Ferry boat ride from:
Island Express Ferry Service
Harkers Island, NC
|Summary of activities:
Ferry boat ride
followed by a light house climb
Beach Shuttle transport
to a shelling opportunity
Today started at 5:30AM for our planned visit to Cape Lookout National Seashore. Breakfast, pack-a-lunch and water, then showers and it was 6:30AM before we finally pulled out of the campsite. The park is about an hour's drive from here and we are supposed to check in at 7:45AM for our 8:15AM scheduled departure on the ferry. We should be able to make it on time.
The short 15 minute ferry ride was surprisingly full for a Wednesday morning. Some passengers had purchased tickets to be dropped off first at the Shackleford Banks and then later be transported to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. They paid an $11.00 upcharge for that privilege and we got to see it for free, granted we didn't get to leave the boat. The big draw to visit Shackleford Banks is to possibly get a glimpse of some of the 115 wild horses that inhabit the island. We got to see 5 of them grazing on the grasses close to the shoreline when we cruised by.
Next stop was the Cape Lookout Lighthouse where we got off. It's about 8:45AM right now and the tickets for the first climb ($8.00) of the lighthouse isn't until 10:00AM, what to do? The gift shop opens at 9:00AM, nah! There is a beach shuttle ($13 ticket) at 9:30AM that transports you three miles south to the very tip of Cape Lookout, let's go do that! We were sitting next to the shuttle operator on the ferry coming over and he says it's something you don't want to miss, but what else would he say. We walk about 100 yards down a boardwalk to where the beach shuttle is parked and the first thing we see is Gene, the operator, looking at a flat tire. It's this big flatbed military surplus vehicle with 4 foot tall tires and more than a dozen lug nuts. He says not to worry, he doesn't have to change the tire, just put air in it. He informs us this vehicle is equipped with an onboard air system that should make this a quick fix. But the hose he has doesn't have the correct fitting to connect to the tire valve. He makes a phone call for the correct part and then takes cell phone numbers from everyone who is waiting and says he will call us when he has it fixed.
It's about 9:45AM, now what do we do? We go back to the lighthouse ticket window just in time to see the Ranger open up. They limit the number of climbers to 10 every 15 minutes so it doesn't get to crowded at the top of the lighthouse and there isn't unnecessary traffic passing on the up and down on the narrow stairs. Speaking of stairs, 207 of them to get to the top of this 11 story lighthouse, but we're up for it, I hope. A couple of younger parents with their two young girls beat us to the top, but we gave them a head start.
Once at the top the views were amazing. You could see for miles in all directions, the weather was clear with a nice breeze. After what seemed like only a few minutes (it was probably 20) the attendant at the top urged us back into the lighthouse to begin our decent so others waiting at the bottom could start their climb. We worked so hard to get up there I didn't want to leave, but we agreed to give up our space at the top. Going down was much easier and faster, but still 207 stairs.
Just as we exited the lighthouse Gene called to say he had the shuttle truck fixed and would be leaving in five minutes. We had to get moving if we wanted to make that first trip out to Cape Point. Gene was right, the views from Cape Point were amazing. It was hard to tell where the land stopped and the ocean started, but that line in the sand gets moved every minute throughout the day. Over the recent years with all the hurricanes that have struck this coast that same line has moved more than a mile in and out.
As our first National Seashore visit we were not leaving unimpressed. Let's hope the other nine are just as impressive.
CAPE LOOKOUT NATIONAL SEASHORE
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