Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thank God for Beach Naps

I don't need to actually do anything while I'm at the beach, but sometimes I have a guest who is more ambitious and when that occurs, we go join the hordes at someplace other than a bar or restaurant. Of course I'm not going to go shopping, but I can do the nature or history thing without too much effort.

So it was that we ended up at the Nature Conservancy's preserve in Nags Head Woods, a good-sized maritime forest tucked behind an innocuous housing development. We rolled into the parking lot blaring "Friday I'm in love," almost certainly scaring off any nearby wildlife with the volume, but, let's face it, that's a song that needs to be heard loudly.

Being ambitious sorts, and knowing that the rest of the evening would be spent in a bar, we decided to tackle the Sweet Gum Swamp Trail, a 2 1/2-mile moderately strenuous loop that promised to go through the deepest part of the maritime forest. It was very cool to come to a clearing in the woods only to be on the top of a sand dune with a narrow path with loblolly pines on either side. Strenuous may be a stretch, but it was definitely a steep descent followed by a vertical climb. If we'd had a skull and crossbones flag to plant, we might have done so.

The funniest part of the hike (and we were not expecting anything amusing) was when we came upon a sign on the path warning us of a nearby firing range. Stay on Path! the sign ominously said, assuring us we would not be in any danger if we did. Did we hear any firing? No. Did we step off the path? Uh, no. We had barsitting to do, after all.

Despite an overly late night at first Tortuga's Lie and ultimately on the back porch, I had agreed to a morning field trip to the Currituck Lighthouse, way the hell up almost at the Virginia State line. While the suggestion to do this was not mine (see Thing 7), I am an unabashed fan of lighthouse climbs, so it was a fairly easy sell at the time.

At only 214 steps, I've climbed taller lighthouses, but after a short night, 214 was enough. The view from the top is superb and depressing, offering both ocean and sound views and, unfortunately, a look at the massive development in that area. It's a sea of ticky-tacky McMansion rooves and more than a little sad. No wonder the wild horses had to be penned.

Like the last time I was atop this lighthouse, there was a person with vertical issues up there. This guy plastered himself against the building and refused to move while his family cajoled him, taking pictures and shooting video of his fear.

Finally he began a slow circle, hugging the wall with his back, all the while looking perfectly terrified. Why would you even go up a lighthouse if it's only going to make you miserable? I remember at a lighthouse in Bermuda, there was a sign at the base warning people not to force those who were afraid to make the climb. I thought it was stating the obvious, but perhaps not.

Admittedly, they do give you a sticker proclaiming your successful climb when you come down, but surely a grown man doesn't need sticker satisfaction. And if he does, he's got bigger fish to fry than acrophobia.

Hell, if they're going to give out stickers, I'll take one for hiking, imbibing and then climbing on five hours sleep (really 3 a.m.? Already?). Better yet, give me two and I'll stick one over each eye while I catch a few zz's on the beach this afternoon.

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