Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A hike through NC's 'Down East'

The eastern part of Carteret County, NC consists of a string of waterfront communities fronting Core Sound and collectively called 'Down East'.  The locals are mostly watermen, which is not surprising since I was rarely out of sight of the many bays and estuaries and wetlands as I hiked through the heart of this special place.  The beauty is abundant, the pace is laid-back, and the people have their own unique dialect and accent - a combination of a heavy southern drawl and old Elizabethan English.  To hear them speak, a 'high tide' is a 'hoi toid'.

Of the many quaint little communities that I walked through on this 14.5 mile day (biking one way and walking the other), I found Stacy to be the most attractive and most colorful.  I'll stick to the colorful: their somewhat run-down welcome sign:

... and a country store that had seen better days.

Yes, it's definitely Air Conditioned :-)

Then there was 'Action Man' at the helm of his air boat.  This is the most distinctive (and flawlessly working) wind vane I've ever seen.  The propeller spins, the boat smoothly swivels to keep itself facing into the wind.

As I said, water views were ubiquitous.  Here's just one more, taken from the bridge over Williston Creek:

The wildlife was abundant also.  Beyond the gulls on the posts in the top photo, I got a decent shot of this snow-white Great Egret on the outskirts of Stacy:

... and of fiddler crabs doing what they do - foraging in the mud flats with the males carrying their gigantic cumbersome claw (for display to females and for male-to-male contests only).

 At the end of the day's excursion I came to the main entrance to North River Farms.  The interior of Down East NC is a huge area of low flat ground that has been cleared and ditched and drained and is under the ownership of vast industrial farming companies (agribusinesses).  Open Grounds Farm (Italian owned) is by far the greatest of these with 70 square miles of farm land that is barely 3 feet above sea level and is serviced by 250 miles of private road like this one stretching arrow straight for twelve miles from the Main Entrance:

But the more modest North River Farms has been acquired by the environmental coalition called the NC Coastal Federation.  They are in the process of restoring the farm to its natural condition.  And they are planning a good long off-road section of hiking trail and boardwalk that will someday be the route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  I can't wait to come back and hike it when it's ready.


And as always, I'm providing a full GPS track for this hike, and with it a link to a slide show with many more photos:

MST Day 11 - NC's Down East at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in North Carolina