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.

Oregon Inlet and Dolphins

Before Hurricane Irene came Brian and I visited Oregon Inlet the day the point opened. Oregon Inlet is where the sound meets the ocean in Southern Most Nags head, Outer Banks. It’s called ramp 4, and usually the end (the point) near the bridge is closed during summer months for bird nesting season. Some birds that are protected are the Skimmer, the Piping Plover, and Various Terns. I have mixed emotions on the closings in the outer banks… I’d rather not say but I believe the situation is very unfortunate, I’m torn because I love the birds and love driving on the beach. You can form your own opinion by visiting a few websites… OuterBanksBeachPreservation.com (OBPA), PreserveBeachAccess.org  or you could just watch the video “piping mad“. I don’t want to get into it because I could ramble on and on about this mess. So, back to this 4×4 only awesome beach spot called Oregon Inlet, Which is now no longer accessible because of a wash over due to Hurricane Irene……at least we got to enjoy it one last time.taken with iPhone 4We decided to take my jeep, Edith… Shes a 1994 Jeep Wrangler YJ and does very well in the sand. We drove down without the doors on… It was so fun! We spent most of the day sitting in our chairs near the shore line. taken with iPhone 4As the day came to an end we took our dog skippy for a walk and took our cameras with us. There’s always a lot of birds at the point, we even spotted a few Black Terns. I love goning to this end because of all the birds hanging out here, especially when the nesting season is over. Every year I seem to see something I’ve never seen :)

(Photo – Top left : Willet. Bottom left : Juvenile Brown Pelican. Top Right : Skimmer. Bottom Right : Marbled Godwit.)

One of my favorite birds… The Oystercatcher. A black and white wading bird with a long bright red bill. Their bill is used to break into shellfish, and each individual inherits a particular technique from its parents. Despite the name, oystercatchers are not known to eat oysters and in fact favour mussels. Oystercatchers are primarily shorebirds, although they do sometimes breed inland by rivers.

We waited until the sun started to set and headed back towards the ramp. At this time of day the Ocean was smooth as glass… and we could see dolphins playing and jumping clear out of the water. I have lived near the ocean and on the bay my entire life…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen dolphins off the shore and swimming near our boat. BUT I HAVE NEVER seen them jump out of the water the way they were this day. I enjoyed it so much! All of these shots were taken from the driver’s side of my jeep :)

Of course I had to make a sequence shot! This is my first post using my Canon Rebel T1i and my iPhone 4. I use both cameras religiously.

I made this with an app called PicFrame… but the photos were taken with my canon. If you like the beach shot and my jeep shot, I took those with my iPhone4 and used the Camera+  app. My favorite filters are Clarity, and HDR … I like this app because you can control the intensity. Here’s another shot from Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, where we usually air our tires back up and we also air down there.

“Its a sweet, sweet life…Livin’ by the salty sea” – Jimmy Buffett

P.S. If you haven’t become a fan of my photography, please do! It’s greatly appreciated.  ITS EASY!! If you have facebook, just click “LIKE”
Crystal Thornton Photography

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!

/

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

New Camera

Nikon coolpix P90 for Christmas

24x opitcal zoom & 12.1 mp

The weekend after I got the camera Brian and I took a trip to Carova Beach to get some shots with the new camera!

Herring Gull with Starfish - 2nd Winter

1st winter Herring Gull with starfish snack and Adult Herring Gull

It was a VERY windy day!

Boat-tailed Grackles fight over Blue Crab claw

Red-throated Loon

There was a hole maritime forest washed out by the nor’ida

Carova Beach, North Carolina

'splish splash' Sanderling having a quick bath

Sanderling Reflection

It was a fun day trying out my new camera! Wasn’t liking the cold wind though. I love Carova Beach though. It’s an amazing place.