NATURE PROVIDES ANOTHER SIDE TO THE BARRIER ISLANDS
A trip to the Outer Banks starts with the simple thingsa bathing suit, suntan lotion, a beach towel, a favorite book, a pair of sandals and, of course, good walking shoes and a bicycle.
Walking shoes and a bicycle? Hard to imagine, but there is another side to the Outer Banks. Away from the sand and the surf, there is a different world to exploremulti-use paths take bikers and runners from Corolla to South Nags Head. Forest trails wind their way through hidden glens and towering pine and hardwood trees. There are breathtaking vistas, forgotten grave sites and dirt roadsall within the sound of the roar of the ocean.
The main roads on the Outer Banks are as flat and straight as a highway in Iowa, but to the west there are a line of dunes that have been gathering sand for a few thousand years. They are largeJockey's Ridge, probably the best known natural landmark on the Outer Banks, is in Nags Head and is the largest sand dune on the East Coast.
Jockey's Ridge State Park is a gem, although as the most visited park in the North Carolina system, it does not qualify as "hidden." There is almost no vegetation in the park, and with little vegetation and being the highest point around, it is perfect for kite flying.
The park is at the southern end of a series of dunes, and on the protected soundside of the dunes is one of the most remarkable woodlands environments imaginable.
Walking the trails of Nags Head Woods, north of Jockey's Ridge, it's hard to imagine the Atlantic Ocean is so close. Steep hills are covered in hardwood trees. The hillsides are so steep that they almost form ravines as they fall to marsh and wetlands.
To get to Nags Head Woods, turn at the light at the McDonalds in Kill Devil Hills. The Visitor's Center is on the left about 150 yards past the crest of the hill. The road at this point is hard packed dirt, and that road can be followed to the sound by turning left at the T a little farther on. Framed by a huge live oak that stretches over the water, the panorama at the end of the road is spectacular. This road, incidentally, is a wonderful ride for any bike designed for off-road use.
Nags Head Woods is one of a series of protected forest environments extending from Carova in the north to Cape Hatteras in the south. Buxton Woods is so close to Cape Hatteras, in fact, that some of its trails connect directly with the National Park site.
Buxton Woods has a subtropical feel to it. Palmetto plants grow at the feet of pine and hardwoods. The trails are sandy and easy to navigate. There is a riding stable nearbythe horses are healthy and the guides have lived in Buxton just about all their lives.
At the far northern end of the Outer Banks is the Currituck Banks Trail. The trailhead is at a sharp (90-degree) bend in the road about a half mile before the paved road ends. There is a boardwalk that leads to the sound and is great for families with small children. However, about 15 yards along the boardwalk there are two steps leading to a trail through the woods that is longer, more interesting and should be suitable for children 8 and up.
Located in Kitty Hawk, Kitty Hawk Woods is a sprawling expanse of rolling hills, old growth trees and multi-use paths. The Woods Road is the second light past the Wright Memorial Bridge and is aptly named, going through the heart of Kitty Hawk Woods.
There is a multi-use path that runs parallel to the Woods Road that is perfect for the whole family. As a bike path it is part of a series of interconnected paths and marked trails that extend well into Corolla in the north and to the Bodie Island Light in the south.
Kitty Hawk Woods has a series of dirt paths throughout the reserve. Multi-use trails are used by walkers, runners and mountain bikes. The trails might be difficult for someone just starting on a mountain bike, but anyone who has fat tires and knows how to use their gears should be fine.
The dirt trails are a little difficult to find. There is a trailhead off Eckner Street, but it's located at a small dirt spur off the street and can be difficult to see.
A personal favoriteeasier to find, toois to go down the Woods Road to Twiford (the first road on your right. Go across the bridge, and continue to the cemetery at the end of the road. Turn right and turn right again on Ridge Road and go to the end.
Park your car and discover another side to the Outer Banks. Away from the crowds of the beach and the summer traffic jams, there is little to hear, but the sound of wind in the trees, birds in the woods and the distant sound of waves upon the shore.
OUTER BANKS' RECOMMENDED MERCHANTS
THE BLUE POINT
Celebrating 20 years of dining excellence on the Outer Banks, The Blue Point offers unequaled southern hospitality and dynamic southern cuisine over-looking the beautiful Currituck Sound. 1240 Duck Rd., Duck N.C. 27949, 252-261-8090
BRINDLEY BEACH VACATIONS & SALES
Brindley Beach Vacations offers 210-bedroom homes, private pools, hot tubs, pets, oceanfront to soundfront, linens and towels provided, all close to shopping and restaurants.www.brindleybeach.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolina Designs Realty
Managing premium vacation rental homes from Corolla to Nags Head for over 20 years. A great reputation for providing superior service to our guests. All rental homes provide linens and high speed Internet. 1197 Duck Road, Duck,
NC 27949, 800-368-3825, www.carolinadesigns.com, www.obxsales.com
Hilton Garden Inn
Centrally located in Kitty Hawk, between the North and South Beaches, The Hilton Garden Inns gorgeous design and outstanding amenities are only surpassed by endless oceanfront views! 252-261-1290, www.outerbanks.stayhgi.com
Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates
Providing quality vacation rental accommodations to Outer Banks visitors since 1968. Over 550 vacation homes Nags Head to Duck, from cozy cottages and condos, to grand12-bedroom oceanfront manors. 4607 N. Croatan Hwy. Mile Post 2.7, Kitty Hawk, NC , 800-552-6257, www.joelambjr.com
Mill Run Golf Club
Now under new management, 6716 yard par 72, challenging for the best, yet fun for the occasional golfer. Driving range, practice green, bunker & chipping area. All Day Golf Only $45 with coupon! 109 Greenview Rd., off Highway 168, Moyock, NC (only 10 minutes from Chesapeake). 252-435-6455, www.millrungolfclub.us
Ramada Plaza Hotel
Located in Kill Devil Hills, the Ramada Plaza Resort offers a beautiful oceanfront, full-service catering/bar, an oceanview ballroom and restaurant, an indoor/outdoor pool with Jacuzzi and much more. 252-441-2151, 800-635-1824. www.ramadaplazanagshead.com