October is the perfect time of year to go camping in the Outer Banks. The crowds clear out after Labor Day weekend so there isn’t any traffic but there are still enough people on the islands so most of the shops are still open. The humidity is gone so the sky looks significantly crisper but the water still holds the warmth from scorching August temperatures. It’s towards the end of hurricane season so an occasional offshore storm can bring a swell with higher waves and strengthened rip currents, but the rip currents are a problem regardless.
Camping at Oregon Inlet was the perfect way to end summer and welcome in fall. Oregon Inlet is nestled South of Nags Head, a few miles into the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. There are no houses built along the beach, all residents are outside of the Seashore. The sand dunes have been left to their own, the wind forming ripples in the ridges and surf carving a steep edge straight to the waters edge. Chaparral and other shrubs grow along the ridge, dotted with the occasional wildflower. The plants are desert like and there is no shade, another reason October is ideal.
The campsites in Oregon Inlet are set up so you are a short walk over the dunes to the ocean. A day at the beach is about the same whether you are day-tripping, camping, or lodging somewhere. You have the typical ingredients: beach, sand, sunscreen, towel, book, sunglasses, beverages. The big difference about camping is the sound of the waves crashing as you sleep, the salty breeze through your tent netting keeping you cool, and the stars.
The thing about being at the National Seashore is the lack of housing eliminates a lot of the light pollution giving you truly dark skies. I’d have a picture but I only had my iPhone due to leaving my batteries in the charger at home. There isn’t a lot of hiking involved but there is plenty to do. Charlie, Lily, and I frolicked through the dunes to watch sunset over the ocean, drinking beers and enjoying the view. Then we sat outside our tent, a blanket sprawled so pup didn’t get any sandburs stuck in her, and watched the sky slowly darken until it was blanketed in stars, the Milky Way dancing through the middle of the sky.
We sat in silence enjoying the sound of the ocean and the view of the sky until we noticed visibility fading. There was a brilliant orange glow coming from above the dunes. I was fairly convinced someone was using the light to fish at night, until the orange glow continued to get brighter. All of a sudden it dawned on me: it was the moon! It was only a couple of days after the last full moon so the sky really wasn’t supposed to be all that dark at all. We scurried back over the dunes and watched the nearly-full moon scatter light as it rose above the crashing waves. It was absolutely stunning. One of the best nights of my life.
There is nothing quite like feeling relaxed at the beach, away from the crowds, enjoying the last days of summer beneath the Milky Way.
The moon was so bright we put the rainfly on our tent with only one of our tent “windows” open to let the breeze in. We woke early the next morning to watch the sunrise. Another beautiful thing about fall? Sunrise lets you sleep in a little later. We woke at 6:30am (sleeping in late for us) to see the sun come up at 7:00am.
Charlie made the climb up Bodie Island Lighthouse, the last day for climbing the lighthouses for the season. I stayed at the base and walked Lily around since “No Dogs Allowed.” Then we headed to Nags Head where we stopped at Waveriders for cold brewed iced coffee and Panini pressed bagel sandwiches inside a brilliant pastel colored building. If you find yourself out in the Outer Banks wondering what is good to eat, my suggestion is this: find the spots with a line waiting out the door and call it “jackpot.”