Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day One on Shackleford Banks

It is taking me a bit longer than I hoped to get things posted about last weekends backpacking trip on Shackleford Banks, but I will gradually get it done.

Saturday, June 8.  We got off the boat by about 10:20, looked around a bit, shouldered our heavy packs, and started walking up the beach.  There were lots of people out and about on this uninhabited island who had taken boats over to look for shells.  But we didn't see anyone else backpacking.  Our loads were heavy, but bearable.  I cannot imagine the weights that soldiers carry in places like Afghanistan.

I marvelled at how beautiful and remote the beach was.  Not too far from here, there would be beaches with thousands of people, but once we had walked a half mile from where the shell seekers were, we hardly saw anyone.  A couple did come down the beach with a large bucket full of shells.  They must have come over at 9:00 and headed straight up the beach for a few miles, determined to get the shells washed up by the storm, and they had cleaned up!  Here is a view of the beach, with the tide going out.

We decided at some point to only hike 3 miles (instead of 4) before setting up camp.  So on our second or third pack-off break, we had come nearly that far, and Carl and I started doing a little scouting.  Most of the time, the dunes were too high to climb over easily, but in a quarter mile, we came to a spot with low dunes.  We started exploring.  The land on the other side of the dunes was more dunes and sand hills, all covered with low grasses.  There were paths made by the wild horses, and small cacti that hurt like hell when you got one jabbed into a leg.  In between the grassy dunes were low, flat areas covered with short and thick grass:

We followed some pathways through the dunes and found what looked like a good camping spot.  It was close enough to the ocean to get a breeze, but partially protected by dunes, plus our tents would not the highest things around in the event of a thunder storm.  We returned and got Chris, and came back, had lunch on the beach, and set up our tents.  We took care to not pitch our tents in the middle of a horse trail or on the lowest ground.  We also put them 20 to 30 feet apart so that if we got lightening, one bolt wouldn't be likely to get all of us at once.  Here is my little tent, all set up.  It was already hot enough that I was anticipating lying in there in relatively cool darkness:

 Carl set his tent up close to a dune, with another small one to its right that partially hid it.
 Here is a longer range view of our home for the next two nights.  Chris's and my tents are to the left, Carl's in partially out of view on the right.
It felt so good to have the heavy packs off.  We lazed on the beach, and took turns fishing.  The other two guys caught one small fish each, but my traditional fishing luck held.  Without firewood, we released any fish caught.  I explored for shells and found a few good ones.  After a few hours of this, it was getting on in the afternoon, and I decided to explore a bit before dinner, so I took a short hike over the interior of the island.  Here is the route, shown in blue (our campsite is indicated with the little campfire icon, even though we didn't have a fire), of my 1.5 mile hike.  I went roughly clockwise, and the ocean is to the south, and the sound to the north.

It gave me a chance, unsuccessful, to look for horses, and to see what other parts of the island away from the beach were like.  A dominant feature all around us were these interior dunes.  They were not more than 15 - 25 feet tall, but were steep and gave interesting relief to the land so close to the flat beach.

There were also a few trees scattered about, and sometimes, little clumps of trees.

As I approached the north side of the island, the trees suddenly turned into a thick maritime forest.  The shade looked inviting, but it was so thick that I would have had to force myself through it, and I didn't like the thought of all the ticks I would likely pick up.  So I admired it from a little distance.

Even this close to the forest, I was not far from the ocean, and by hiking up a little hill, I could see it behind me.

I kept exploring, and found a clear path through the forest,

and followed it to the sound:

I could see boats out and about, and civilization across the sound on the mainland.  I retraced my steps, left the forest in a short time, and followed the path to the ocean.  Along the way, I found evidence of when people actually lived here.  It must have been a difficult life, just surviving, but tranquil all the same.

I had meandered slowly and quietly, and had not seen a sign of a horse (well, OK, I saw plenty of signs that horses were there, but I didn't see the animal, just what they were leaving behind).  At this point, I returned to camp, wondering what Chris and Carl were up to.  As I approached camp, I saw Carl standing on a high spot.  He motioned for me to come join him, but to be quiet.  He had found the "bankers" - the wild horses of Shackleford Banks!


  1. I was surprised that the three of you set your tents up so far apart. Wouldn't have thought of the lightening!!

  2. That is the theory, but I am glad we did not have to test it!

  3. We want to camp there. We have been there for day trips. Did you see any snakes? Thanks

  4. Hi Felicia - it is a lot of fun to camp there. I think fall would be the best season because it is cooler. Just take a lot of water. I did not see any snakes. I would not rule out seeing one, because they are secretive. Art