Thursday, August 20, 2015

Barrier Island Riches...

We wonder as we wander this fragile strand of sand at the dramatic changes in the shoreline since last we trod this ground a mere six months ago. 

Melting ice and rising seas in the aftermath of the last glacial maximum some 18,000 years ago most likely flooded the areas behind the beach ridges along the North Carolina coast, creating the narrow strip of so-called barrier islands which define our stretch of the Mid-Atlantic seaboard, and upon which we've shared countless adventures with friends and family throughout our brief lifetimes. 

Over the intervening millennia, the wind and waves and sand have conspired to bolster and maintain these unique islands, though the barrier we know best, Bogue Banks, seems inclined to dramatically alter its shape with almost every tide.

These shifting sands provide habitat for countless creatures, 
some too small to see, many hidden beneath the sea-sodden sands.

Others we encounter as vacant shells, 
worn and tumbled relics of the fascinating lives of beautiful and mysterious seashore creatures, whose fate it is now to join their ancestors in replenishing the ever-shifting sands. 

Some are very much alive, oblivious to our intrusive eyes, 
carrying on with their breeding and feeding and living, 
just as they had been for countless eons before humans ever set foot upon these sacred shores.

A few miles away, along the island's mainland side, we glide effortlessly over the sheltered waters of Bogue Sound, feeling for a moment the joy of the loggerhead or the dolphin or the manatee as they cruise the inlets and islands and eel grass beds...

Thousands of fiddler crabs scurry through the spartina in advance of our careful steps,

their legs rustling against one another and the salt crusted reeds, 
blending with the occasional osprey's cry and the gentle lapping of the waves against the kayak's hull... the gentle sounds of the gentle sound on a calm, clear day.

Mussels, oysters, scallops, whelks, pen shells and tulips call the island's waters home, 
bivalves and gastropods, 
mollusks inhabiting the margins of land and sea for untold millions of years,

meeting us, 
like our ancestors, 
as we explore the countless ecological niches of the marsh and the estuary and the pounding surf,

bounded back and front by the constant, ever-changing, barrier islands.

And, as another of our precious days draws to a close, 
lit by the waning rays of this eternal cycle of the sun,
we drift from one miracle of nature to another, 
humbled and grateful for our place among them,
here in the lee of the barrier island of Bogue.

Photos courtesy of Hunter Randolph...

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