Monday, April 04, 2016

OBX: Ocracoke

The village of Ocracoke is on the opposite end of the island from the Hattaras-Ocracoke ferry terminal, so we had a bit of a drive after getting off the ferry, though not too much of a drive because the island is tiny. It wasn't permanently settled until 1750. Before then it was a popular hangout for...pirates! And, in fact, Ocracoke is the death place of Blackbeard himself.

A few miles after starting on our journey we pulled over to see the island ponies. Unlike the Shackleford ponies, these ponies are penned up, though still essentially "wild," just not "free-roaming." Or something like that, according to signage. They're not sure where the ponies came from—likely the same mysterious stock as the Shackleford ponies (some sunken ship from Spain or something). Apparently residents of the island would occasionally use the horses for labour but no one ever bothered to capture them and call them "theirs." They would just catch a pony, use it, and let it go again. Nowadays they're all corralled and are owned by the US government, technically, so no one uses them for labour anymore.

Here's a glimpse of the ponies. They don't look terribly wild next to their stable...but it is what it is, I guess.

Across the street from the ponies was my favourite beach spot of the whole trip. I took a picture of the kids crossing the street because it's technically a section of highway, and it's not every day you get to leisurely stroll across the highway.

This beach was perfection. It wasn't too windy, the day turned out much sunnier and warmer than we had planned on, and they must be getting a different current than we were getting up in Salvo because the water was respectably warm.

Here's my foot next to Benjamin's footprint:

He's seeming rather huge all of a sudden.

We started out doing some beachcombing. Everyone was too afraid to test what we assumed would be chilly water.

Benjamin was the first to try it out:

He found out it was pretty okay.

It's a good thing I brought extra clothes for everybody!

Benjamin absolutely could not help himself. He ended up soaking wet. We let him run around sans pants for a while.

He'd worn his Ocracoke Island t-shirt on Tuesday, the day we were originally hoping to visit the island. Our nextdoor neighbour (Mr. Lee) brought it by for him last year. I ended up washing it on Wednesday and he insisted on wearing it again on Thursday, our second (successful) attempt at the island.

Miriam got her pants a little wet and I ended up having to change my pants as well (the water was so nice I was sorely regretting not packing our swimsuits for this day trip). Everyone else mostly stayed high and dry.

Here's poor Zoë sporting a lovely runny nose:

And here are a few more pictures of Miriam and Benjamin playing in the surf:

And here's a shot of Andrew and me:

And Miriam standing in the middle of the street:

We piled into our vehicles and drove to the other end of the island to visit the lighthouse. The parking lot by the lighthouse was full so we ended up parking by a little cemetery. There are cemeteries all over the island because for the longest time there was no designated cemetery so every family had their own little cemetery on their property. Many of them are still in use today.

It wasn't too long of a walk to the lighthouse:

The kids thought this little lighthouse money box was so cute!

Here are Daddy, Grandma and Zoë by the door of the lighthouse:

And here's Zoë having another shoulder ride:

And our little family by the lighthouse:

Grandpa was leaning against this fence, looking at the lighthouse, when Miriam suddenly scaled the fence and hopped onto his shoulders. Ready, or not, Grandpa, here she comes!

There were a lot of shoulder rides going on this trip.

On our drive to the Ocracoke visitor's center, Andrew and I found our dream home. It has a toilet on the front porch and everything!

The visitor's center is by the pay-per-use ferry terminal, which is a lot less busy than the free (tax-funded) one. But there was still plenty going on. Benjamin enjoyed watching this crane unload a ship onto the docks:

Inside the visitor's center, the kids got to take their Junior Ranger oath and receive their badges:

Miriam and Benjamin were both super happy junior rangers:

Rachel was probably the most excited about actually doing the activities to earn her badge, but when she got it she mumbled, "Thanks," and shoved it in her pocket. She never put it on. Miriam and Benjamin took a little more coaxing to complete their activities (if we're honest Benjamin only did a couple and scribbled on the rest of the pages) but were two of the proudest junior rangers you'd ever see.

Here's the view over the Silver Lake harbour:

We had a little picnic at the visitor's center and then loaded up in our vehicles to catch the ferry again. We got there shortly before 12:00 and made it on the ferry without any problem at all. Going early in the day is certainly key to avoiding lines.

While Andrew took the three big kids to the passenger lounge and Grandma and Grandpa napped in their car, Zoë and I hung out in the van to nurse. We also had a fun time watching the birds; Zoë thought they were delightful. They were hovering right outside our window (probably hoping we'd toss them a treat).

When she was finished eating and watching the birds had lost its novelty, Zoë and I made our way up top to find the rest of our family. I thought this sign on the door was funny because what does a pirate say? Arr!

Here we are hanging out in the lounge:

Benjamin can name all the lighthouses on this map. Probably because we quizzed him for a good half-hour on them. "Where's Bald Head? Good. Now, where's Cape Hattaras?" I suppose we'd also visited Bodie, Hattaras, and Ocracoke just that week so he was pretty familiar with how those looked.

Here's Miriam peeking over one of the seats (with Rachel shamelessly digging for gold in the background):

And here's Zoë testing her lighthouse IQ. She didn't do as well as Benjamin did but she certainly covered them all!

And that about sums up our trip to Ocracoke. I'm so glad we managed to make it down there because it was the highlight of our trip for many; it made Benjamin and Miriam deliriously happy (and it was also fun for the rest of us).

PS. We kept joking about visiting turnip-greens and Pepsi (as opposed to okra and Coke) but, as it turns out, the name of the island is actually a Native American word. It was called Wokokkon by the Hattarask natives, the tribe of Woccon.

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