Cedar Point Campground in Croatan National Forest

Tideland Trail. Cedar Point Recreation Area. Croatan National Forest

I have been dying to go camping again. I love camping! I can’t get enough of it! We used to tent camp a lot, but I really hate sleeping on cold ground in the winter…so we didn’t go as often…and eventually got into the habit of not going at all. Then, this past christmas, my awesome dad let us borrow his pop-up camper. He doesn’t use it much, so he’ll probably never ask for it back. (I hope) Our first trip in the pop-up we took it to Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina. Wow. That is a nice campground! But back to Cedar Point…. We decided to take a Monday off and do a little exploring the last week. It was almost 80 out and we just couldn’t stand the thought of being inside doing work. Oh good lord who wants to do that?! So, we headed towards the beach and stopped and checkout some kayak landings…and then we passed a National Forest area that said it had camping! I got all excited and said…LETS STOP THERE!! I wanna check that out! Cedar Point is not huge. However, they do have quite a few(40!) campsites with electricity, bathrooms and cold showers. A LOT More than most National Forest Campgrounds…It is open year round with a boat ramp, a couple of trails including a tideland trail that is interpretive, and a small dock you may fish off of. Did I mention the campsites are $17.00 with electricity and $12.00 without?!? oh yeah, and you can book online through reserve america. bam.

Cedar Point Tideland Trail

This 1.4 mile hike features wonderful views of the salt water marshes and coastal forest. There are several boardwalks that take you through the marshes where salt water meets freshwater. You can also kayak this trail. All boardwalks are high enough for you to paddle under. I know this because I paddled it! You can see lots of birds on this trail. I also walked the trail with Brian. We spotted a bunch of tufted titmouse  red Breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Red Breasted Woodpeckers, Yellow Rumped Warblers, White Egrets, Blue Herons, and Belted King Fishers. Also, while I was kayaking, and not able to pull my camera out as fast as I’d hoped I saw – for the first time mind you! – a Red Headed Woodpecker!!!! I chased that little bird with my kayak as much as I could to catch up and get a shot. Oh well, better luck next time!

Tufted Titmouse

Blue Heron. Cedar Point Kayak Trail.

Belted Kingfisher

Mud Fiddler

Blue Heron in a Loblolly Pine

Red Breasted Nuthatch… with a baby!!

Anole in a Cedar Tree

Oh, and one of the most awesome parts of this trip, besides having a campfire, sleeping in a pop-up camper, making chicken marsala in one pan and making pancakes, turkey sausage and eggs in one pan as well— KAYAKING! hahaha!!! oh my, I have found my new favorite thing to do. Every time the weather is 60+ I feel like I have to be out on the water paddling. My dad got me a perception swifty 9.5 for christmas. Perception kayaks are extremely stable and move along the water pretty well.

Yaking Cedar Poing kayak trail!

Also, The Beach is not far at all. I’d say about a 10 minute drive over the Intracoastal Waterway/Bouge Sound. There are two public beach access areas near the Point on Emerald Isle — which is my favorite. YOU CAN DRIVE YOUR 4×4 VEHICLE  ON THE BEACH HERE!! WHAT!? yes. from September to April you can drive your dang 4×4 out there on the beach! I also love all of the shells that wash up here. Tons of Sand Dollars. You can view Hammocks Beach State Park from the Point as well. I’m looking forward to buying the pass to drive on the beach so I can launch my kayak there at the point and paddle over to Hammocks Beach State Park Island.

Broken Sand Dollar on the shoreline

“Come walk with me along the sea where dusks sits on the land, and search with me, for shells are free and treasures hide in the sand”

Sunset at the Point. Emerald Isle.

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Beach Day – Ocracoke Island, NC

I can’t begin to explain how relaxing it is to have sand between your toes, whispers of ocean breeze play with your hair, and the sun kissing your skin. It’s my idea of a perfect summer day!

Beach go-ers and Willets relaxing on Ocracoke Beach

Have you ever been to a beach where you can drive straight down to the water? Honestly, You will never want to tote your chairs, coolers, toys and what not down a mile long trail to the beach while your feet burn in the sand EVER AGAIN! All beaches should be like this really. It would make the beach experience that much better. I feel very fortunate to live so close to the outer banks. There’s beach driving on several beaches within an hour or two of our home. I know it sounds silly for me to drive that far when I live blocks from the Chesapeake Bay Beaches and within minutes of Virginia Beach Oceanfront – seriously folks – those beaches are nothing in comparison.

Brian and I started our trip in Chesapeake; we would have gone the usual Caratoke Hwy way through Nags Head BUT– it was bumper to bumper with people heading to their beach rental homes or hotels. So, we decided to take the longer route down 17 and over to 64 through Alligator River and Manteo. We expected to get there an hour later than going the other route, but I think it may have been 20 minutes longer than taking our usual route. We stayed the night at Avon Hotel which online it’s reviews are horrible, but people need to get off their high horse, nothing is perfect! If you pay a small amount for a hotel in an area where they are all very high, chances are its not going to be what you expected. It’s an older hotel, with older TVs ect…but I love it! I love the OLD beach feel, oh and I like the price tag… because when I go somewhere the only time I spend in the hotel room is when I’m sleeping…so who cares!? Plus All the money we saved on the hotel, goes toward doing more fun stuff! whoo hoo!

Cape Hatteras Light House

In the morning we stopped at the best bakery ever. The Orange Blossom Bakery. If you happen to stop in there, you HAVE to get an Apple Ugly. They are amazingly delicious!! After getting breakfast we stopped at the Hatteras Light house ramps. We were really anxious to check out the beaches but the sand was really soft, so we turned around and went on our way to Ocracoke Island. I really wanted to be sitting in the sun!

We hopped on the ferry and scooted across the Pamlico Sound over to our destination. On the ferry ride to the island we saw lots of wildlife including dolphins, pelicans, and skimmers – one of my favorite birds!

White Ibis struttin' his stuff after catching a small mud fiddler - Taken from the Ferry

Spotted Sandpiper

Ocracoke is way too beautiful to describe. Its just miles of inhabited beach and sound. The water is absolutely Stunning! Brian and I could see our toes in the water!! The beaches I hang around have a sort of green color to them. This was simply amazing to see! we could see the shells in the water, even as the waves were breaking and huge crabs swimming by in the current. I felt like I was in Florida!

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Ocracoke turquoise colored ocean

We sat on the beach and enjoyed the day relaxing and watching the birds. Right before we left, the Skimmers kept coming by….I felt like I could sit there for hours watching them delicately skim the wave break-line hoping to catch a fish or small crustacean.

Black Skimmer delicately skimming the waves for food

Black Skimmer heading back down the break-line for more food

…and persistence pays off!

Black Skimmer with his catch!

YUM! Did you know black skimmers have webbed feet but rarely swim in the water

Brian and I spent the entire day on the beach. It’s so relaxing…I can’t imagine life with out days spent on the beach. n our way home we stopped at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to switch drivers. I asked Brian if we could walk down the trail a bit and get a picture of the sun setting….on our way down the trail I could hear the loud call from an Eastern Towhee, a bird I hear often…but hardly see.

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee singing his heart out in the sunset

Pea Island Refuge Sunset

George Washington National Forest

Elizabeth Furnace recreation area, located in George Washington National Forest just north of Fort Valley, Virginia is the comfy and very awesome campground we stayed in this weekend… It was a 5 hour drive, but well worth it! The campground was packed but we ended up finding a spot that was mostly private. All of the campsites are pretty private and well spaced and come with a tent pad, a fire ring, and a picnic table. Brian and I arrived at the campsite a little late in the afternoon .. we set up our tent, took a short walk to make sure we got the best campsite..then did a little relaxing in the tent. We hung out for a little while  discussing what we would do the next day and eventually went to sleep. The next morning I woke up early as usual! and as I lay there, I could hear two chickadees calling to each other outside of our tent window. I Got  up.. quickly got dressed and went outside to check out the little bird couple. I sat outside at the picnic table for a little  and noticed the female kept flying towards our lamp-post….because I’m too short, I couldn’t see down inside of  the lamp-post so I put my camera down in the hole and tried to get an idea of what she was so worried about…Well, apparently she had a nest down in there! The little chickadees eventually understood that we meant no harm to them and started going down in the lamp post to tend to their eggs. It was such a cute couple to watch!

Ma & Pa Chickadee

Mama Chickadee at the campsite lamp-post where her eggs are hidden

Papa Chickadee standing guard while his mate tends to their eggs

very cleverly hidden chickadee eggs

We were so lucky to have several other chickadees visiting our campsite as well! I love these tiny little birds. Did you know, Carolina chickadees are able to lower their body temperatures to get into a state of hypothermia. They do this to keep energy during extremely cold winter. Chickadees find a place they can hide in and lower their body temperature and can stay in a state of hypothermia for up to fifteen hours!

We took a nature walk around the campground on our way down to the Shenandoah river. WOW! It was a hot day! We really couldn’t wait to get near the water where it was much cooler…. Along the way we spotted a couple different types of  Pretty wild flowers and  a few birds… The Baltimore Orioles were singing high in the tree tops and were very pretty! I also saw lots of little Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Eastern Phoebes.

Eastern Phoebe

Gray Catbird

Once we arrived to the very comfortable river edge, we cooled off and put our feet in. Brian brought his chair to relax in while I ran around looking for things to take pictures of : ) The water was flowing over the rocks and down into a big pool…oh my was it clear! We could see the fish swimming! The water is nothing like this in the area I’m from. It was very breathtaking…

fish swimming in the clear Shenandoah water. I counted 7, how about you?

Canada Darner (I believe) munchin on a leaf

We headed back to the campsite to unwind for the day. Brian cooked me an yummy dinner and built us an awesome fire. We had a beautiful day, and it was nice to relax with the stars above us and a nice warm cozy fire to sit by.

Cozy Campfire - of course we made s'mores!

The next morning we both woke up early. Brian and I wanted to drive the entire Skyline Drive, A beautiful 35 mph 105 mile windy but smooth drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.There are 75 breath-taking overlooks!  We made breakfast before we set out on our journey, and got visited by a few tiny critters.

Eastern Tent Moth checkin whats for breakfast

Tiny Brown Jumper Spider

We quickly packed up and headed to Shenandoah National Park to drive down the scenic Sky Line. This drive has to be the most peaceful drive I’ve ever been on… The sights, the smells, the wildlife, It really just doesn’t get any better! We stopped at literally every other lookout and checked out “SkyLand“, a really neat resort area and its elevation is 3680 which is the highest point on Sky Line Drive! Driving down skyline we usually see tons of deer, but this time we only saw one…she was older and didn’t seem to mind the cars riding by. About half way down the skyline we came across a bear in a tree over the road! It was just sniffin’ around in a tree and looked a little confused. Brian and I agreed it looked younger, and didn’t want to wait around for mom to come around.

Black Bear sniffin around in a tree

When we finally arrived home, 11 hours later… We went to Chicks Beach on the Chesapeake Bay and watched a stunning sunset. It was a perfect ending to a fun-filled day from the mountains to the bay!

Sunset - Chicks Beach on Chesapeake Bay

Winter Weekend Getaway

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Brian and I got a cabin at North Landing Beach this weekend. It was one of the NICEST campgrounds I’ve ever been to. We enjoyed our stay in an Equipped Cabin on the water.

Cabin At North Landing Beach Campground

Us in the very cozy cabin!

In the morning I woke up early. . .excited to try out my new camera. . .and waited for Brian to get up. I put bird seed out in the front yard of the cabin thinking I might attract some birds to get some pictures. Instead I noticed a great blue heron freezing his feathers off in the water out front.

A Very Chilly Blue Heron (breeding plumage)

We made plans to walk a trail or two and go check out Mackay Wildlife Refuge. First we wanted to look at the rest of the campground. They had very nice sites and a beautiful beach. hey had a pool,  a neat water park looking thing called “Big Squirt”, also I saw a really nice picnic shelter with a fireplace and bathrooms. Really nice! oh and Campsites right on the beach!!  Unfortunately it was frozen. Kind cool though!

North Landing Campground Beach

We decided to have a little fun and stand on the Ice since the water was frozen solid! It was so neat. I’ve never seen anything like it! Here’s Brian…

Brian Standing on the Albemarle Sound

And Yours Truly. . .

Crystal Standing on The Albemarle Sound

We Hopped in the Jeep and headed up the way towards Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge

Alot of the Refuge had closed due to the winter. We spotted a few birds and ducks – like This Belted Kingfisher. . .

Male Belted Kingfisher

He was all over the place! I was very pleased to get his picture. My new camera has been giving me some trouble. Soon I’ll have it figured out!

Male and Female Northern Shovelers

We drove down a Really Neat Road SR615 ‘Marsh Causeway’ and Saw lots of water birds. Not only Shovelers, but Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Teals, and Tundra Swans everywhere!  They were all Skiddish and would fly away when we pulled the Jeep over, but I managed to get at least one shot of a Few Mallards and a Male & Female Hooded Merganser.

Mallards and Hooded Mergansers

We headed to Pearl’s, a neat little bar on the Currituck sound were you might meet someone you know,  meet a really cool fisherman and or hunter, grab a beer, and have some awesome conversations. Good people, Great View.  When we got back to the cabin campsite we decided to build a fire. We had such an awesome view.

Cabin Campsite View

The sun started to set and I told Brian we needed to drive back to the beach and watch the sun go down. We sat there on the beach freezing our fingers off, but warmed by the thought of the fire back at the cabin ;)

Nature's Goodnight Kiss

And right before the sun went down I saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler In a tree near the cabin. . .

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We sat out by the fire and had some of the wine we got from Moonrise Bay Vineyard where we stopped and had a wine tasting on our way back to the cabin.  We brought back a bottle of “Magnolia Muscadine Wine” It says “Assertive yet elegant; tangy fruit character with accents of apple and citrus followed by a burst of wild grape” I immediately fell in love with the wild grape taste! I eat wild grapes at work and it tastes JUST LIKE IT! YumO!

Sitting by the Campfire

The next morning we decided to head down to Carova, North Carolina for the day and do a little bit of four-wheeling.  We figured we would take the Ferry in Knotts Island to Currituck and then head south from there. The first day I got to the cabin I put bird seed out for the birds… I saw a few through out the first day but this morning when I looked outside, there were tons of tiny birds! I had no Idea what they were, but they were so cute! I later looked into a few pictures of sparrows and I believe it is a ‘Chipping Sparrow’ correct me if I’m wrong. Brian and I like how you can see the corn or seed ‘chipping’ away! ha!

Chipping Sparrow

We made a yummy breakfast sandwich and headed to Knotts Island to get on the Ferry! On the way out I spotted a Killdeer.

Killdeer

we scooted across the water on the ferry, Getting out to watch the seagulls fly sideways and catch fish that got confused in the turned up mud of the ferry. We saw TONS of ice, riding through it on the ferry felt really weird! I also saw some Ruddy Ducks

Ruddy Duck

When we got to the other side, we cruised through a small neighborhood on the sound, looking for a park we had never seen before, but noticed on the GPS. When we found it, we immediately spotted an Eagle! It flew off but it was so amazing to see. When we got to Corolla, North Carolina I saw a TON of Tundra Swans on the Ice of the Currituck sound. Lots of poop too. eww. Look at the one in the right corner and the move it’s doing! lol

Tundra Swans and Canadian Geese