THE TRAILS OF OUR LIVES

My Nova Scotia Trail

By the time I found the first trail that really meant something to my life, I had graduated from college and was living in an old farm house on the shore of the Bay of Fundy. Behind the house was a large field which sloped upwards to a spruce forest. At the top of the field there was a trail that wound through the woods. As much as I loved the rocky shore that was part of the property, the trail at the head of the field seemed to be more personal.

My two Labrador Retrievers, Tok and Fundy, often accompanied me on my hikes. There was nothing spectacular about much of the trail but it finally opened into a clearing that actually was on my neighbor Joe’s property. The view from the clearing was spectacular. I was living in the Village of St. Croix Cove and you could see the actual St. Croix Cove. I loved the view so much that I eventually traded some land for it.

There were times that I thought that Nova Scotia was the greenest place that I had ever seen. We sometimes were able to find baskets of chanterelle mushrooms just off the trail. No mushrooms since then have ever tasted like those.

It being Nova Scotia, the trail had a winter look and often stayed that way for a month or two. While it was hard to walk up the hill, getting up it on cross country skis was even more challenging.

With each move, we managed to find new trails, some of them memorable. (Read More)

Not Enough Wilderness To Save Us

Sunset on White Oak River Near Swansboro, NC

Towns are magnets and they suck people from the countryside, especially the young and talented. We noticed this happening when we returned to New Brunswick in 2012.We farmed there in the seventies and early eighties. Since our trip, what remained of the three churches in our old town disappeared. The community store closed. Yet the provincial capital, Fredericton, is thriving as the small towns wither.  It is a story repeated time and again in Canada and the United States.

I still worry that some of those wild places like the North Carolina coast will become too populated. I sometimes think that what we call the Northern Outer Banks from Corolla to Cape Hatteras will sink into the seas just from the weight of all those beach castles. I offer up my profound thanks for those who created the National Seashores. Beyond nourishing our souls places like coastal Carteret County and hilly Davie County where we now live grow a lot of food that North Carolina cities need.

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The First Snow

Our former Roanoke, Virginia home after a good snow in 2009

I have seen a lot of first snows. I have also gone through a lot of years when there was never a first snow. Snow is an unusual thing. How it impacts your life depends a lot on where you live. We have lived in lots of places so our snow memories span everything from flurries to blizzards just as you might imagine.

Back in 1960 when I was in elementary school in Lewisville, North Carolina, I had my first serious experience with snow. In March 1960, it started on my birthday and snowed three straight Wednesdays. We hardly went to school that month. Those storms must have created a powerful pull on me. It took me at least twenty-seven years before I had enough snow to move back from Canada and end my sixteen years north of the border. Read more

Summer ’21 Update for the Crystal Coast

The beach at the Point on Emerald Isle
The beach at the Point in the town of Emerald Isle, NC

While we have moved from North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, that area of Carteret County that stretches from Swansboro to Beaufort, I continue to pay attention to the area. We lived there for sixteen years and would still be there if we had not wanted to be closer to our grandchildren.

My biggest worry is that the area which is one of the last beach areas with small towns at its heart is developing too fast in mainland Carteret County. While development is slow along the shoreline, across the bridge from Emerald Isle/Bogue Banks, it accelerating just across the bridges from the beaches. It is time to visit before it is gone, but that might be easier said than done this summer. Read my full update here.

Life is changing

One of our four rescued marsh kittens that have delighted us during the coronavirus crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis has undermined my optimism, broken some of my connections with others, and altered my view of our country. All that has happened and the crisis is far from over. In spite of the advice to stay home, the last couple of weekends we have seen the first significant wave of beach people with license plates from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Georgia, and even Florida. We also know that we have plenty of North Carolina visitors and likely most of them come from some of our state’s own hot spots. Things could get much worse in our coastal paradise.

I feel like the pandemic is peeling away layers of my psyche like the layers of an onion. Things have changed and what ends up as our new normal is still an open question. Read more

Crystal Coast COVID-19 Update

The beach at the Point in Emerald Isle during happier times

This is definitely not the spring that we hoped for here on the Southern Outer Banks. Just after my birthday in early March the world seemed to enter a new more dangerous era. In spite of our location where the sand meets the sea, we are not immune. There have already been five cases identified in Carteret County, four of them from international travel.

By now we have usually kicked off the countdown to the beach season by having the Emerald Isle Saint Patrick’s Day Festival followed by the Swansboro Oyster Roast. Both events were cancelled this year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). We can be thankful that our area leaders understood the gravity of the situation.

Our streets and stores have been steadily emptying out over the last week as people began to practice social distancing. People seem to be getting the message that staying home is the best thing that you can do.

Saturday, March 21, 2020, was the kind of day that makes you want to work in your yard with temperatures well into the seventies. We did that and enjoyed immensely. Our beds are now ready for beans and tomatoes which we will plant the first week of April. Even though we enjoyed our first salad from the garden on Sunday, colder air embraced our area and it almost seemed like mother nature had figured out that things were not right and changed the weather to match the mood of seriousness.

Sunday also brought the first time we attended church by using chromecast to stream a YouTube sermon to our den television. With public access parking to the beaches closed and all restaurants either doing takeout or closing down, life remains out of sync with the seasons as trees bloom and yards begin to green up.

Fortunately, our gardens are doing well. At least we will not lack for lettuce or other green stuff for the next six weeks. In spite of the gardens, life is just not the same. Certainly, this is the first time other than hurricane season that I am telling people to stay home and not come to visit our beautiful coast. While I miss the beach, I know that our absence from the sands will help this crisis end sooner rather than later. I continue to enjoy the memories of better times through photo albums like this one from a hike on the Point at Emerald Isle in May 2017. I will continue to post pictures to keep the memories of sand and surf fresh.

We should all remain hopeful that there will be a summer beach season, but a lot depends on how well we do at staying away from each other. The alternatives as this simulation show are not encouraging. It is imperative that we stay away from each other until this crisis slows.

My newsletter from Sunday, March 22, with some additional details is at this link.

Finding a home by the water

Bogue Sound not far from our Crystal Coast home

Our journey to a home by the water involved a lot of learning and more than a few surprises

Finding your spot on the water is not as simple as it might first appear but it is not really difficult. You just need to understand that are a lot of different kinds of water. Read more about where and how we found our piece of waterfront paradise.

Beach Season Is Far From Over

Hammocks Beach near Swansboro, North Carolina

Many people start to panic when they have yet to sneak away for a beach vacation as the end of July approaches. The truth is that you are better off if you missed that July baking in the sun. The best time to visit North Carolina’s Crystal Coast is later in the season. Read more here