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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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

DayTrippin’ – Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

I’m sorry Folks, I’ve been a busy bee. Brian and I have been to Key West, camping in Newport News, camping in Hatteras, day trips to Carova Beach, Oregon Inlet, First Landing Park, Munden Point and so on! Plus I work for the city of Virginia Beach Parks and Natural Areas department, so I have been neglecting the whole blog thing, which is kind of sad because I love it so much!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Alligator river is an amazing place. It’s an 154,000 acre refuge that has tons of roads to drive and explore including a few places to to launch your kayak or canoe and also a couple of walking trails…Today, our objective is to look for bears and red wolves… We started our trip in Moyock, NC (where we  now live) and drove down 17 through Elizabeth City, Hartford, and Columbia… The Town of Columbia is a really cute older waterfront area… I recommend stopping and checking out their wildlife center for the sounds. It’s beautiful! There’s a pier-style trail to walk and who knows – you may even have a chance of spotting a bear!

We stopped and ate lunch at Mikes Kitchen in Columbia just over the bridge. This place was actually realllly good, I will definitely be looking forward to going there again! Usually when Brian and I go to Alligator River Refuge we try to just go down whatever driving trails  are open… because you never know which ones are open and if it is you should go down it, because you might not be able to go down that trail again until the following year. We drove around and spotted tons of Tree Swallows and Yellow-rumped Warblers… along with a few Sulphur butterflies fluttering around.

….And as we were driving on one of the roads, we saw a large bird fly into a tree next to the Jeep….

Originally I thought it was a hawk of some sort, but then it turned and looked at us and Brian says “Holy Shit!! — look an owl!” I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t know what to do….. I tried to hurry up and turn on my camera, but as usual when I want it to turn on quickly it takes FOREVER then I have to change the settings to manual and blah blah blah, because remember I use a Point and Shoot….ha..so I tried to get a shot before he flew off. This is the only shot I got….

Barred Owl

Honestly, I was happy with that single shot I had gotten, but then…the owl decided to fly across the road and landed on a branch…It looked back at us, not really worried about us being there.

Barred Owl checking us out

I decided to get out of the Jeep.  Figured if the owl wasn’t that worried about me, then it wouldn’t mind if i tried to get a few more shots! Well, once I got out of the Jeep the owl flew off again, but not that far. I decided I would walk down the road a little – very quietly and try once again to get another shot of this beautiful owl! It was almost impossible for me to find this amazingly camouflaged creature. I kept loosing sight every time I would have to take my eye off of the owl for a split second to raise my view finder to my eyeball. Oh man, It was insane how much it blended in with its surroundings!

Camouflaged Barred Owl

On our way out I saw a Cormorant diving in one of the “ditches”…. when Brian passed him, he was going sort of fast. I asked him to stop and reverse because there was a bird I wanted to get a shot of…. He said, “Won’t the bird fly off?” I said, “Nah, probably not this one” and sure enough, there was the Cormorant…now out of the water. He posed…. several times, and then we drove off. Oh it was great. I can’t wait to visit this place again. Every season is beautiful!

 

Cormorant Drying Plumage

Double-crested Cormorant

New Girl at the feeder!

At this time of year I often try to convince myself that there’s really no need to get up so early. It’s cold out there, and so warm under the blankets.  It was a little warm last night so we decided to open the window a bit. I woke up this morning to the usual chirps of the Yellow-rumped warblers that have taken over out back…all of a sudden I heard this very odd sounding gull. I got out of bed and walked to our bedroom window and checked, like I do every morning.  “OH!!! BRIAN! THERE’S A SAPSUCKER ON OUR TREE!!” I run, literally, downstairs and grab his camera and run back to take its picture. Still half asleep! oh it was so funny! I could barely hold the camera straight. I told Brian  “I hope it comes back to the feeder!”  We get up and sit to watch the weather channel with our cup of coffee…but of course I’m not watching, I’m too busy looking at the feeder, all the trees, and our little Yellow-rumped warblers foraging for food. Then, in the blink of an eye, It was back! This time Brian saw it heading straight for the feeder! Hopefully that little Yellow-bellied Sapsucker comes back ;). Oh and By the way this is a Lifer for me I’ve never seen one before!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

To hear the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers call, click here and scroll down a bit

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Our semi-homemade bird feeder!

Brian and I have done a bit of bird watching lately. Usually I’m chasing butterflies and other insects, while he sits in his chair with an adult beverage and enjoys watching. I decided we needed a bird feeder at the condo so we could see what kind of bird friends we get, and have loads of fun trying to figure what the heck they are! We headed up to Home Depot and grabbed a few odds and ends and this is what we got!

This rinky dinky bird feeder is so awesome! It’s perfect for our sorry excuse of a deck and plus we can’t drill holes. Everything we bought ended up costing us around 7 dollars! Heres how you can make your very own!

  • Hook (preferably with a screw-able end) – I bought one that’s rubberized so the chain wouldn’t slip -$0.97
  • Hollow Pole – I used one that came in the packaging for our flat screen. $0.00
  • EZ Fill Suet Basket – $2.79-$3.99
  • Wild Bird Suet Cake – $1.59

This was so easy to make! we drilled a hole for the hook, screwed it in, set the cake up, and took it outside with zip ties (no drill holes!) and we’ve had a few visitors! I can’t seem to get their photos on the feeders because I need to move it.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Visit the NPS website for Cape Hatteras

White Tail Deer
Sanderlings
Clearnose Skate
American Oystercatchers
Tundra Swans
Boat-Tailed Grackles
Juvenile Willet
Cannonball Jellyfish