Well Monday night was a difficult night with strong wind and storms. I woke many times wondering if the tent was going to spiral down the beach with our family in tow. You can see in this video the side of the tent being pushed in from the morning wind. This was the "calm" part of the day.
When I woke Tuesday morning, I was again greeted by the pleasant calm of an ocean morning. The morning cup of coffee was just the icing on the cake and tasted better than any Starbucks I could recall. Perhaps it was because of the time and labor it took to brew a good cup in a coffee press without the morning conveniences. Or perhaps it was the tranquil calm of a cool morning on the coast with a steaming cup in hand. Either way, I treasured the moment.
I began my morning ritual of making Brayden's pancakes. By that day I was convinced that he would not eat bacon this whole trip and frankly there was no time for it if we were to make our ferry on time. In fact there was barely time for pancakes and if you wanted food anytime in the morning hours, gluten free chocolate chip pancakes were your only option.
Packing up proved to be a greater challenge than ever anticipated. Everything was blowing around. You couldn't set anything down, like a chair bag, without it blowing down the beach. The process was slow and tedious. We had to leave by 9:15 am to make the ferry in time and we were stuffing things in at the last minute including our three children. Beach driving is not something you do in a hurry. Here is a small sample of driving in the middle of the dunes, the quickest way to the ferry.
We arrived just in time and drove right onto the boat. It was a bitter sweet ride back.
Brayden was invited up to the captain's chair to drive the boat. They even offered him a salary of $2.00. I know deep in his heart this was something he would love but his anxiety got the best of him and he couldn't do it. He retreated to the car for the rest of the boat ride. It was a sad mommy moment. He still insists though that he wants to be a fisherman when he grows up.
By the time we arrived on land, settled our account, loaded ice and reached civilization, it was well past noon. Our kids were beyond hungry, thirsty and in Brayden's case, very lethargic. Our first order was to get anything in their bodies. In fact, we bought Brayden a soda pop at the ferry dock (a big no no in our family), just to get liquid and sugar in him. At this point Brayden was still on his dairy free diet so there was not a restaurant food out there that we could buy him. The girls on the other hand were all too happy to indulge in milkshakes and chicken nuggets from McDonalds. I felt horrible that Brayden couldn't have a milkshake. Me and Gary searched frantically for the nearest Starbucks for ourselves!
We headed back to the town of Morehead where we knew there was a visitors center with possible campground information. We decided we would continue to camp but with the amenities of a civilized campground. We had a brochure for "Camp Forest" on Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The man at the visitor center told us there was only one other campground and it was right next to "Camp Forest". This one was termed "Holiday", but there was no brochure. We were given the directions of crossing the bridge to Emerald Isle, turning left and we would find it on our right. Given that Emerald Isle was just another island, we figured it would be easy enough to find. Here are the girls at the visitor center.
The drive seemed long after an already exhausting morning. We were quickly feeling that each segment of the day felt like a full day in itself. By the time we crossed the bridge to Emerald Isle, it was around 2 pm. We finally found Camp Forest after stopping to ask someone and quickly wondered where they found the inspiration for it's name. This "campground" was more like a mobile home park. It had what appeared to be a total of five tent sites with the rest full of RVs and mobile homes. There was not a tree in sight and everyone was crammed in together. It bordered the entrance to the beach but other than that, it had zero attraction.
We were quickly getting discouraged, tired and frustrated. We found a kind looking lady and asked her for directions to "Holiday" as it clearly wasn't next to the Forest. She told us there was a camp type place left at the gas station up ahead. We took those directions for a good 30 minutes before deciding it was no where to be found. We pulled up to a corner gas station only to find the sign "Holiday Resort". Resort? Could this be the campground?
There was a beautiful swimming pool, several stores, an arcade, go-carts and a gated community. We decided to check it out. We were so relieved to find that it was indeed a campground and there were openings right next to a large playground and very clean bathroom/shower building. We hurried to our site and finally felt like we had the "Hilton's" of camping. The bathroom blasted cold air and required a key to get in. The playground had everything our kids would need to work off their car jitters. The pool was a welcomed retreat from the sandy beach.
By then it was approaching 4 pm and we had the daunting task of setting up camp again. Given that we were still right by the ocean, the wind quickly reminded us that it was here to stay. We set up our camp and were completely exhausted. Our intentions to make a wonderful Paleo dinner were quickly being influenced by the thought of convenience and relaxation. We caved in and pizza won the vote. I still had to make Brayden his pancakes but it was much quicker than a full dinner.
Camp fires were not permitted in this campground and we were surprisingly happy about this. There was no smell of smoke or late nights. We all headed to bed early. While the kids wrote happily in their journals, I picked up my book for the first time that trip. The sounds of the campground activity reminded us that we were no longer on our secluded island but we had come to terms with our decision at that point. I was certain our next few days would not be quite as exciting as the first few and that is just the way I wanted it!
Stay tuned to hear a bit about Emerald Isle and in a few days, the dramatic end to the Outerbanks!