The Brunswick Islands in North Carolina stretch from Sunset Beach near the South Carolina border east to Bald Head Island. They’re not technically part of the Outer Banks, but in reality they kind of are–except (at least it seems to us) they’re less crowded and come with fewer traffic hassles. Win-win. Plus, they face south so there’s no blinding sun in your face every morning. We’ve been to Ocean Isle Beach many times, and this past summer we decided to try Sunset Beach for a slight change of scenery. What I love most about running and geocaching is that they both give me a chance to explore, and I thought it might be fun to recap our vacation by sharing some of the beauty I encountered on my running and caching adventures.
(If you’re visiting this blog for the first time, this is my second post. Be sure to check out my first one, in which I tell you a little bit about how I got into running and geocaching, and why I call myself RunnerCacher.)
On our first full day in Sunset Beach, I went for a 3-mile run in the morning before church. I wanted to explore the island a little bit, since this was our first visit there. I also wanted to try running on the beach. I loved that, of course! (On my other blog, I like to post pictures of churches we visit when we travel. If you want you can check out my post from a couple of years ago, about St. Brendan’s in Shallotte where we attended Mass.)
Two years ago, when we were vacationing in nearby Ocean Isle Beach, there was only one cache I never did find out of all the ones I looked for. It was Lilah, in a little park on the causeway after you crossed the bridge to the island. Of course that one HAD to be the first one I found on this trip, so on Sunday after Mass and a few hours on the beach, made the short drive to Ocean Isle. I remembered the last time I looked for this cache, crawling around on my hands and knees underneath bushes, and I hoped I wouldn’t be doing that again. This time I hopped out of the car and walked right up to the cache. It’s a beautiful spot, and although I didn’t take a photo, there are lots of them on the cache page!
(The view from the rooftop area of Pogie’s, a restaurant in Ocean Isle Beach near the Lilah geocache.)
At the west end of Sunset Beach, there is a wildlife preserve called Bird Island. It’s only accessible at low tide, and there is a two-stage multi-cache that has been there since 2001. I checked the tide charts, and the time to go would be Monday morning.
It was a glorious three-mile run along the beach. In order to find the geocache, I had to pick my way around dunes and bushes. According to the description on Geocaching.com, I would be looking for a rock in the bushes, with a painted arrow pointing me toward the cache. As I was looking for a painted rock, I spotted the green metal ammo box that could only be the geocache. After making my way back to the beach and dumping the sand out of my shoes, I ran the three miles back to the beach house. Six solid miles of beach running! (Cue angelic music)
(When I saw this, I didn’t know what it was. It’s Kindred Spirit. Inside is a notebook and a pen, and you can write down your hopes and dreams and deepest secrets. Next time I’m here I’ll be sure to take a look, and maybe write something. Who knows what.)
Not long ago in Sunset Beach, there was a floating drawbridge leading from the mainland to the island. In recent years it has been replaced by a tall, more modern one. At the end of the causeway next to the new bridge, there is a geocache called Bridge View. My morning run took me there, and luckily the cache was an easy find. (I like finding geocaches when I’m out running, but when I end up stopping for fifteen minutes to look around for something I can’t find it can be annoying.) And the view was lovely, too!
Every time you find a geocache in a different state, you get a little virtual badge called a souvenir. Sunset Beach is so close to South Carolina that it seemed like a waste not to find a cache in that state. Thursday morning I got up before the sun was up (my family thought I was nuts, of course) and drove to North Myrtle Beach, where I visited an earthcache, a very cool kind of virtual where you have to do a little bit of work and learn something about the scientific aspects of that location. This one had you examine the features of the Hog Inlet, and observe the flow of the water and estimate the width of certain parts of the inlet.
I also found a physical cache at the same location, a magnetic key holder at the base of a wind turbine. And I got my South Carolina souvenir!
Long Run Day. Since I was training for the Richmond Marathon, and I needed to take a 16- or 17-mile long run sometime that week, I decided that our last day at Sunset Beach would be the perfect day for a long run. I left the beach house at 5 am, ran up and down the semi- lighted streets for a while, and as soon as there was the tiniest bit of light in the sky, I headed out to the beach. I discovered that if I hugged the edge of the surf, there was just enough reflection of the lightening sky that I could see the way in front of me well enough not to step in any holes and such. I ran to the east end of the island and back toward the west end (not all the way to Bird Island, though; the tide was too high for that).
After running up and down the beach for about five miles, I ran through the streets again for a bit, stopped by the beach house for a pit stop and a quick snack, and then ventured across the bridge to the mainland. I ran for a couple of miles through what looked like any ordinary residential neighborhood, to a geocache at the end of one street. Fortunately that was another easy one, and I found it quickly and moved on. Back down the long street, through the roundabout, across the bridge. By that time I had run 15 miles and was getting pretty tired and hot. I made my way up and down a few more streets and back toward our beach house. I ran 16.55 miles that morning, and I think I was using a run/walk interval of 1:30/30.
(Looking west, toward Bird Island and South Carolina. Almost finished with my run…)
I don’t often swim in the ocean when we go to the beach. I’m usually content to just sit in my beach chair with my nose in a book or watching the waves. I got in the water that day, though, and BOY, did it feel good. I wish I could swim in the ocean after every long run!
6. Totals for this trip:
Geocache finds: Fourteen, including one quick grab during a pit stop on the trip home. (Don’t laugh, you die-hard cachers. I’m lucky if I find that many in a month.)
DNF (Did not find): Four. Not bad, considering that on our Thanksgiving trip to Atlanta, I looked for seven caches and only found three. But that’s another story.
Miles run: 30
Miles run on the beach: 13
There was much more to our vacation than running and geocaching, of course. The rest of the family did neither of those things. My husband Ray and my middle son Chris are into ham radio, and they brought a portable unit and antenna to the beach and had a great time playing with them. There were kites, bocce games, boogie boarding, and many walks on the beach. We read books and went to the movies. There was go-karting and browsing cheesy gift shops. We ate at some great restaurants, too; our new favorite is Sugar Shack, a Jamaican place in Ocean Isle Beach.
This Sunday I’m running the Holiday Half at Burke Lake in Fairfax. I’ve never been to that park, and I figured a race would be a great excuse to visit (that’s how I discovered Mason Neck). It feels a little bit strange to be able to just sign up for a half marathon on a whim and not really have to train for it, but WOW, if I just keep my mileage up, I can do one every month if I want to! I had my outfit all picked out–my Saucony Bullet tights and Richmond Marathon tech shirt, topped off with a Santa hat. I even hot glued it down in places to keep the big pom-pom from bouncing while I run. Well, guess what? The weather report calls for a high of around 70 degrees! Too hot for a Santa hat. Looks like it will be capris (Saucony Bullets of course. Maybe I can get them to sponsor me, ha) and a short-sleeved tech shirt. I have some Christmas socks I might wear, so at least I’ll have a little holiday theme-age going on I think. Stay tuned for the race report. Will there be any geocaches involved? We’ll see!
Have a great weekend, and for more Quick Takes, visit Annabelle’s BEAUTIFUL blog, Written By the Finger of God. (Let me just say, I WANT TO GO TO CEBU after reading her post.) There’s a pretty swell linkup going on there, too!