Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Caswell Beach - September 2009

We spent the week of Labor Day at Caswell Beach, NC, on the eastern end of Oak Island, a barrier island just south of the mouth of Cape Fear River. Oak Island is an old, familiar place for us. We've been going there as long as I can remember going to the beach, my grandfather having built a cottage on Oak Island in 1960. Mostly unmarred by high-rise condos, hotels, and bars, it's a quiet beach where it's easy to relax, which is pretty much all we did the entire week. These photos document that trip.

The first day or so was rainy and cool, forcing us to don raingear for beach walks. Still, the beach has a unique beauty when it's gray and overcast:

By Tuesday the rain had ended, and we enjoyed partly sunny skies (as the more upbeat weatherpeople phrase it) for the rest of the week. Looking north from the beach in front of our cottage late in the afternoon shows the Oak Island Lighthouse on the left. To the right, across the mouth of Cape Fear River, is Bald Head Island, where an older lighthouse ("Old Baldy") still stands. Old Baldy was operational from 1817 until the Oak Island Lighthouse was built in 1958.

Below is the Google maps satellite image of our little stretch of Caswell Beach. We stayed in the second cottage from the right. Zoom out and you can see Caswell Beach, Cape Fear River, and Bald Head Island. Note how Caswell Beach is south facing.
Back on the ground, here's the view looking out our back door.

Zoom in a bit and you'll see our festive beach umbrella, with Barrie actively engaging in beach-inspired relaxation.

The beach umbrella was our second effort at shade. Our first attempt was a nylon tripod structure we dubbed the "shade shack" (yep, to the tune of the B52's "Love Shack"). We set it up early in the week, and it did great until the wind picked up, when, as you might guess, the whole shack shimmied and fell down. Bad design. So we went the traditional, multi-hued beach umbrella route and it was a great success. But here's the view from under the shade shack:

Asta, our main mutt, and Bou, our backup utility beagle, had a great time at the beach, after a bit of acclimating. They loved to sit and stare out the screen door at the many other dogs that were at the beach.

And here they are hanging out with Barrie on the beach. The myriad of changing smells is a beagle's paradise, as Bou cheerfully demonstrates.

A few obligatory beach-level shots:

Scurrying bird tracks
Shell and sand. Itty-bitty grains. Lots of them.
A mess of stuff. Pine needles, fishing line, seaweed.
We drove over to Southport for lunch and to check out art galleries early in the week. We ate at a dockside place called Fishy Fishy Cafe, and the main entrance was blocked by water in the road during high tide. Here's a few images from our visit to this lovely harbor town:

Gadzooks! Could it be sharks attacking the stars and stripes?
Fishmongering for the gated-community set.
Extras assembling for a casting call for a remake of The Birds.
On the western end of Oak Island is Long Beach, where my grandfather built this cottage in 1960. The last time I saw it was 7 or 8 years ago, after several hurricanes had stripped the beach away, torn out all the plumbing and powerlines, and left it a box on stilts, looking for all the world like it would fall into the surf. Much to my amazement, they've pumped up sand from the river basin and rebuilt the dunes! And Daddy John's cottage still stands. That's it on the far right, shabby but respectable.

Every May sea turtles come up on the beaches of Oak Island and lay their eggs. I've been fortunate to witness this a few times, and it's quite a sight. Caswell Beach is a sea turtle sanctuary and has an active Sea Turtle Watch. This nest was near our cottage:

The nest below was down the beach a bit, and the Sea Turtle Watch has installed long borders on the nest below to guide the newly-hatched turtles back to the beach. You can check out an active record of this season's nest activity on this website.

As mentioned, Caswell Beach faces south, so the sun sets over the water, which is atypical for Atlantic beaches. Here's a few sunset shots, the first with Barrie walking Bou:

Good bye!