North Carolina coast
July 22 – 29, 2017
At 6:20am on the morning of July 23rd, 5 scouts and 3 adults departed for Pamlico Sea Base camp in Blounts Creek, NC, which was just under a 5 hr drive from Andrew Chapel. This destination was a first ever for Troop 1128. It was a very smooth trip, and we all enjoyed our bag lunches after arrival in Camp Boddie. Afternoon activities included BSA swim tests for those who had not already taken one this summer, unloading gear from cars into the cabins provided on site, and meeting our 2 guides for the trip, Four and Austin. Later, we took to the Pamlico River to practice paddling techniques and safety maneuvers. Everyone learned how to do a wet exit, which was really a lesson in how to get out of your kayak if you capsized. We then performed assisted rescues in water in which we could stand, and again in water over our heads (which proved to be more difficult!). This involved helping your buddy get back into his or her kayak, and vice versa. That sounds easier than it was! For dinner we joined other scout groups at the dining hall in Camp Boddie for a delicious meal of chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and peach cobbler.
Unfortunately, our departure for the Outer Banks was delayed by one day due to forecasted 30 mph winds on Pamlico Sound, and a small craft advisory issued there. Instead, we stayed in base camp until Tuesday morning. On Monday, we undertook a 3 hour round trip in our kayaks to nearby Goose Creek State Park and enjoyed a short hike through pine forest, swamps, and marshes. In the hours of downtime at the activities center in base camp, there were some very competitive ping pong matches between scouts and with our guides. Around dinnertime, we loaded the kayaks onto a trailer and repacked our belongings into dry bags so that we’d be ready to leave early the next day.
After Tuesday breakfast, we were driven about 2 hours southeast to Harker’s Island, which is the only part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore that’s accessible by car and was the designated place to launch our kayaks. Shortly after taking to the water, we had a surprise welcome by a large pod of dolphins in Pamlico Sound! Our first objective was Shackleford Banks, the southernmost barrier island and home to more than 100 wild horses. This was about a 3 mile paddle and we had beautiful weather. Scouts swam for many hours in the ocean surf after setting up their tents and hauling kayaks up to higher ground for the night. Dinner was a one pot meal of rice and beef stew. Kayaking is very much like backpacking in how meals are selected and planned: very few ingredients and lightweight!
On Wednesday, we packed out and set off for Cape Lookout. Where else could we kayak past a horse belly-deep in the water going for its morning swim? Though we had tougher paddling conditions then we’d experienced before (as well as one seasick scout), no one complained and all persevered. We landed, pulled the kayaks ashore, and carried tents, food, stove, water jugs, etc across to the ocean side. Once tents were pitched and lunch was eaten, we met with a park ranger for a brief history of Cape Lookout and the specific features of this barrier island, South Core Banks. The view from atop the lighthouse was well worth the climb! Thank you to Mr. Parker for purchasing our tickets.
Early evening, the scouts with their guide, Austin, went by land on a 6 mile round trip hike to the westernmost point of the island. Meanwhile, the adults and our other guide, Four, did a nighttime paddle using headlamps and glow sticks for the trip back to the campsite. It was our clearest night of the week and best opportunity for stargazing. We slept in tents tucked between sand dunes, except for a couple intrepid scouts who chose to sleep outside their tents on the beach.
It was back to Shackleford Banks on Thursday and more card playing (various components of our trail mix served as poker chips), swimming and fishing in the late afternoon. After dinner, the scouts and guides went in search of the wild horses and found half a dozen grazing together. Mission accomplished.
On Friday morning, it was time to return to the mainland and civilization. We landed on Harker’s Island about lunchtime and ate outside the visitor’s center there. Kayaks were lifted back up onto the trailer racks and everyone’s gear stowed. It was a long car ride up to base camp followed by unloading, cleaning, and putting away all components: life vests, spray skirts, dry bags… But the showers afterwards were amazing.
On the trip north returning to Vienna, we encountered heavy rain and lots of traffic on I-95. It took a considerably longer time travelling north! Arrival at Andrew Chapel was @8pm on Friday evening, July 28th. Special thanks go to ASMs Paul Parker and Nic Hindley for planning and organizing this sea base expedition. In addition, Nic took many terrific photos that he shared via Dropbox that can be enjoyed by all. Most of the 2017 participants are planning to attend again next year and aim to achieve the 50 miler award.