Off to the coast to Beaufort this afternoon for a weekend's paddling.
This has to be one of the best trips within and out the Outer Banks, and one I never tire of doing. I usually leave early Saturday morning (after staying the night in Beaufort) from the very end of Harkers Island, at the Rangers' Station. You can leave your transport overnight in the station's carpark. The office isn't usually open by the time I leave, so I fax them through a float plan a few days earlier.
Then it's a nice long paddle across Back Sound (scroll right down to the bottom of the map after you've clicked on it to enlarge) before popping out Beaufort Entrance into the big Atlantic.
The 13km (8 mile) paddle along Shackelford is magic - long slow ocean swells, long sandy vista, unspoiled dunes and, of course, Shackelford's famed wild horses, which you can typically see meandering along the beach, sometimes frolicking just for the hell of it.
Saturday's forecast is for westerlies later bearing NW 10-15 knots, so it should be a good paddle sail up the Island, or Banks as it's officially named.
I'll either camp at the Cape Lookout end of the Banks, or tuck myself just inside Cape Lookout for a bit of extra shelter - depends when Saturday night's and Sunday's nor'easterlies kick in. It always amazes me when camping on the Banks, that you can be sitting in your tent gazing out over the Atlantic, watching the sun going down in the west.
And then Sunday, after another long walk along the beach, I'll paddle back to Harkers via Barden Inlet, dipping my paddle to Cape Lookout lighthouse as I pass by.
Well, that's the plan...