Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Kayaking in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Thursday May 3- Sunday May 6, 2018                                              Most Recent Posts:
Cape Hatteras National Seashore                                       Frisco Native American Museum
Oregon Inlet Campground                                     Outer Banks Light House Number Two:  Cape Hatteras Light
Nags Head, North Carolina

From the sparce comments on my previous post it appears not so many folks are interested in Native American Museums.  Guess we’ll see about kayaking and windy beach days.

IMG_2584My friends for many years, Keith and Pam VanDerbeek, have a home on the Outer Banks in Duck, North Carolina.  Keith (Beek) knows all the places to kayak around here.  I asked him what was his favorite and he said the National Wildlife Refuge trails.

Unfortunately, it has been SO windy that kayaking hasn’t been possible at least in my mind.  But when Pam got back to Duck from Charlottesville yesterday we decided we’d give today a try thinking that perhaps off the ocean front it would be better.

Beek got us to the put in to Milltail Creek at the end of Buffalo City Road and under the bridge we went out into a larger body of water where the wind was not insignificant.

No pictures there becasue I was too busy paddling to keep up with their slick 16’ Necky kayaks that glided through the water with much less effort than my 13.5’ more flat bottomed Wilderness Systems 135.  Before today I always said I loved my kayak and would never trade it but today I have serious kayak envy.  Not sure I’d want 16’ since I like to go into narrow little places where I have enough trouble turning around as it is.  But a Necky would be my choice if I ever had money I didn’t know what to do with.  Although perhaps it is the length that makes it sail right along.

We were headed down to a quieter area of marked trail on our way to Sawyer Lake  Once we were out of the wind it was wonderful. 


Quiet narrow waters are my absolute favorite be they wetlands, rivers, streams. 


Pam was hoping for an alligaor sighting.  This is Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.  Having spent a lot of time in Florida kayaking with alligators so I’m fairly used to them.

But I was seriously excited when a pair of  Prothonotary Warblers flitted through the trees along the way.  Most of my pictures were mere blurs or branches with no birds.  They are speedy.  But some came out well enough.  Warblers are so beautiful!!

She hasn’t seen an alligator yet but the banks have been lined with wild blue iris and this clump made Pam do a happy wave.   Planted iris are always lovely but there is something about seeing them out in the wild that’s even better.





We have circled around to where we put in but we still haven’t seen a gator.  So we continue back out into the wind and head to the right toward the Alligator River.  They should be there right.


Pretty bells along the water’s edge, anyone know what they are called?


We finally reach the other end of Milltail Creek headed for the river when Beek, who is behind us, says he’s spotted a gator.  Pam does a quick turn around, I follow her and we see this gator going back and forth from one bank to the other of the creek over and over again.  I’ve never seen this before and can’t imagine what’s going on.

Here s/he goes left to right.


And back, right to left.


We move a little bit closer but with 3 of us, I don’t want to make the gator feel penned in.  S/he just sinks under the water and we have no idea where he goes from here.

This is the northernmost point of the American Alligators range and Pam is happy to have seen one.  I admit, me too.


Back we go to the put in.  What a great day it’s been.


Once we’re back in the wider and windier section, they leave me in the dust, so to speak.  But I paddle on and on and on behind the two dots WAY ahead.  “Hey you guys, wait for me!”


I’m so glad for these last two days.  The weather before this has been cold and windy and that returns for the next FIVE days.   Tonight the wind was so strong I had to bring the slides in and the rig was still rockin’ and rollin’.  

On Friday, I walk down to the beach and along the shore but into the wind is rough. Coming back the sand is blowing and stinging my legs.   All the pictures from today were taken going north.  Too much sand to have the camera out going south.

Smart pelicans flying south with the wind.  Skimming the water for possible treats.



Birds line the shore and there are only two trucks out.  It’s Friday so you know the wind is keeping them away.   Makes it nice for walking through.


Looks like a gathering spot as more and more fly in.



Terns, sandpipers, sanderlings and others.  Can’t say that I blame them in this wind.



It appears I am the first person to walk along the shore today which is also not surprising given the weather.  I’m taking a bit of a risk going so far down the beach since another storm is in the forecast for today.

I’m not very good at my fish identification.  Is this a skate or a ray that has washed up on shore?




I’m fairlly far up the beach at this point and see a few more trucks in a line facing the water.



Most of the tire tracks have been washed away from near the shore by the high tide.  But not back by the dunes.


I can’t even imagine what the wind would be like for Winnona without these beautiful protective dunes between her and the ocean.



After I return from my walk, the campground is starting to fill in for the week-end.I guess these folks are really optimistic given the forecast.   In all the rain and the high winds I feel very sorry for my neighbors in their very small rigs.

To my left is a small motorcycle trailer/tent and byond him is a little orange tab pulled by an orange jeep.

Taking advantage of a break in the rain to stay out of the wind.

On my right another little one and beyond them a tent.  I’m seriously happy I have Winnona to come home to in this weather.  

I don’t go down to the beach on Saturday.  Too many trucks.  Too much wind.  It rains off and on all day and steadily all night long and into Sunday.   Most of my neighbors aren’t interested in being stuck inside during more rain on Sunday so they pack up in the rain and are gone by 10am.  This includes a boy scout troop with 9 tents.  Not a fun camping trip for them.

Later, the rain takes a break and I walk down to the beach through the ruts left by yesterday’s trucks.   Looking at the skies I can see my hike will be short.  The rain is going to return.


Surf’s up!  Looks cold to me.



But one lone surfer heads out into the water.  Can’t tell if he has a wet suit on.  I watch him for quite a while but he never gets up on his board.  I’m surprised he’s out there, there have been small craft warnings and rip tide warnings for days. 


I admit to being captivated by stormy skies.  I once lived a block from the ocean on the north end of Virginia Beach and loved to go down and watch the skies and water on the ocean front during storms with no lightning.


The would be surfer is  still out there as the thunder rumbles and it starts to spit rain. I didn’t want to wear a rain coat so I head back to Winnona hopefully to beat the next storm. 


I’d love to be that close to a pelican fly by but not on a rough surf day like this.



The undisturbed and vegetated dunes hold the sand in place against the winds and look striking beneath the huge clouds.



I’ve made it back to the dune path to the campground as the rain picks up.  I can see it moving toward me coming out of the low dark clouds in the distance.



One last look behind me.


As I head across the dunes I can see from the top that it is dark enough for the Bodie Island Light to come on.


Most of my neighbors left during the earlier rain this morning.  Winnona is alone under a turbulent sky as the thunder increases.  Surely it can’t keep this up for another week can it?  Should I leave or should I stay?  How many more days of rain and winds here at Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.   No wonder it’s the Graveyard of the Atlantic.



  1. I find the moodiness and changing skies of your beach shots quite appealing!

    The gator shots are formidable- like throwback dinosaurs.

  2. Your not alone with the rain...it just never stops for more than 1 day:o(( I hope this lets up soon. As your post is dated early May and we are still getting rain as we approach Memorial Day:o((( Oh well, everything is very green:o))

  3. Hi Sherry, I never comment, but I always love your posts, all of them including the last one on Native American Museums. I check every day to see if you have posted more about your adventures. I envy you and David and hope some day that my wife and I can travel and see in person many of the places you have visited.

  4. Spring early summer is upon us. Many blog readers are outside weeding, planting, or playing, kayaking, hiking and all sorts of stuff. That is why I didn't comment, even though I did manage a quick read. I was doing all of the above this past weekend. I think your plant looks like an ericacae for sure, but there are many species in this genera. It looks like salal but that plant grows out west. Pieris also looks like this, and I don't know if there are wild species or domestics that got loose in that area. Would love to know when you find out. Yeah, those nice long kayaks are great, but we do love our lightweight Swift kayaks, and the cockpits are big enough for both the dog and our butts! So no real kayak envy here, even if they are faster. Ours are 13.5 feet, and still pretty darn smooth.

  5. Your warbler pictures came out wonderfully! I also really like the photo of the pelican flying over the terns?- That was a fun day! I know you get to see lots of alligators in Florida but I was excited to see the big one we saw (plus the one that came up on the side of my kayak). It was so fun having you go with us! xxxooo

  6. Looks like a nice paddle. I have had some unpleasant surprises when canoeing in swampy areas. Namely snakes falling in to my canoe, so it is not my thing. One of the principles of boat design is the the longer the waterline length, the faster the boat:)

  7. I didn't comment on the museum since coming from the southwest I think I have seen so much. But when I can actually walk along the ruins then I'm in heaven.
    Today.s post is great and love seeing the Warbler was a wonderful shot the color so vibrant.

    BTW how is David doing?

  8. Nice nature pics. Are the temps still cool there?

  9. 1.4 times the square root of the kayak length is the approximate maximum speed of a paddled kayak or canoe. The length sets the speed but the longer length requires more energy to go faster also since it has more water friction and wind resistance. I paddle a 9 feet 5 inch kayak and love how little effort it takes in the winds. 61 years of paddling this year.

  10. It is very beautiful to see all your shots. Yellow color bird looks awesome. It would have been a good experience on self riding boat:)

  11. Lovely photos. We recently purchased kayaks and love exploring rivers. I’m finding it difficult to take pictures while kayaking. Any tips for using a camera while paddling? Do you keep your camera around your neck, or store it after each picture?

  12. Miss the East Coast beaches. Never seen a gator in those parts

  13. I love when you take us kayaking. Especially on those calm reflective waterways. I am learning the advantage of retirement in not having to cram in camping on weekends. I'd stay and just enjoy watching the storms.

  14. Ugh, the wind. We get so much wind here. Makes the inside of the RV dusty. Love the beach pictures, as always.

  15. Good thing there were those protective sand dunes nearby or you'd have to change your RV's name to WINDnoma...

    Funny behavior of that gator going back and forth from bank to bank. Couldn't make up his mind I guess. Just another fun thing from your paddles to enjoy. :c)

  16. So glad you got to kayak in a calm, protected spot. Those kinds of places are my favorites, too. You got some great shots of the warbler! They are so busy and fast, they're not easy to photograph. Although I sometimes look longingly at those sleek, narrow, fast kayaks I wouldn't trade our nice wide stable tandem for one.

  17. Love the warblers and wild iris! Such a pretty day on the water. Weird behavior by the gator, wonder if they were "guarding" something? I too love watching storms, most of mine were in the desert, observable for miles as they moved toward us. Amazing that the pelicans can navigate the strong winds with their big wings!

  18. Great paddle. Hi Pam & Keith! The warbler pictures are superb. Wild iris! So pretty! I also like the pictures of the high surf. Too much rain and wind, but it does bring out the ocean's attitude.


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!