the crystal coast

Morehead City, NC. On the Bogue Sound. When you hit Morehead City limits you know you are at the beach. Windows are being rolled down and the warm, musty salt air begins to hit your face. Your hair begins to curl almost instantly. You know good grits are on their way too because beach water makes the best grits. You cross the bridge over the Bogue Sound and see a glimpse of that magical water, part lake, part ocean, part river, all saltwater and controlled by the tides. There are clams and oysters and sand dollars and porpoises in this water too and you wish you were staying on the sound. At the light after the bridge you take a right toward pine knoll shores, just a few miles away from Atlantic Beach, from you childhood.

The house sits in front of the ocean, facing what seems to be an endless amount of water. You can’t believe there is actually something beyond the point that your eye can’t see. The horizon is so far away that you see whole clouds from top to bottom in the distance. Some nights, there are storms at sea, you see the lightning, but the rain and thunder never make it to shore. You wonder what good a storm at sea does, were any boats caught in it?

Some days the wind is so strong on the beach that you have to stay in or go to the inlet or to Fort Macon or a day trip to Beaufort. Some days there is no wind and the heat comes off the sand like it is willing you to leave. Some days the rain comes in at lunchtime and moves you from your saltwater post. Everyday, you want more, more sand clinging to your toes, more saltwater up your nose. The ocean pummels and turns you out. You keep going back to it.

In low tide there are tidal pools a short distance from the dune. These are your favorite. There is enough seawater to float you on a raft and as the tide is leaving there are enough waves to keep you moving. The tidal pool is the best of all worlds, no thought of a rip current and all the luxury of

On calm nights the moon glows in the sky so bright that the reflection off the water mimics daytime. You swear you could see by it. You know that nighttime is the best time on the beach. The beach is yours then because no else ventures to the beach at night. You sit on the deck and look at the horizon or the shape of the moon. You feel like you have a secret that no one else really wants to know about. How could anyone not love the beach more at night? You don’t understand the fascination with the daytime, the sun and the rain, when the nighttime brings the moon and crabs and loggerhead turtles. You know the secret and though you try to share it, others prefer sleep.

Soon you must leave the crystal coast of North Carolina. No other beaches in the world will compare. There is simplicity and elegance in North Carolina’s crystal coast. There are very few trappings of fancy dwellings or pools seamlessly flowing into the ocean. There are just beach houses, many are old, and some are new or just well kept. But the house isn’t important, it’s the beach the matters. It’s the weather and the sand and the promise of good shell hunts. It’s suntans and bathing suits and rinsing off before you come inside. It’s a morning swim then lunch then back again then dinner out. It’s beach towels draped over the deck at the end of the day. It’s the day’s catch on the pier or at the surf. It’s floppy hats and sun visors and sunscreen and big umbrellas. It’s rafts and buckets and shovels and sandcastles. It’s enduring the grit of the sand and the stickiness of the water. It’s the oldies station on the radio and it’s your family all around. It’s the beach in North Carolina and part of you doesn’t ever want to leave.

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