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Eclipse on Sand Dollar Island


Years and years ago, I decided I wanted to see a solar eclipse so I looked it up and saw one would be coming my way in just a few years. Luckily the path of totality was just a few hours away from where I live. Exciting!!!



Well. I forgot all about until about a month ago when I got an email at work about an eclipse viewing party on the roof of the building I work in. At first I was excited, but then disappointed because I had forgotten about it and didn’t make plans to travel to the totality path. But then I realized it would happen during our annual beach trip so we thought about driving a few hours south to the edge of the totality line.. Unfortunately a rainstorm ruined those plans so we decided to stay put, and head to Sand Dollar Island and hope for the best.


It was a dark Monday, rain clouds were surrounding the area and as we boarded the ferry, it began to rain. The ferry driver commented that he was sending us out to a sand bar in the middle of the sea, in a rainstorm during an eclipse. Which made me pretty darn excited.


When we got to the island, we had left the clouds behind on the mainland and the sun finally appeared! I wandered around and found a few sand dollars, then the moon began to move in front of the sun..





Being unprepared for this event that I had been so excited to witness, I didn’t think to buy any special filters for my camera for photographing the eclipse. 

These two pictures were taken when the sun was 97% covered by the moon. With my NASA approved Eclipse glasses on, only a tiny slice of the sun was visible. But the sun was so bright that even with my camera’s fastest shutter speed, and the highest aperture, it still was too bright to capture!


This was a picture I took with my phone through my glasses.


The strangest thing to me was that even though the sun was mostly covered, it was barely even dark out. But the lighting was quite strange. It looked like I was wearing sunglasses when I wasn’t.





I was a very cool experience to be at one of my favorite places during a solar eclipse. It worked out for the better that I forgot about the eclipse, because if we had planned on traveling the path of totality, we wouldn’t have been able to see it because of the rain.

One day I want to see a total solar eclipse. The next one is just a few years away in South America. Sounds like a good excuse for an exciting vacation!
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Beach Adventures

One final walk along the shore on the last day at the beach a year ago. We drove up to the end of the island to reach a less traveled beach where we raced across the long stretch of blistering hot sand to get to the water.
This part of the beach faces the shipping port, where all sorts of tugboats and ships can be seen cruising back and forth all day. 

There were many intriguing things to be found on this less traveled beach.
Including a polka dot moth!!
Further up along the beach was an interesting rock formation. I’m not sure why it’s there or what it’s for, but it was an unusual sight to see.

Around the base of the rock formation was a trove of tiny shells. I tried to collect them but the waves got me!

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Beach Birds

 

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On our last excursion to Cape Lookout Island, as we were riding along in the back of a truck to the sandy point, we came upon an enormous flock of seagulls. It was the biggest gathering of birds I had ever seen.

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We first spotted them from far away and got closer and closer until the finally decided to get out of the way and fly into the air above us in one huge swarm. They hovered in the air just a few momentsuntil the truck passed, before returning to their place on the sand.

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It was like riding through a bird tornado.

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As soon as the truck dropped us off, I raced back to the birds.

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They waited until I got very close and then they all flew off together, but then landed just a few feet farther away after circling around the water.

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Times like this are one of the reasons I love coming to the sandy point of Cape Lookout island so much. It is a very uninhabited area and you just never know what you will see.

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Beaufort Harbor

The Crystal Coast is bountiful with islands to visit and explore. 
The harbor is always filled with boats of every kind; ferries, yachts, fishing boats, house boats, and even the occasional pirate ship. (Pictured to the left!)

We traveled one evening, to the picturesque town of Beaufort, to wander along the boardwalk and watch the boats come and go, before boarding one for a sunset cruise along the islands. 

It was a peaceful weekday, not too crowded. The sun was bright and the wind was warm.



We boarded the little boat and set off on the adventure, weaving through all the other sea vessels and leaving the harbor behind. 


Boat travels are one of my favorite things about coming to this place!

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Sunset on the Sand


As the sun set on the first day of our beach trip, the sky turned many shades of golden pink, and illuminated the water below. The sand turned from boiling hot to refreshingly cold, but the air stayed nice and warm. It was the perfect beach evening.

The tide was going out, leaving behind hundreds of tiny shells….

(And I wanted to search through them all!)



The whole shore was washed in pastel colors!




We wandered along the beach until the sun completely disappeared and the sky turned darker and darker shades of pink and orange. 

I love the beach!

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Sand Dollar Island

While we were at the beach, we took a trip to one of my favorite places. Sand Dollar Island!
You can only get to Sand Dollar Island by ferry, so we headed down to the docks to catch a ride over.
 It is actually more of a giant sand bar then an island, and it is only accessible during low tide because it can get completely submerged during high tide!
 The ferry drops you off on this deserted island and comes back about two hours later, after you’ve had plenty of time to scour the waters for Sand Dollar treasure.

The water surrounding  the island isn’t very deep. Here I was kneeling on the bottom searching for the perfect Sand Dollars.
 The live ones must be left on the island though to continue their little sand dollar lives.  I had never seen a live one before, which are the dark brown fuzzy ones. There are so many that if you reach down into the sand at any point, you are sure to grab one! Finding dead ones takes a little more luck, but they are usually plenty.
If you’re lucky you may even find a lovely conch shell specimen!  I was so excited when I stumbled upon this guy, only to find that…
 Somebody was still home! I plopped him back in the water and watched him inch along the sand. It is so neat to see a living conch.
The view here is so pretty; other smaller sand bars stick out as a lovely golden among the bright blue water and then blend in with the cloudless sky. Sand Dollar Island is in the sound side, sandwiched between a few other islands so the waters are calm, and there are no big waves to worry about.

When we come to Sand Dollar Island, I never want to leave!

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More Beach!

There are a few more photos from our beach trip that I forgot to share!!

These are from our last night there when we took a walk on the pier at sunset.
The pier is such a lively place at night, it’s a bunch of fun to go and soak up the atmosphere.
A beach store can be found on nearly every block. 

I love beach stores, it’s like an explosion of color as soon as you walk in. The walls and even the ceiling are covered in any kind of beach going paraphernalia you can imagine. We bought some beach chairs as soon as we got there, we should have gotten an umbrella too, maybe next time!
I’ll end with this picture of Steve, he felt inspired to dig a hole to put his chair in, and then turned the mound of sand into a giant lizard.

What do you like to do at the beach?
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Beach Trip- Crazy Catamaran Ride

There is a lighthouse close to where we stayed at the beach, but we had never been to it because it’s only accessible by ferry. I have always wanted to see it though, ever since I was little, so it was definitely on my list of things to do during our trip. We found out there was a two hour catamaran cruise that takes you to the island, serves lunch, lets you wander around the island, climb the lighthouse and then takes you back. It sounded like a ton of fun so we decided to do it.
And it was fun.. Until about an hour in and then we both got so seasick we almost barfed, despite taking motion sickness medicine beforehand. I had no idea it would be such a wild ride! The boat was going up and down like crazy, which was actually really fun, kind of like a carnival ride! But not fun at all once the seasickness set in..   

I had never been so happy to see land in all my life!  They dropped us off at the tip of the island before taking us to the lighthouse, which supposedly is one of the best places on the coast for finding shells, but by the time we were able to choke down our lunch and start feeling better we barely had any time for shell searching and didn’t find any good ones. 🙁  That place was amazing though! I definitely want to go back and spend hours there; the water was crystal clear and there were so many shells!

 One the boat there was a wild sea dog! The captain said she had been riding the seas with him for eight years.

They also served two dollar yeunglings on the boat! Which I partook in once I was feeling better on the trip back.  I realized what the secret was to not getting sick; keep your eyes looking forward. Duh, I should have known that from riding in the car, I’m the kind of person that gets carsick if I do anything but look out the front window. Heck I’ve been known to get sick from swinging on a porch swing!
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse! In addition to protecting ships from the dangerous shores, it also acted as a compass. The middle of the black diamonds point north-south, and the middle of the white diamonds point east-west.  The lighthouse also got in the middle of a civil war battle and ended up having two holes blown into it with a cannon! Poor guy.



Once you get to the top you have to crawl through this silly door. I felt like I was in a submarine.

It was the BEST view I’ve ever seen! 
Click here to see this photo full size.
 The captain of our boat said it was the best view on the east coast, I think he was probably right!

It was definitely worth getting seasick over!
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Beach Trip- Part One

I love any type of vacation, but to me, nothing ever compares to a beach vacation.

I’m not sure what exactly I love about beaches the best; watching the waves while soaking up the sun, the endless sand castle possibilities, early morning shell walks.. I get so excited every time I think about the beach!

For this years beach trip Steven and I went to our favorite spot, Atlantic beach. It was the first ever trip we took together, and second time we went we got engaged! This was our third time going and we had a blast.

We always stay at the cute little Sand Dollar motel.


One of the cool things about North Carolina is that is has 200 miles of  barrier islands banking the coast, known as the outer banks, which is home to many light houses, wild horses, small islands for exploring and plenty of seashells! 


During the drive to the beach I can hardly contain my excitement, and by the time we get to the big bridge, I’m almost jumping out of my seat!

From the top of the bridge you can see across the island to the ocean on the other side!






One of the places we visited was sand dollar island, which is just a giant sandbar in the middle of the ocean that is home to tons of sand dollars and conchs! A ferry drops you off at low tide and then comes back to pick you up before the tide comes back in and the whole island gets covered by the water.



I had never seen a live conch before, some of them were HUGE, just wandering along the shore. But by the time I went to get my camera all I could find was this tiny guy.

Of course taking living guys isn’t allowed, so it was back into the sea with him! 

I loved sand dollar island so much! I had never seen a sand dollar except for at stores, and there were soo many live ones just hanging out in the sand! I am so excited about all the sand dollars I collected!
 
On the ferry ride over we passed a few islands and got to see some wild horses.

These photos are from an early morning walk to watch the sunrise, but I forgot that the sun doesn’t rise over the ocean at this beach because it faces east-west instead of north-south, so my sunrise pictures weren’t that exciting. But I was pretty happy with the other pictures I took in the morning fog.





 
We ate at a couple ocean front restaurants, such a great view!


 We ordered a pizza for lunch one day and took it to a little beach side picnic area (and pretended we didn’t see the no alcohol signs!) :0

Probably my favorite beach activities is just sitting on the beach all day, watching the waves and reading while drinking delicious beachy drinks. When I get too hot I’ll run into the water to cool down, then maybe I’ll dig in the sand and build a castle or something. 

Writing this post made me miss the beach so bad, even though we just got back. I can almost hear the waves crashing and taste the salty air as I look through these. I have a few more beach posts to come, so stay tuned!