Oak Island Lighthouse

Currently, there are seven coastal lighthouses in North Carolina. So far, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three: Cape Lookout, the Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy. I hope to visit them all.

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I traveled to the Oak Island Lighthouse a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to get out the house, and I remembered that I’d been planning to visit the lighthouse, which was a little less than an hour’s drive from my home, for quite a while. As I drove through the rural route that would take me to the lighthouse, I remember thinking, I would never live out here, because there didn’t appear to be much to do. I would see things a little differently once I reached my destination.

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The light from the lighthouse, located on Caswell Beach Rd on Oak Island, can be seen for 16 miles. It’s rather exciting to see it flashing in the distance as you approach the beach. The lighthouse was built in 1957 to replace a steel lighthouse on Bald Head Island (Bald Head and Oak Island are very close to one another) and when it was first lit in 1958, carbon-arc mercury lamps, which were used prior to incandescent lights, provided so much light that it was the brightest in the United States and the second brightest in the world. The light is currently powered by a 1,000 watt halogen bulb and displays 4 one second flashes then 6 seconds of blank. It stands 153 feet tall and has 131 steps that can be climbed to reach an outside balcony, although you must schedule a time to climb the lighthouse. It is not open during any set hours.

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It is very easy to access because it sits just by the road. There is a tiny parking lot directly in front of the lighthouse with free parking for 30 minutes. I saw another public access parking lot just down the road. Across the street is a walkway onto Caswell Beach. After I poked around the lighthouse, I crossed the street to check out the beach. It was super quiet compared to the beaches where I live, and I saw several pelicans flying so close to the shore that I could actually make out their little pelican faces. I glanced behind me to see the flashes from the lighthouse, and it occurred to me how fortunate the locals are to live so close to such a quiet beach adorned with their own personal lighthouse. Ok, I thought, maybe I would live here.

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Amble

It feels like I’ve been fighting the rain for about a week now. I was drenched the entire second day of my trip to NYC last week, but my fiend and I still managed to see the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square and more. We did find an indoor, partly underground mall beside the Hudson at one point and there we were able to get some respite from the rain. As I sat by a window overlooking the Hudson, I enjoyed the scene of New York in the rain.

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Ambling New York rain

a respite is found over-

looking the Hudson.

This afternoon, I am back home sitting in a parking lot at the beach waiting for a shower to pass so I can slip onto the beach to enjoy that scene for a while. We’ll see if I get another respite.

Moore’s Creek

I squeezed in a historical excursion today. Moore’s Creek National Battlefield, located in Currie NC, is the site of the first influential victory by the Patriots in the American Revolution. The battle, which took place on February 27, 1776, ended British authority in the colony and empowered North Carolina to be the first colony to declare independence. The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge as well as the Battle of Sullivan’s Island close to Charleston, SC were the first open conflicts of the American revolution and led to the Thirteen colonies declaring Independence on July 4, 1776. (Wikipedia)

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Today, the 87-acre park has reenactments, a tour of the battlefield and a visitor center which offers videos, displays and other educational opportunities.

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On the grounds, a History Trail (0.7 mile) follows a walk across Moore’s Creek and features several monuments. The Patriot Monument honors John Grady, the only Patriot killed in the battle. A Loyalist Monument honors those who supported the British cause who “did their duty as they saw it” and another monument honors women in the region for the roles that they played in the American Revolution. The Tarheel Trail  (0.3 mile) begins near the end of the History Trail.

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It was an informative trip for me as I did not realize what an important role NC played in the American Revolution. I’m sure I learned it in school a looooong time ago, but it was nice to have the reminder. It was also a really beautiful place to walk. I even saw some friends along the way.

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Greensboro Writer’s Conference

This weekend, I did something very writery and attended the NC Writer’s Spring Conference. Located at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference offered exhibits and book sales, a choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop, faculty readings, open Mike readings and more.

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It was actually a busy weekend in Greensboro as an annual Furniture Market was also taking place. After driving over three hours to Greensboro on Friday afternoon, I was glad to have secured a room early at the local Hyatt as rooms were scarce and overpriced in response to the crowds.  While I sat at the hotel bar sipping a rum and coke and dining on chili and spinach salad, I overheard a few people at the front desk trying to get a room, only to be told that there were no rooms available. I felt very fortunate for mine.

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I slept well on Friday and arrived at the conference on Saturday morning early enough to peruse the exhibit tables. Small publishers and independent bookstores filled their tables with books from NC authors that they had published or were affiliated. A few of them offered information on writing contests. I met a woman who offered to put my name on an email list for an online critique group for people who write children’s books.

 

Next, I attended my first workshop at the conference. The topic was building poems that editors will publish. In the workshop, we discussed lyricism in poetry and finding one’s unique voice as a poet. The author and editor leading the workshop gave us some insight on what she looks for when she screens poems for her press.

 

Afterwards, we broke for lunch. I had never been to the UNCG campus so I googled restaurants close by. There were two within walking distance. As I stood inside the Old Town Draught House, a fellow workshopper from Charlotte, Reita, offered me a look at her menu. A gentleman behind us told us that in order to be served we simply needed to sit down at the bar. We decided to sit together and order. I dined on the Turkey melt with veggies and sweet tea and conversed with Reita over lunch. By the time we finished eating, we had exchanged contact information. We walked back to the workshop and parted ways. I went on to listen to a few faculty readings.

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My afternoon workshop, geared towards children’s authors, was titled “Exercising the Imagination”.  We discussed ways to tap into our personal passions and take our stories in new directions. The author leading the workshop gave us some ideas for exercises that we could use to access our imaginations. He was also a good source of information regarding future conferences.

 

Before I left for the day, I decided to pick up a book from both of my workshop presenters. They were on sale at the exhibit tables and were reasonably priced. Running Music  by Crystal Simone Smith is a book of poems and The Nine Pound Hammer  by John Claude Bemis is a YA fantasy book that explores American mythology. I look forward to reading them both.

 

Before I hit the road, I googled the closest Starbuck’s and picked up a Starbuck’s Mocha and a cookie. Probably not so wise as I’m trying to lose a little weight, but I’ll start over tomorrow. I had a long ride ahead of me and kind of wanted something special to take the edge off the commute.

I’m really glad I went to the conference this weekend. It was a great source of instruction and information, and I met a lot of pleasant people. Plus it was empowering. I don’t often travel alone overnight and it was kind of nice to go on my own. It was also nice to take another step towards fulfilling my desire to be a writer.   

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Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Saints Peter and Paul Russian and Greek Orthodox Church resides in St. Helena, NC about 26 miles outside of Wilmington. I was introduced to the church by my parents a while back when they found out that I was writing and taking pictures of churches.

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Called The Disappearing Church, there are currently only three members: Ann Debaylo Mizerak, her son, David and her sister, Mary. When Ann and Mary are no longer able to help care for the church, David will care for it along with some cousins. They have not had a full-time priest since 1998, but they meet loyally every Sunday at 10am.  *Check out the short video documentary at the link above for more details. I personally found it rather haunting in a good way.*

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According to an article in Our State Magazine Sts Peter and Paul church is the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in North Carolina. In 1905, a developer from Wilmington, Hugh McRae, purchased land in Pender County, NC for the purpose of creating small, European-style farms. He hired immigrants from various ethnic groups to do the farming and between 1923-1932, several Ukrainian and Russian families made their way to St. Helena. In 1932, McRae gave them a deed for land so they could build a church. The church was once thriving, but throughout the years, as families moved away or children assimilated and moved on, attendance began to wane.

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Some unique features of the church, at least for this area, are the gold dome architecture associated with Byzantine churches and the triple-barred cross. The triple-barred cross has three cross-beams: the top one is a title bar where “Jesus, King of Jews” was written, there is the center beam standard to Christian crosses and the bottom beam which is a foot rest.

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Currently, Sts Peter and Paul Church is in the process of being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. I would like to see that happen as this church contributes a unique and fascinating story. It would be a shame to forget it.

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Ann Street Methodist Church and Old Burying Ground

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My introduction to the Ann Street Methodist Church occurred when I visited the Old Burying Ground in Beaufort, NC. Beaufort, founded in 1709, is the third-oldest city in North Carolina. It is a town rich in history with stories from the civil war, pre-civil war and even Blackbeard the pirate who ran his ship ashore in 1719. The Old Burying Ground, the town’s oldest cemetery,  is located between two churches on Ann St: First Baptist Church and Ann Street Methodist Church which was established in 1778.

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(Photo credit: Ann Street United Methodist Church)

Ann Street Methodist Church has its own stories. During the civil war, Union soldiers moved into the church. The sanctuary was used as a field hospital then later it was also used as a hospital during the yellow fever. The cemetery entrance is to the side of the church with the grounds stretching behind the church.

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Upon entering the burying grounds, one can take a brochure which highlights the graves in the cemetery. I, myself, am a fan of cemeteries, not because of some morbid curiosity, but rather because of the stories that they tell. Each grave is a snapshot both into someone’s life and into the times in which they lived. Here are a few interesting snapshots taken directly from the brochure:

 

Pierre Henry (1812-1877) — and Annie Henry (1816-1904) African Americans who were leaders in the education of emancipated slaves and their children at the Washburn Seminary. He was born free during the period of slavery. The school was one of many established in the South by the Congregational Churches of the North following the Civil War.

 

Captain John Sabiston (1800’s) — Died near Charleston, S.C. and was brought home by his crew. People gathered by the wharf at the foot of Turner Street as his body was taken off his ship. They followed as it was taken on a bier through the dark streets of town to the graveyard and lowered into the readied grave by torch light.

 

Sarah Gibbs (d.1792) & Jacob Shepard (d.1773) — Sarah was married to Jacob Shepard, a seaman. Jacob’s ship went to sea, but never returned. He was presumed to be dead. Later, Sarah married Nathaniel Gibbs and had a child with him. After an absence of several years, the shipwrecked Jacob Shepard unexpectedly returned to Beaufort to find his wife married to another man. The two men agreed that Sarah would remain with Gibbs as long as she lived, but must spend eternity at the side of Jacob Shepard.

 

“Crissie Wright” Common Grave — “Cold as the night the ‘Crissie Wright’ went ashore” is still heard around Beaufort. The sailors who froze to death after the wreck of that ship in January, 1886 are buried together in this grave. It is said this tragedy led to the establishment of the Cape Lookout Lifesaving Station in 1887.

 

Girl in Barrel of Rum — Here is the grave of a girl buried in a barrel of rum. In the 1700s an English family, including an infant daughter, came to Beaufort. The girl grew up with a desire to see her homeland, and finally persuaded her mother to allow her to make the voyage. Her father promised his wife he would return the girl safely. The girl enjoyed her visit to London, but died on the voyage home. She would have been buried at sea, but her father could not bear to break his promise. He purchased a barrel of rum from the captain, placed her body in it, and brought it to Beaufort for burial.

 

Can you imagine the reaction to a story like the Girl in Barrel of Rum if it were to happen today?

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(Photo Credit: Old Burying Ground)

If you ever get the chance to visit Beaufort, I encourage you to stop by the Old Burying Ground behind Ann St Methodist Church. Afterwards, there are several quaint restaurants and coffee houses in case you are hungry or just need a little pick me up. I’m particularly fond of the Chai Latte at the Beaufort Coffee shop on Turner St.

Have a great weekend, all!

Sunday Visits

via Daily Prompt: Vivid

Earlier this week, I wrote a little bit about the season of Lent and referenced a Wikipedia article. After my post, I decided to read back over that article. I noticed a sentence that intrigued me: In some Christian countries…the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.

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It gave me an idea. I’m not going to visit seven churches during Holy Week, but it occurred to me that I can find seven churches to highlight during this season, whether they be churches that I have attended or saw on vacation or noticed as I was passing by. Armed with my next idea, I decided to head to downtown Wilmington to take some pictures. I already had a church in mind and I also wanted to visit a bookstore at the Cotton Exchange for a separate mission. While I was at it, I figured I would grab a coffee. 

 

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I recently bought a new camera and figured it would give me an opportunity to break it in. Unfortunately, since I did not plan the adventure ahead of time, the camera was not charged. I read the instructions and realized it would take 310 minutes or something like that to fully charge the camera. I did not have time to wait so I decided to go forward and put my best effort into taking the most vivid pictures possible with my phone camera.

My first stop was a small local bookstore, Two Sisters Bookery, where I bought a book about a character who used to live by the salt marsh at Carolina Beach. I will discuss him more at a later date.

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Next, I headed to Java Dog Coffee House, where I purchased a chai latte and some fruit. I ate the fruit in the cafe then strolled the riverfront for a few minutes while I sipped the latte.

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Finally, I headed to St. Mary’s Church, where I attended school in 7th and 8th grades. I parked on the street by the church. As I approached the church, I noticed the beauty of the architecture, a Spanish Baroque style, in a way that I didn’t really appreciate as a kid. It really was a beautiful building. I did a little research beforehand and apparently, St. Mary’s was designed by the same architect who worked on the Biltmore Estate and Duke Chapel. I walked around the block, circling the church and the school. Memories flooded back to me.

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St. Mary’s was the place where I met my friend, Mary, when I was twelve. We used to walk around the schoolyard on our breaks and talk about the things that fascinated us most: Duran Duran, makeup, Tiger Beat magazine and even books. We are still friends today.

St. Mary’s was the place that introduced me to the nuns: Sister Lillian, a large woman who was also a softie; Sister Patricia, a tomboy who used to play dodgeball with the boys; Sister Josephine who didn’t seem to have any sense of humor at all and Sister Mary John, a tiny little bulldog of a woman. 

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St. Mary’s was the place where I experienced my first real crush. The first time I met someone and actually felt like I was in love. Of course, I wasn’t; I was twelve, but I thought I was.  Unfortunately, it ended very badly. I didn’t belong to the right clique. Friends of the boy poked fun of the situation, and in an effort to diffuse the attention from himself, he turned on me one day and chased me off the playground, calling me the worst name I’ve ever been called in my life. It was a pivotal experience for me. 

St. Mary’s was the church where I first attended a funeral for a classmate. When I was thirteen and in 8th grade, one of my classmates, Martha, along with her mother and a sibling, was killed in a car accident. I remember the parade of caskets at the funeral. It was pitiful.

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As I walked around the building, I saw the courtyard where we played as children. The gate was open.

After a few moments of reflection, I decided to leave. On the way back to the car, I saw my shadow on the sidewalk. It reminded me of something. I belong to a little meditation group and I remembered our instructor talking a while back about something called shadow work. Without getting too deep, the idea is that everyone has a shadow self, a part of himself or herself that doesn’t always feel, do or react the way that we want. The idea is to get to know that part of yourself instead of avoiding it like we all do; and then eventually make friends with it, if possible, since it is part of who you are and there for a reason.

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It occurred to me that maybe I had kind of done that by visiting St. Mary’s. I had added St. Mary’s to my list of churches partly because it was local, and I did have a history with the church. I knew it was a beautiful building; I knew that the architecture was impressive; but I also had a wide range of experiences there-good, bad and ugly, as they say- during some very formative years. My little field trip made me ponder many things beyond architecture. It helped me to look at my complex relationship with St. Mary’s church. 

 

 

Birds and Bar Flies

Halligan’s is an Irish pub near my house. I‘ve been there a few times and I like it for several reasons. First of all, the food is delicious. My favorite dish is the chicken boxty. Chicken boxty is chicken, mushrooms and spinach over a potato cake in mouthwatering cream sauce. It’s to die for. Halligan’s also has an assortment of beer and they have a great outdoor seating area that faces a man-made pond surrounded by birds. There is a very large crane that hangs out around that pond.

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One of the great things about living in NC is that we have sporadic spring days in the middle of winter. It can be 30 degrees one day and two days later it will be in the 70’s. A few days later, it might be freezing again. When random spring happens, we all head outside; we go for walks, ride down to the beach or sit on a patio somewhere having dinner and drinks with friends. If you don’t watch it, the fluctuating weather will make you sick, but it’s usually worth it.  

One spring day in winter, I met a friend at Halligan’s. We sat on the patio and ordered food and beer. I can’t remember what kind of beer I ordered that day, but it was probably something like Blue Moon or Bud Lite Lime (don’t laugh, they’re very tasty) or a cider because those are what I usually drink. Or a ginger beer. It could have been a ginger beer.

After ordering, I sat talking with my friend. As we caught up, I noticed a fly buzzing around my glass. I waived it away but it kept coming back. I had only had a couple of sips when I noticed the fly in my beer, flailing and fighting for his life. I sighed. “I can’t drink this now,” I said then wondered what to do with the fly. On any other day, you could have handed me a swatter and I might have flattened him, but on this spring winter day, as he scrambled for his life in my glass, it just seemed senseless to watch him drown.  At least when they get flattened, it’s like they died in battle. There’s no dignity in drowning in wimpy beer. I picked up the glass and walked to the edge of the patio. I poured the fly onto the grass and watched him lay there in the sun. When I returned, the waitress was at the table with my friend.

“I decided to try to save a fly’s life, if you can believe that,” I said, “but I think he’s going to die, anyway. He’s not moving”.

“He’s probably too drunk to move,” laughed the waitress.

“Maybe he has alcohol poisoning,” I said.

“I’ll get you another one.”

She took my empty glass and returned with a fresh beer. My friend and I sat on the patio and finished our food and drinks. “Let’s walk over to the pond before we leave”, said my friend, “maybe we’ll see that crane or some turtles”.

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There is a little bridge that crosses the pond. As we headed for the bridge, we saw a row of white coastal birds sitting on the rails. At the time, I thought they might be herons, but after a little research, which consisted of me googling on my phone, I convinced myself that they were a type of bird called white ibis. We crept very slowly toward the bridge so that we would not scare the ibis. I was able to take a few pictures of them as we moved closer, but eventually they moved away from us.

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We were not alone for long, however. A group of Canadian geese on the far end of the pond noticed us, probably noticed my friend’s to go box, and started swimming and honking their way across the pond. One fat goose, in particular, acted like he’d never eaten a meal in his life. My friend succumbed to the pressure and pulled some bread from the to go box.  We pulled off just a little bit of bread and threw it in the water, but we quickly realized that the fat one was a bully who ran off the other birds and gobbled up all the bread for himself. Survival of the fittest. We devised a plan to throw a decoy piece one way for the chubby goose then throw another piece the other way for the other birds. Once we felt they had been given an adequate snack, we closed the box. Some kids appeared on the other side of the pond and the geese quickly kicked us to the curb.

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As they swam away, I marveled at the day, at how the sun reflected off the water and reflected the images of the geese onto the water.  I felt so blessed for being able to take advantage of the day.  

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Since that encounter, I’ve read that you aren’t supposed to feed bread to the birds. That’s a bummer. I guess in the future, I’ll have to keep the bread to myself. It’s going to be really hard to say no.  

Cape Lookout

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My first visit to Cape Lookout was born from spontaneity. I’d previously had other plans for my weekend, but they fell through. Prepared for vacation but with nowhere to go, I sent my friend, Becki, a text for advice. She’s a bit of a traveler so I figured she would be a good resource.

Have you ever been to the Outer Banks? I wrote. I need a little trip and was thinking of driving up.

Yes. she answered. They’re beautiful.

Cool.  

If  you’re looking for a lighthouse… she continued, One of my favorites, Cape Lookout, is right near me. You could drive up and stay the night.

Ok!  I responded.

Happy to see that the weekend was salvaged, I drove to Becki’s the next day. 

The Cape Lookout Seashore is 56 miles of undeveloped barrier islands in North Carolina. It consists of the Core Banks and Shackleford Banks and contains the Cape Lookout lighthouse and the wild horses of Shackleford, among other natural treasures.

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The morning that we visited Lookout, Becki, her husband, Jason and I drove to Harker’s Island, where we caught a ferry with several other passengers, including two dogs, for the three-mile trip to the island. One of the dogs was rather young, not well-trained, and clearly a dominant so I offered to trade places with his owner to keep him separated from the other dog. I sat on the back end of the boat with one group of passengers and the more laid back dog, a golden retriever, who made rounds getting his head rubbed when the waves weren’t too rocky. Becki and Jason sat on the front end with some other passengers, the dominant dog and his owner.

As we passed the barrier islands, we strained to see wild horses. I knew from a previous conversation that Becki was also looking for whales. We did see some horses in the distance, but what we mostly saw that day were pelicans, thousands of them. I’ve never seen so many in my life. Pelicans breed on barrier islands so perhaps it was mating season or maybe the fishing was just good that day. In a way, I regret not taking pictures of them, although I have the feeling that the picture would not have done them justice. I guess I sensed that in the moment which is probably why I chose to savor it instead of fumble with my phone. The next time, I will be prepared.

When we reached the island, the ferry driver, a young, handsome,  weathered man, helped us off the boat. We thanked him and asked him when he would return. He was a man of few words, but I detected a hint of the Carolina brogue in his voice.

Once our feet hit the sand, Becki and Jason were in their element. They had visited the island several times before. “We bring everyone here,” Becki laughed. They knew exactly where they wanted to go. We headed down a walkway toward the Cape Lookout lighthouse, a old lightkeeper’s residence and a dilapidated work building. We were visiting in the off season so the buildings were not open, but we climbed onto the porch of what appeared to be the residence and peeked through the windows.

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I turned around and drank in the view of the ocean from the porch. In my mind, I could see the lightkeeper sitting on the porch watching the sea. I wondered what it was like to be a lightkeeper. Was it a lonely life or a life of freedom? Probably a bit of both. A romanticized vision sprung to my head like something out of a Daphne du Maurier novel. I imagined a story of a shipwreck or a ghost lingering around the lighthouse. 

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Next, we approached the lighthouse. It was majestic with its large stature and clean design. At 163 feet tall, the lighthouse is brick and painted with a black and white checkered pattern to indicate direction. The black diamonds point in a north and south direction while the white diamonds point east and west.

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I could see how it could withstand the hurricanes that often pelt the Carolina shores, not to mention countless adventures with pirates and wars throughout the years.

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I so wanted to go inside and climb the 207 steps to its gallery and see the panoramic views from the top. But that would have to wait for another day. As we walked away from the lighthouse toward the beach, I looked behind me to see it adjust to the landscape in the distance.

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We walked the beach with the remainder of our time. We saw horseshoe crabs, shells and even an entire shark washed up on the shore. We walked around the shark and investigated it in an effort to determine its cause of death. We found a wound on his underside that almost appeared to be a bite.

“These waters are a little different, “ my friends offered, “sometimes you see things here that you wouldn’t see on the beach at home”. They explained that the island sits a little further out in the ocean and is in closer proximity to the Gulf. The water is rather clear, very warm and offers a long fishing season and a wide variety of species.

When it was time to meet the ferry, we headed to the dock. We sat with our feet dangling over the water while we waited for the ferry. As we rode back to Harker’s Island, I understood why Becki and Jason have been to Cape Lookout so many times. There is much to explore. I will be back myself when I can gain entrance to the buildings and climb to the top of the lighthouse.

https://www.nps.gov/calo/index.htm