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Cape Lookout

One of my favorite places to be is on Cape Lookout island. It is part of the barrier islands that line the coast of North Carolina called the Outer Banks. Cape Lookout can only be accessed by ferry and no one has lived here since the early 1900s when the island was taken by the government and turned into a national park.

The Cape Lookout lighthouse stands tall above the seas and once provided a helpful warning to sailors along the treacherous jagged shores which were referred to as the graveyard of the Atlantic. Hundreds of ships crashed into the crazy shore line of North Carolina until all the lighthouses were constructed.

The clear blue crystal water can be seen by climbing to the top of the lighthouse. Out of all of the lighthouses I have climbed, no view has compared to this one.

Seeing all the little islands and sandbars standing out against the blue water makes me think I’m someplace tropical.

Cape Lookout is known as one of the best places to find shells. My first time here I came home with over ten giant conch shells.  I still don’t really know what to do with them all, but there they sit, out in the yard, a reminder of my favorite place.

I also like how uninhabited it is. It’s always possible to find a spot on the beach where not another person is in sight.

As soon as I leave, I start dreaming of when I can come back.

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The Lost Beach

Cape Lookout Island.  Only accessible by Ferry, and with no paved roads.  It was once a home to a small fishing community but is now owned by the National Park system.
A short walk away from the tourist area, down the lonely shoreline, and remnants of the island’s past begin to appear.
Barnacle laden debris from the houses burned down by owners who refused to let them become acquired by the government.
And maybe parts from an old car that became engulfed in a sandstorm, only to appear again some time later.
Conch shells, still inhabited by their original owner can easily be found in the shallow waters.
This beach is different than others. A beach forgotten.
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The Castle Beneath the Dunes

Somewhere, hidden under the vast sand dunes at the Outer Banks, lies a giant sand castle. How much of the castle is visible depends on the ever changing dunes. Sometimes just the tips of the turrets are visible, sometimes the castle stands ten feet tall over the sandy hills, sometimes the castle disappears without a trace and doesn’t resurface again for many years.. It’s like a mysterious mirage, and makes you wonder what else may have been engulfed by the dunes.

I remember the first time I saw the giant sand castle. It was during a beach trip when I was eight years old. As we drove past the sand dunes, I spotted these small peaks poking up in the sand and wondered what they were. We kept driving past, day after day, and I kept wondering what was up there. 

Finally on one of the last days of the trip. My dad parked the car and we raced across the street to trek up the sandy hill and see what it was. At the time only the very tip of the castle was visible. We weren’t sure exactly what it was for, or how big it actually was, but I was fascinated. I couldn’t stop thinking about the mysterious hidden sand castle. There is already so much history and folklore at the Outer Banks, and this was just another feature that added to that feeling.

The next year when we returned to the beach, so much more was uncovered!!  That was when we read somewhere that it had belonged to a miniature golf course. Shortly after that it spent many years completely buried. I couldn’t see it on our subsequent visits, and many people thought it had been buried for good.

But when we visited not long ago, the sand castle had once again made an appearance! This time with the addition of some grasses.

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The giant sand castle is part of a miniature golf course that was built in the 70s near an enormous living sand dune called Jockeys Ridge. It wasn’t long before the dunes began to migrate towards the golf course and eventually consumed it. The strong winds at the beach mean the sand dune is constantly changing, and because the winds blow more from the Northeast direction, it tends to move a few feet to the southwest each year, which is why the miniature golf course became buried and has stayed buried ever since. 

The sand castle is the only evidence that remains of the old golf course. I always wonder about the other things buried under there, and if maybe, one day, a wild storm will pass by that uncovers them. Even just a little bit.

And just for fun, here are some pictures of me the second time I visited the sand castle!  I think this was in 2000.  The pointy turrets have since disappeared.