MST – Day 64 – 4-27-11 – ORV #2 to Jockey's Ridge State Park Summit – 12.4 Miles
That feeling of anticipation is often as delicious as the fulfillment of the experience itself: Christmas morning… 21st birthday…reaching a significant summit in a hiking challenge. I’ve said before, the only thing better than the beginning of a hike is the end of a hike.
Although Danny and I both had more to do to complete the MST, climbing the tallest sand dune in the Eastern United States at Jockey's Ridge State Park carried much significance for both of us. After all, it would be our last day together on this challenge and we had logged lot of miles as a hiking duo. We had envisioned this day since 10/21/09 when we stood at Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies and pointed our feet east on the MST.
We started out from ORV #2 and walked onto the beach. I took off my shoes to walk barefoot for a while.
Before long we reached the edge of civilization, beachfront houses practically standing in the water. It dawned on me that these houses were damaged in past hurricanes, no longer inhabitable, but still standing at the edge like memories, some tilting forward and some tilting back.
At the Outer Banks pier the usual suspects were fishing and enjoying cold beverages from their coolers. These boys looked like they were old hands. Every kid needs to go fishing at least once, don’t you think?
No more solitude for us as casual beach walkers appeared. A group gathered around a small shark that had washed up on shore, still gasping. A man threw it back into the water but it washed up again, unable to swim away.
We picked a point to get off the beach, perhaps a little too soon, because all that was left was walking on a sidewalk beside Highway 12, busier now. We reached our left turn street and found our way to the entrance to Jockey's Ridge State Park.
Danny and I retrieved the sparkling apple juice and chocolate that we had stowed in the car to celebrate on the summit. I picked up my hiking sticks for the first time since we arrived at the Outer Banks. Danny was very animated, excited at our impending triumph, and I enjoyed seeing her enthusiasm.
The ranger in the office radioed Laura Arrington, who was patrolling in the park, and she agreed to meet us at the summit. But where is the summit? Well, it depends on how the wind is blowing. There is no marker because the high point changes slightly as the sand shifts. Out the back door of the visitor center the trail to the dunes begins. The wind was blowing significantly and the sand was deep and soft. This wasn’t going to be the stroll I thought it would be. Dozens of people were trekking back and forth as we squished our way up the first sand dune. And at the top…was the view of the REAL dune.
Now the wind was blowing sand horizontally, so hard it hurt on bare skin, and I was worried about damaging my camera. And again, thank goodness for my sunglasses. Every hiker for herself – I saw Laura and another woman on a golf cart waving wildly at the top, so I aimed myself in their direction. Wind, sand, beaming sunshine: and there we were.
We celebrated quickly with our treats and then hightailed it back to the visitor center to sit down and have a snack, since it was impossible to picnic on top of the dune as we had hoped.
Danny planned to hang around for a few days until she could meet up with friends to finish her MST road walking, so she would return to Jockey's Ridge when conditions were better. Me, I had a seven-hour drive to get back home. I grabbed a quick shower at the hotel and said goodbye for now to my hiking buddy. I know that Danny and I have many more adventures ahead. Her story of the day is here.
I sang along with my Glee CD’s all the way home.
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~C.S. Lewis