Monday, April 12, 2010

How to enjoy the beach

I am not a beach person. Beaches come with dry, dusty sand that gets on your legs, in your shoes, and all over your feet. The sand gets under your toenails, where it feels like the synaesthetic equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. On the North Carolina coast, beaches also often come with endless rows of ugly pastel-colored three-story houses on stilts.

But you don't have to be a beach person to enjoy the unadulterated, undeveloped outer banks of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Hop on a ferry in scenic, stiltless Beaufort (third oldest town in North Carolina), and fifteen minutes later you're on Shackleford Banks. There is no need to sit or (shudder) lie on the sand, when you can walk as far as nine miles along the richly shell-covered beach. Visit off season, and you're likely to see more horses under the Carolina blue sky than tourists or sand flies. A herd of ~130 wild horses roams the grassy knolls between sound and ocean, their ancestors likely having crossed the Atlantic hundreds of years ago on Spanish galleons that foundered on the shoals.

While most of your party frolics giddily in the frigid salt water, you can embark with a few friends on a hunt for huge, unbroken whelk shells. Perhaps you will also find a small dead shark on the beach. (Because birds have been snacking on one of its eyes, you might want to admire it from the unpecked side, appreciating that you can view it up close without getting bitten).

Later, when everyone else snoozes, wind-blown and exhausted, on the sand, you can stand with your jeans rolled up and your feet in the water, watching pelicans while the breaking waves keep your toes comfortably undusty and undry. Close your eyes and deeply inhale the fresh salt air, and you might even be able to imagine yourself as a beach person after all.

1 comment:

prucker said...

I am a beach person. Beaches come with dry, warm sand that gets on your legs, in your shoes, and all over your feet. The sand gets under your toenails. The air is filled with the smell of salt and soon you have this salty taste on your tongue.