Saturday, December 17, 2011

Vacation Day 3 - Thursday - MacKay NWR

I left Mattamuskeet about 1400 on Wednesday.  I was debating at this point whether to pack it in or continue on to my next planned destination of MacKays NWR on Knotts Island in the far NE part of the State.  When I reached the turn off road which was the point of decision I decided to go for it.  I spent the night in Elizabeth City which was about the closest place to find accomodations. 

I did not leave the motel too early the next morning.  The first ferry over to Knotts Island was at 0630 and priority was to school buses and residents "priority" folks.  Being in unfamiliar territory and knowing I was in an area of high density deer populations, I planned for catching the 0900 ferry.

I arrived at the Currituck crossing and had some time to kill so I pulled out the laptop and looked at the previous days pictures.  I noticed a school bus sitting and waiting off to the side and was curious.  When the ferry arrived, a large group of jr high and high school age children walked off the ferry.  It struck me that kids that fuss about having to walk up the street to catch a bus don't have a clue.  Morning and after school, these kids have a 30 minute ferry ride each way.  Definitely a different lifestyle.

Loading began around 0845 for the trip across.  It was a fairly short drive to the refuge once I disembarked.  Unfortunately, most of the areas were blocked off to protect and provide quiet for the migratory waterfowl.  I was very disappointed.  A couple of hawks, juvenile White-faced Ibis, Great Blue's and Egrets were around.  Plenty of Coots and Grebes but not much else.  I did get a couple of good shots of an Egret that had just caught a fish.

I stopped and spoke with another couple in the refuge that lived on the Virgina side.  I asked was this it?  There was one other area with an observation deck so I headed there.  NOTHING!  Unfortunately, the best areas that had high density ducks were in the cannals along the road and there simply was no where to pull over.  Drivers were flying down the road so you could not even slow down to look.  So, this is one place I will not be going back.  Next ferry was leaving at 1200 and I headed back to catch it.

On the way home, I stopped in Edenton, NC for a bite to eat.  I had heard the riverfront area was quite charming so I decided to go the extra couple of blocks since I was there.  If you can't enjoy the journey, why go?  Some beautiful old homes fixed up nicely and well cared for.  I wished I had more time to look around longer.  A mixture of colonial and victorian styles.  Down along the riverfront at the park, I noticed a building sitting on movers.  When comparing early built structures and modern buildings, there is without a doubt a charm that exists in the earlier buildings that is sorely lacking in the stip mall (lack of) architecture of today.  There is just something very comforting, warm and inviting about a grand old victorian home with gingerbread fretwork versus the cookie cutter developments that are springing up everywhere today.

I walked over to a couple sitting in the park and started talking with them about the building.  This is the Roanoke River Lighthouse.  Constructed in 1886 by the US Lighthouse Service, it served as a navigational beacon on the Albemarle Sound.  It marked the entrance to the Roanoke River that was the main commercial passageway to the upstream towns of Plymouth and Williamston.  The lighthouse remained in service until 1941 when it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard.  In 1955, it was purchased by Mr. Emmett Wiggins and moved to Edenton.  The Edenton Historical Commission later purchased and has done an outstanding restoration of the building.  Of more that 20 lighthouses that marked the rivers and sounds of the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, it is the last example of a square sided, screw-piled lighthouse. More info here Edenton Historical Commission

When I asked why it was still up on the movers....government red tape on allowing it to be placed in the new location.  It seems like permits have hopefully been approved but with the government, who knows.  A private group of folks preserve a piece of history, then the government wants to step in. 

Moving on, I thought with MacKay checked off the list, I had visited all of the NWR's in the NE portion of the State.  Dang, the lighthouse triggered the memory of another then I rode by it on the way home.  That is the Roanoke River NWR.  The best way to see this is in a canoe so I will have to find a canoing partner for a spring visit.  From the FWS brochure " At least 219 birds including 88 breeding species have been identified on or near the Refuge. The Roanoke River floodplain is believed to support the highest density of nesting birds, especially songbirds, anywhere in North Carolina."

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