Retreat to Corolla

Despite Maria’s best efforts to deter our plans, we had a successful (albeit slightly abbreviated) retreat to Corolla this past week. Our trip started bright and early on Thursday morning with an 8am departure from CSI. First stop: The Currituck Center for Wildlife Education. Here, we watched a short film about the history of Currituck and learned about the duck hunting and decoy making industry. As someone who isn’t native to North Carolina, let alone the Outer Banks, it’s always interesting to discover more about the area. After checking out the various exhibits at the wildlife center, we made our way over to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Our tour started with what must have been the most thorough explanation ever of the lighthouse’s history by Megan Agresto. It was phenomenal. After receiving a textbook’s worth of education in under an hour, we were ready to climb. Although I’m partial to the Bodie Island Lighthouse since my internship is based right next to it, the Currituck Lighthouse is definitely one worth visiting. The view from the top allowed for a nice opportunity to get oriented with a new part of the OBX.

After our climb we took a brief lunch break before meeting up with CAB member Hadley Twiddy for a walk along the pier behind her waterfront business, Coastal Explorations. Hadley talked to us about her stretch of coastline, pointing out different marsh plants along the way. The real star of the show, however, was Hadley’s trusty sidekick June Bug, a golden lab with quite the love for running through water and mud alike.

After our talk with Hadley we checked into our accommodation for the night, the Pine Island Sanctuary Guest House, where we were greeted by Chandler Sawyer, local waterfowl historian and hunter. Chandler described both the history of the area as well as plans for the future. Interestingly, he told us that renovation plans for the sanctuary included raised boardwalks between buildings to account for flooding issues that may occur as a result of sea level rise. In my experience it is rare to see people practically planning for environmental issues which will result from climate change so it was refreshing (if not somewhat upsetting that this is what the planet is coming to) to find someone who was taking these issues seriously.

The remainder of the night consisted of tacos, sunset walks to the water’s edge, and card games; pretty ideal if you ask me.

Friday came with another early start that was made slightly more bearable by the promise of seeing wild horses. As the sun rose we all piled into the back of a pickup truck and journeyed our way through Corolla on a wild horse tour. Despite the lack of actual horse sightings (there were two), the tour was a fun time. We were able to see the unique area that is Corolla (psh who needs roads?) and made it all the way to the Virginia border.

After the tour and a brief stop back at the guest house to pick up our bags we met up with another CAB member, Matt Price, for a tour of the Duck Waterfront Shops, of which he is a co-owner. Matt showed us around and explained the ways in which he and his business partner are actively trying to prevent the shoreline from eroding. He also shared insight on what it was like to grow up in the area and how the property has changed over time. As someone who is concerned with conservation, I found it interesting to hear about development from the perspective of the property owner, a viewpoint which I do not often consider. Once we finished up our tour Matt treated us to lunch at a restaurant on the property. If there is one way to make a group of college kids instantly love you it’s to take them out to eat (thanks again Matt, feel free to bring some French fries to the next CAB meeting).

Our last stop of the trip was at the Field Research Facility where we met up with yet another CAB member, Heidi Wadman, for a discussion and a tour. Heidi described to us the various undertakings of the FRF, showed us some of the machinery, and accompanied us on a walk to the end of the (really insanely long) pier.

And that’s a wrap! Thank you once again to all of the people we met along the way during our retreat. We would not have learned nearly as much without the help of all of you. To anyone reading this that hasn’t visited all of these places yet, what are you waiting for?