Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shackleford Banks Trip - Overview

I had a marvelous time backpacking three days on Shackleford Banks, part of Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina.  I'll be writing a number of posts about the trip, and have something like 200 photos to comb through, but I'll make this overview my first post.

My two compadres and I drove down Friday evening, going right through Tropical Storm Andrea, and finding a motel in New Bern.  It took us nearly an hour to find a hotel.  We wanted two beds plus a rollaway or a pull-out sofa, and the best we could do was a king and a pull-out.  What would women do?  I bet most of them would sleep two in the big bed and the third would take the pull-out, but men just are not going to do that.  Just about the time we had resigned ourselves to one of us sleeping on the floor, we found a great place at a reasonable price with the two beds and the sleeper sofa.  Hurrah!

We drove to Beaufort, NC in the morning and took the 10:00 boat over.  My pack weighed about 55 pounds: roughly 7.5 pounds for the pack and empty water containers, 14.5 pounds of camping gear like my tent and sleeping pad, 28 pounds of water and Gatorade, and 5 pounds of food.  I needed help just to put the pack on my back!  But the good news was, that after the boat dropped us off on the west end of the nine mile long island, we would only hike 3-4 miles with the full pack weight before making camp.  And when Chris suggested making camp at 3 miles about one mile in, he got no arguments from Carlton or me.

Shackleford Banks is a truly beautiful and interesting island.  No one lives there, and there is no drinking water - unless you can desalinate it.  There seemed to be four major zones moving from south to north: a beautiful and wild nine mile Atlantic Ocean beach with a pronounced dune system,

a broad area of undulating dunes and hummocks covered in coarse grasses, with occasional flat grassy areas,
a dense maritime forest,
and a wetland fringe with some beach at times bordering on the sound.
So, what did we do for the two full days and one partial morning that we were on this amazing island?  We explored, hiked, beach combed, fished, searched for wild horses, relaxed a little, and looked for wildlife.  There is no shade - the forest would be very shady but loaded with ticks - and the sun was oppressive at times.  My clothing was continually damp, either from sweat, the humidity in the air, or both.  It never got below about 75, with very high humidity, and so I am glad I didn't bother with a sleeping bag.  Day time highs - in the shade if there had been shade - would have been about 86, but it was much hotter than that in the sun.  I wore long sleeves, long pants, and my Tilly hat, and although these may have been warm, they gave me good sun protection.  I also applied sunscreen to my exposed skin about 3 times a day, and did not get burned despite continually being out in the sun.

I walked and walked and walked, and then, I walked some more.  On Saturday and Sunday alone, I took over 84,000 steps according to my pedometer.  Assuming 2,300 steps per mile for an average, that would translate to nearly 37 miles in the two days.  A lot of those miles was looking for great seashells, and did I find some good ones!

Twice, we were able to find wild horses, of which there are over 100 on the island.  These animals are descendants of Spanish horses that survived shipwrecks in the 1600's.  They are wild animals but also will tolerate humans as long as you don't approach them directly.
And when you are camping at the beach, is there anything better than sitting out in the (relative) coolness of the evening as the sun sets, listening to the rhythm of the pounding surf?
Well, that is a summary of my little adventure.  If it whetted your appetite for more, more will be coming over the next week, because I have a lot more to share with you.


  1. Oh sounds great. Maybe a bit too warm though, but you can't have everything. : )
    Wow that is a lot of steps!!!!
    Such beautiful shells. I love them!!
    Yes, woman would have shared a bed. : )
    Look forward to seeing more photos of your fabulous weekend.

  2. It was so much fun. Sure, a little cooler would have been great, but I forgot to put in my weather order in time! ;^)

    I ended up leaving at least a half dozen really nice big shells behind for someone else. But the ones I found and kept represented an estimated 28 miles of walking along beaches.