My wife and I spent two perfect days on Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro, NC this past
weekend. The kids were supposed to accompany us on this trip but decided they had rather stay home and go to a
local small town "Cotton Festival". My mom agreed to keep the kids so we decided not to second guess her generous
offer. Since we live only a couple of hours from the Atlantic Ocean, Renee and I didn't leave home until 10:00 am
Friday morning. The drive down was pleasant with only one quick stop to eat an early lunch.
We arrived at Hammocks Beach State Park around 12:30 pm and registered at the visitors center on the mainland.
Soon afterwards, we hauled the canoe down to the water's edge on Bogue Sound and loaded it up with our camping
gear. We managed to hit the tide going out so it was an easy 2 mile paddle through the salt marsh. In no time at all we
arrived on the shore of Bear Island.
|Bear Island in an 892-acre barrier island located on the southern shore of North Carolina. The
island is 3 1/2 miles long and less than a mile wide. The Atlantic Ocean borders the southern shore
of the island while salt marshes, estuarine creeks and the Intracoastal Waterway lie to the north. On
the northeast end of the island is Bogue Inlet while Bear Inlet lies to the southwest. Bear Island is
considered a desert island with shrub thickets and maritime forest making up the landscape.
The blue waters of Bogue Sound was dotted with several other paddlers, mostly in brightly colored kayaks, we did see
one other couple in a canoe. Upon arrival on the island, we had a little difficulty locating the inlet to our campsite. After
speaking with some of the local paddlers we were soon pointed in the right direction. About 10 minutes later we made
it to our destination and began unloading our gear. We got lucky on our camp selection because it was the only one
on the island that was shaded. Although the temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees, I still didn't want to the spend
the evening sitting on sand in the sun.
Once camp was set up, I began exploring the nearby landscape while Renee turned her attention toward a good
book. I had only travelled a short distance when I almost stepped on what appeared to be small snake. I took a
couple of steps back to give it room and try and identify this legless reptile. The head and markings were not like any
snake I had ever seen. I would later discover when I returned home that the creature I had encountered was not a
snake but was in fact an Eastern Glass Lizard (one of only a couple of species of legless lizards found in NC).
Later that evening, I prepared supper for the two of us as we sat in the fading light and enjoyed the cool ocean
breeze. Once the sun set, the stars made their appearance and gave us one heck of a show. Without any artificial
lights to block out the heavenly glow, their brilliant numbers amazed both of us. Sometime around 10:30 pm
we decided to call it a day and retired to my Eureka Apex.
The next morning at exactly 5:00 am I was awaken by my friendly neighborhood bladder. Once that matter was taken
care of, I once again occupied my side of the tent. I lay there for the next hour tossing and turning. I knew right then
that there was no chance of me going back to sleep so I got dressed, grabbed my camera and climbed one the taller
dunes about a hundred yards from our tent and awaited the arrival of the morning sun.
From my vantage point I could see the shining ripples of the Atlantic Ocean becoming more prevalent in the early
morning light. Our campsite was located about halfway the island with a narrow waterway between us and the ocean
front. As the morning progressed the horizon began showing shades of yellows, oranges and deep blues that
stretched out and kissed the water. As the sun approached closer to the horizon, the brilliant shades of light gave
way to a pale almost stagnant color display. Once the sun crested the horizon, the pale light turned to a mystical
glow that illuminated everything it touched. The morning air was cool and damp and the only sound was that of the
ocean as it pounded relentlessly against the sands of the beach. The only other sounds were that of an occasional
shore bird feeding in the grassy marsh below me. Off in the distance I could see a shrimp boat making it's final pass
of thenight before heading to harbor.
I made my way back to our tent where my wife and I ate breakfast. After breakfast, we grabbed some snacks
and water and launched the canoe into the waterway that would carry us to the beach front. The tide was now
coming in, so the water was once again flowing in our direction of travel. After a short half-mile paddle through
the green marsh grass, we pulled our canoe up onto the white sand and crossed over the dunes to the beach. We
spent a large portion of the day walking along the beach, collecting shells and sand dollars that had washed up from
the depths of the Atlantic.
By now it was nearing mid-day and the sun was getting hot. We decided to return to camp and just relax for a while
before heading home. Neither one of us wanted to leave our little piece of paradise but like all good things it must
come to an end. Renee commented several times that she would love to come back and camp on the beach. I think
she's hooked on this canoe camping thing. We finally decided it was time to head for home and began packing up
I wish we could have waited until the tide started rising again that way we could ride the current back to the
mainland but our timing was off and we hit it just as the tide was going back out. The combination of wind in our face
and the tidal flow was brutal on the paddle back in. We finally made it back to the dock and loaded up the gear and
canoe and headed home.
"As the sun approached closer to the horizon, the brilliant shades of light gave way
to a pale almost stagnant color display. Once the sun crested the horizon, the
pale light turned to a mystical glow that illuminated everything it touched."
|Canoe Camping on Bear Island