I had heard great things about the beaches of North Carolina, and while planning a weekend getaway, my friends recommended I visit the sand dunes nearby. I had never before visited a proper sand dune, and my only experience with a vast expanse of sand was seeing pictures for my friends from their trips to Rajasthan. Some research showed that the Jockey’s Ridge State Park (where the sand dunes are) was located a 40 minute drive from the beach. I had planned a visit to the sand dunes of Oregon a few years ago, but the plans never materialized. This was my first opportunity to set foot in the sand.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park has quite a bit of history. It is the tallest natural sand dune system in the Eastern U.S.A. It is located very close to Nags Head, and is the most visited park in North Carolina. I had seen some pictures of the park, but nothing had quite prepared me for the beauty and the vastness of it once we reached there. There were a few realizations that hit me as we started our hike to one of the vista points in the sand dunes. The idea was to watch the sunset from a vista point. The first thing I realized is it was impossible to walk with my shoes on. Not just sand got everywhere inside the shoes, it was a steep hike with quite some elevation, which meant I ran the risk of ripping apart my fancy shoes in the process of dragging my feet. Shoes in hand, I started walking barefoot in the sand. It was the most soothing experience, given that the sand was so fine textured. Why waste a chance of a pedicure for free?
The wind was blowing with full gusto, and soon my bare skin was covered with a sheen of sand. It was getting difficult to keep my eyes open. The Bollywood fan in me took over, and I was left wondering how people did movie shoot in the deserts. Songs like “Aafrin Aafrin” came to my mind. The only thing missing was a camel. Sunset was still a good 40 minutes away, and the sand was pricking me like pins, an extremely annoying feeling. I realized the sand mostly blew at lower heights, being heavy, and hence there was no point in sitting on the dunes and subjecting myself to the pricks. Things got better the moment I stood up.
It was getting difficult to use my camera, because sand is very harmful for the camera lens. The view was amazing, quite unlike anything I had seen before. After mountains and waterfalls, oceans and lakes, snow and rain, the desert was a welcome change, filling the landscape with hues of yellow and orange. There was the blueness of the ocean behind us, some greenery, and the orange of the setting sun in front of us. It was a unique combination of blue, green, yellow, and orange. At some point, I gave up and stopped using my camera. Sand blew everywhere, making me wish I had some shelter.
The sun deserted us that day. Long before it could set in the oceans, it hid in the clouds, never to come out that day. Which also meant we got to leave the place a good 20 minutes early. It was a unique experience, quite unlike anything I have had so far. Some of the pictures I took do no justice to the beauty you experience when you see the place for yourself. It is a different story that I spend the next few days cleaning sand off me, my clothes, shoes and hair. Also, just as I feared, sand got in my camera lenses, leaving big dark blotches of dust spots in the sensors, and took me a small fortune to get it cleaned.
Our next destination was the Bodie Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse was closed by the time we reached there, so we could never climb up to get a panoramic view of the place. However, there was plenty of light, and a nice hike behind in the marshy areas is what we did. Along with some more photography of course. I might not have been able to get pictures from the lighthouse, but I made sure I got plenty of pictures of the lighthouse.
To sum up, the beaches, sand dunes, lighthouses, seafood, and drive made Outer Banks in North Carolina a very nice and relaxing weekend getaway. In summer, that would definitely be one of my coveted travel destinations.