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We woke up fairly early because there was a lot of thunder going on and the radar showed a line of rain coming directly towards us (it actually did end up blowing over, ah well).  We had about an hour drive to where we were supposed to catch the ferry, but we thought we’d take our time and maybe get there a early and see if we could catch an earlier ride over.

Along the way, we stopped at a visitors’ center and a museum, learning more about the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and trying to decide whether or not we should take Pruitt (our ’08 Honda Element) across on the ferry and try driving it along the shore.  Tom was pretty apprehensive about it, since the Toaster is all-wheel, not four-wheel, drive.  However, I’d already made the reservation to take it across and paid a deposit.  In the end, we decided that if they ferry would give us back our deposit (since we were still going across just ourselves) then well and good, but if they wouldn’t, then we’d go ahead and go across and, if nothing else, just park the Element right by the ferry landing.

When we got to the ferry, no one was there, and there wasn’t any place particularly marked as an office.  We wandered around, starting to feel apprehensive, since the place looked a little sketch.  In the end, we figured that we were there over two hours before our scheduled departure time, so hopefully someone would show up by then.  We were super hungry, but hadn’t really passed any place to eat since Beaufort – we were catching the Morris Marina Ferry in Atlantic to go across to the North Core.  We decided to continue driving north on 70 to see if we could find someplace to eat and, if nothing else, see how far it was to the state-operated ferry we were going to have to catch Thursday.  We eventually ended up eating sandwiches from a little everything-store and then went back to the still-deserted marina to play cards while waiting to see if anyone showed up to take us across.

About twenty minutes before departure time, the place suddenly came alive.  Several other passengers arrived, the ferry owners appeared, and we all heaved a sigh of relief.  The people running the place were super friendly and relaxed.  We got the impression that this time of year, most of their passengers were people wanting to go stay a day or two and fish, and most of the other passengers had been over before.  One young couple, in a Jeep, were first-timers like ourselves, and just as confused.

We couldn’t get our deposit back, so we decided to see what Pruitt could really do.  The ferry people were totally confident, telling us just to let a bit of air out of the tires and go with it.  Then they loaded up the cars, and we headed across.

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The trip over was about a half-hour long.  The North Core (and South, from what I understand) is super long and skinny.  The cottages are all close to the ferry landing.  If you have a car, you can either drive on the sand road that runs along the middle of the island, or on the shore itself.  Still feeling uncertain about Pruitt’s capabilities, we cautiously began driving up the road.  We went about a mile, just far enough to be away from the cottages and the people there, and then drove to the shore and parked.  (Pruitt was doing fine, but Tom didn’t want to push our luck.)  We found sheltered places for our tents and set up camp, all the while enjoying the most beautiful and perfect beach I’ve ever seen.

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Loads of seashells, perfect sand, and just miles of empty, peaceful shore.  It was lovely.  And there is nothing quite like camping right next to the ocean.  We spent the afternoon walking along the beach, finding shells, and just watching the ocean.

After a hearty supper of Mountain House, Tom and I decided to take an evening stroll up the beach and back.  The moon was out, and it was just perfectly magical.  The night was fairly warm and completely clear, so we slept with the rainfly off, able to see the stars and moonlight.  Lovely, lovely.

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Sarah E. McCafferty

July 2021
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it’s in the past