Outer Banks (OBX), North Carolina

The Outer Banks (also known as OBX) may bring memories to some of strolls along the lovely boardwalks of quaint small towns, or of a pleasant sail upon the waters. To me it now represents the most harsh environment one could possibly spend time in. The heat is severe, there is no shade. The lightning storms move in with a swift ferocity that is unmatched, as one’s head is the highest point around. The bugs swarm and take bites of your sanity along with your skin. Perhaps that why I enjoyed the experience so much, it tests your outdoors acumen in ways most extreme.

Storms would often move in during the night, the quick flash followed by a zero count boom of thunder informing you that it had arrived. The winds whipped the tents so severely we literally had to hang onto them as the waters of rain relentlessly pounded everything around.

I tried to photograph the storms from up close but they were so severe I never managed. I did get one photograph of a distant storm. It was all I could do to stand outside the mesh netting of the tent while being swarmed by no-see-ums.

Lightning Storm

The Outer Banks is a 200 mile long stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. This coastline separates the Pamlico Sound, where I was kayaking, from the Atlantic Ocean. The seas themselves off the Outer Banks have been so treacherous to sailors that the region is called the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

I learned about the meaning of the Horse Latitudes as well. It was in the subtropical latitudes of 30-35 degrees that the winds would often lie still for days on end. As the days grew into weeks, lengthening the overall journey, and water supplies began to run low, they could not keep all of the animals alive. They would then throw the dead horses overboard and on occasion make a live one walk the plank.

The Outer Banks are so remote, so windswept, and the sands so shifting that the islands never remain the same. The next photograph shows the Atlantic Ocean from the Shackleford Banks.

On warm days, on the sound side of the islands, fiddler crabs scan the sands for diatoms. Diatoms are single-celled algae and are producers in the food chain.

Fiddler Crabs

Looking for diatoms

The lighthouses along the Outer Banks are most famous. Here, friends gather to camp on the Atlantic side near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Camping at Cape Lookout

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse stands at 163 feet and it’s light can be seen at least 12 miles out to sea. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the only lighthouse that also bears day markings for navigation. The side points of the black diamonds point in a north-south direction while the side points of the white diamonds point east-west.

Lighthouse at Cape Lookout

After a few days of extreme heat, paddling into the winds, and enduring the harshest of lightning storms I came away with a deep respect for what nature has wrought in the Outer Banks. If you’ve been, how was your experience there?


2 thoughts on “Outer Banks (OBX), North Carolina

  1. Wow! Great pictures Russ! I went when I was a little kid and just remember it being the most beautiful beach I was ever at – no tall hotels in patched pastel colors right behind the sand. I don’t remember all the bugs, but if that’s the case, I don’t think that would be the place for me to go camping! I love the lightning storm picture, that’s incredible…

    • Thanks for the kind words! It is the most beautiful of places, and the bugs were not always bad. It is a harsh environment to live in when you’re camping for more than a few days. The accumulation of sun, wind, and storms begin to take their toll on your body and your psyche. The beaches are so natural and in such original condition, as the sands are always shifting, that it’s some of nature’s finest. There’s a draw to go back and further explore.

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