Posts Tagged ‘bald head island’

North Carolina: Variety vacationland indeed

May 9, 2011

1965 tourism brochure

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “Where are you off to next?” That’s, of course, because I write about travel, along with a lot of other things (food, sustainable agriculture, the environment, artisans).

My answer a few years ago might have included Lombok (Indonesia) or Lofoten (Norway). But these days, I’m more apt to mention Laurel Springs or Lumberton, both towns in North Carolina. I spent much of 2008 and 2009 driving some 23,000 miles researching my guidebook “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” and this year I’m back on the road promoting it.

While some people seem disappointed and even sympathetic that I’ll be traveling around the Tar Heel state, as if my very life had been downgraded from first class to cargo hold, that assessment is far from the truth.

Cold Mountain in Haywood County in western NC

Absolutely, international and cross-country trips are fascinating, fulfilling, and fun. But so are adventures in your own backyard. I felt almost as giddy in 2009 exploring downtown Saluda (south of Asheville) as I did in 2006 walking around downtown Salta (northern Argentina).

So as my NC friends are contemplating their summer travels, I’d like to put in a plug for North Carolina. And, no, a trip to the same beach every year does not count, although it’s a lovely tradition and you should keep it up.

Outsiders have already figured out how great we are. Almost 37 million people visited last year, and we’re ranked an impressive sixth in the nation for tourism. Americans’ keen interest in our state has helped me sell dozens of NC travel stories to newspapers and magazines since returning to the Triangle in 2003. (I grew up in Raleigh in the 1960s, back when the state’s license plate read “Variety Vacationland.” Now I live in Durham, which, you might have heard, the New York Times listed among its worldwide “The 41 Places to Go in 2011.”)

Colorful ceramic wall at Penland School of Crafts

Here are some of my past travel-writing destinations in hopes that they’ll give you ideas. West of us: Waynesville and Cold Mountain, Asheville, Penland School of Crafts, Black Mountain, the Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, The Edible Schoolyard and Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, and the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

And of course I’ve written about my hometown, both its renovated downtown and the Duke Lemur Center. Heading south and east, I’ve done articles on Pinehurst, Manteo, Bald Head Island, New Bern, and Red Wolf Howling Safaris and hang gliding on the Outer Banks. One of my favorites was a story about camping on a platform over a swamp while following the Roanoke River Paddle Trail, which has been reprinted in several publications. And I visited hundreds more places for the book, which includes write-ups of 430 farm-related destinations.

Camping platform along the Roanoke River Paddle Trail

Next up, I’m doing stories about the eclectic offerings in Saxapahaw (go soon before the word really gets out) and “No Taste Like Home,” a series of “forage and eat” dinners in Asheville.

Even when I’m not writing, I’m exploring. While I’m in Charlotte on my book tour in May, I’ve set aside time to check out the new Levine Center for the Arts, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Mint Museum Uptown, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I don’t care much for car racing, but I’m still eager to check out our state’s hallowed hall of horsepower.

Tourism will be in the news on May 10, NC Travel and Tourism Day, when state travel leaders congregate in Raleigh to tell legislators and the public how important the travel business is — visitors in 2010 spent a record $17 billion here.

Lemur at the Duke Lemur Center

But you’re not going to tour North Carolina because it’s good for the state. You’re going to travel our some 78,000 miles of blacktop because it’s good for you. Because it’s fascinating, fulfilling, and fun, no matter which of our 100 counties you venture into.

As for where I’m off to next, the list includes Southern Pines, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Flat Rock, Hendersonville, Wilmington, Asheville, Black Mountain, West Jefferson, and Boone.

Can’t wait!

NC Island attracts feathered and furry friends

July 22, 2010

During a recent visit to Oak Island, NC, we could see Old Baldy, the lighthouse on Bald Head Island, in a distance. We have fond memories of our 2008 visit to the island. Read on for the story published August 24, 2008, in the Boston Globe.

Old Baldy, or the Bald Head Island Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in N.C.

BALD HEAD ISLAND, N.C. – Golf carts glided by as our small group stood by the road listening to Maureen Dewire, our guide, play one of her favorite songs: the high-pitched call of the painted bunting. She aimed her iPod with attached speaker toward where she thought one of the brightly colored birds was perched.

“Let’s see if we can get his attention,” she said.

The bird answered back, and she spotted him high up on a newly leafing limb. “They’re here all summer, but you don’t see them because the males stop singing by late July,” Dewire, 30, said of the painted buntings, which winter in South Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

Maureen Dewire (on left) gets attention of painted bunting with bird sounds on iPod

The painted bunting’s rainbow of colors – red chest, blue head, green back – make it arguably North America’s most spectacular songbird. That’s according to the National Audubon Society. Myself, I had never heard of them until the day before, when I arrived. Bald Head Island’s maritime forest preserve has one of the country’s largest populations of breeding buntings, so I decided I had to see one.

For years I had ignored this car-free island on the southeast tip of North Carolina because I assumed it was all one big development with a golf course. I was partly right. At the bottom of Smith Island, measuring one mile wide and three miles long, there are some 1,060 homes and condos, and about 1,000 more to come, most being built by Bald Head Island Limited.

But that’s only part of the story. I discovered on a springtime visit that 10,000 of the island’s 12,000 acres have been set aside for conservation. And what is being preserved is worth checking out.

Old boathouse on Bald Head Creek

Our painted bunting sighting came after a two-hour hike filled with natural treasures. We were on the Creek Trail in the Bald Head Woods Coastal Reserve, where you can hear waves crashing on the beach in the distance. The nearly mile-long trail had been cut recently by volunteers and staff at the independent, nonprofit Bald Head Island Conservancy, where Dewire is senior naturalist. The conservancy runs programs year-round, has a gift shop and visitors center, and is raising money to build a barrier-island research facility. It also coordinates the nationally recognized Sea Turtle Protection Program, since the island is an important nesting site from May through October.


Long (dog) weekends at NC beaches

July 15, 2008

We’ve been out and about at two North Carolina islands over the past couple months and danged if we didn’t have wiener dog sightings at both. Very exciting! (Admittedly, not everyone shares my enthusiasm in this department.)

Maddie a brown and red dapple dachshund from Rock Hill, SC

Maddie a brown and red dapple dachshund from Rock Hill, SC

On Bald Head Island, a car-free community I wrote about for Budget Travel (July issue) and the Boston Globe (coming up), we met 2-year-old Maddie from Rock Hill, South Carolina. She’s a red dapple dachshund, not a common blend. Wessel had never seen a dapple before, which is spotted like a Dalmatian and not to be confused with a piebald coat, which has a more blotchy beagle pattern.

Maddie a brown and red dapple dachshund from Rock Hill, SC with human companion Cortnee Rushlow

Maddie with human companion Cortnee Rushlow

Maddie’s human companions are Cortnee and Chad Rushlow, who said Maddie is mad about the beach. Bald Head Island is so dog friendly that canines are allowed to hang 10. Poop-scoop bags are at every one of its more than 40 public beach access points. Really, I don’t understand why more beaches don’t allow dogs, at least one day a week or something like that. OK, I do understand the No. 1 and No. 2 reasons, but, dangit all, dogs love the beach, and so do their humans!

Jean and Chris Frey with Stumpy and Morgan

Jean and Chris Frey with Stumpy and Morgan

And, yes, there are some other enlightened communities, such as Oak Island, where we went over Fourth of July weekend, just for fun! Wessel first spotted Morgan, 6, a black-and-tan male, and Stumpy, 8, a red male, zipping along the shore pulling their humans while we were relaxing in our beach chairs. I bolted up, grabbing paper, pen, and camera and rushed over to introduce myself to Jean and Chris Frey of Havre de Grace, Maryland. They were vacationing in a pet-friendly house right on the beach. Lucky dogs, all of ’em! We stayed in a house that doesn’t allow pets, so poor Roxy and Sabrina had to stay home.

Stumpy pulling his human companion on the beach

Stumpy pulling his human companion on the beach

The Freys, long-time dachshund devotees, recently had adopted Morgan and Stumpy through Dachshund Rescue of North America after losing two other beloved dachshunds the year before. Like me, they subscribe to the dachshund lovers’ creed: “you can’t have just one.” The low-riding pooches looked sooooo cute trotting down the beach, with specks of sand sticking to their noses and bellies.