morning was fresh and quieter than the evening and we found waking up easy as the brightness of the sun permeated our tent. Of course, we had to try to see the sunrise over the water at least once. Coffee brewed outside is so delicious! 

On our second day, we explored by driving down the island and checking out other areas. The sand moves constantly and I always look to see how different the dunes look or where the road is almost covered after a strong wind.

Most of the beaches were empty and it was hard to fathom going to a beach where crowds line up in the sand, smelling each others' coconut lotions. The rawness of nature was refreshing and inspiring. Of course, as we drove, we found communities where the noise and the commotion came back but we didn't mind. 

We really wanted to go crabbing and looked around for a perfect spot only to realize that most people didn't take the time to crab. We did try a few different spots and used a regular fishing pole with a small bait fish tied to the end. A few crabs met their demise and we had a beautiful lunch.

With our food supplies running low, we decided to drive into Nags Head and see if we could find a good restaurant along the water. We did a little online research with Yelp, and were happy to find a seat on the beach at the Pier House Restaurant. The people watching was great fun and the food was good, but the location was perfect. Lots of folks pass through the restaurant to go fishing and then they can bring back their catch to be cooked by the chefs. If we had known, we would have tried fishing, but maybe next time.

The temperatures warmed up on the day of our departure for home and as the bugs came in and the humidity soared, we were glad to move on. The campground is rustic with only cold showers and toilets. We had no electricity or internet access and although it's unique for a night or two, we were missing the comforts of life as we know it.

I love the Outer Banks and highly recommend visiting them to anyone who doesn't need the boardwalk or nightlife to be entertained. Even if you don't camp on the dunes, a day at the beach there is so refreshing of an experience, I think most people would find even a few hours very enjoyable.