The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery

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Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Maritime Forest Currituck Sound Circumnavigation

Monday May 19, 2003

When our group arrived to Nags Head in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Sunday May 18th, the forecast didn't sound too promising.

Interestingly, although we left at different times and from different areas of NJ, Tom Kelly, Chuck and Joyce Allison, Patrick Ford and his girlfriend Stephanie and myself all arrived to our motel at about 4 pm on Sunday.  After settling in, we made our way over to the Run Down Cafe in Kitty Hawk for some food, drinks and to go over our paddling plan, despite the horrible forecast.
 
With high winds predicted for the following day, we changed our itinerary around a bit to paddle a more protected route than the one originally planned for Monday which was all open water.
 
On Monday May 19, after a quick continental breakfast at the motel, we headed off to the launch site on Bob Perry Rd for the Maritime Forest in Kitty Hawk Woods.  The Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve and Maritime Forest is a 600 acre preserve which is co-managed by the town of
Kitty Hawk and the North Carolina Coastal Reserve. The Jean Guite Creek in the forest meanders through maritime shrub swamp, forest, sedge and salt marsh habitats and provides an excellent paddling trail.
 
Our first paddle was planned to be around 17-18 miles with equal stretches of both protected and open water.  We launched into the Maritime Forest creek at about 10 am under grey skies, and cooler than normal seasonal temperatures in the low 60's. We were mostly protected by the wind which was blowing from the Northeast at about 10 knots.  Within the first mile, Joyce and Chuck spotted a water moccasin slithering atop the water along the shore and past all our boats. We let it have the right of way and it passed uneventfully. We also saw a lone nutria foraging for food on the side of the creek.  The creek was very still and darker than usual with the tree coverings and the dark skies.  The darkness also made it seem quieter than normal as our group paddled north along the narrow passage. We saw quite a few yellow finches and a number of woodpeckers working on some old dead trees.  Our route up the creek also required us to do the limbo under a fallen tree.
 
After a leisurely and peaceful paddle of about 2.25 miles we approached the Bridge for Rt 158 and Tom landed at the Kitty Hawk Sports Store ramp to see if they had any cold drinks for sale since he forgot his ice tea bottle.  No luck on the cold drinks, but a few of us decided to use their porta potti and then continued on our way up the creek into the Jean Guite Bay.

As the creek widened into the bay, we had less protection from the winds which had now increased to about 15 knots.  Paddling along the eastern shore provided a bit of a lee and eased the wind resistance somewhat.  We made our way up to the end of the bay where we landed on the shoreline, opposite the gated community of large waterfront homes known as Martins Point. We decided to have lunch at this landing which was the site of a a small marina.  The marina had picnic tables and many trees which provided some shelter from the wind and light rain which had begun shortly after we landed.
 
Since our next stretch around Martins Point and into the Currituck Sound was going to be all open water, I scouted conditions with my binoculars.  There was some mild chop and if winds continued from the same direction, we would have a nice tail wind to help push us for our 6 mile stretch of paddling along the shoreline in the wide open Currituck Sound.
 
After lunch we headed around the point and into the sound.  We had the wind and light to moderate rain at our backs and although I usually don't enjoy paddling in the rain, there was something very nice about the conditions.  With very little paddling effort, we cruised at speeds of about 4.5 mph along the shoreline with the help of the tailwind and a mild following sea.  On our first mile along the sound side, we saw two deer checking us out before scampering back into the woods. 

We continued on a fairly rapid pace with the tailwinds and following swells until we neared the Kitty Hawk Bay. As we rounded the point we realized how fierce the headwinds were. To avoid having to paddle an extra few miles into the headwind on our return trip, we decided not to paddle any farther south into the Kitty Hawk Bay as planned on our original course.  As an alternate course, we cut into the bay and just shortly back into the mouth of the Maritime Forest Creek, finally making our way through 1.5 miles of meandering creek to our takeout.  
 
For our first day of paddling, we logged close to 14 miles and with the head wind, it seemed like all of it was paddled in the last one mile stretch! Later that evening, we  had dinner and drinks at Mama Kwan's in Kill Devil Hills.

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