Southern Latitudes: Dry Tortugas National Park

No shoes, no shirt, no problem…

Yesterday was dreary, miserable and frigid. It was as if winter was trying to remind us that its not quite through with us yet. All those chilly drafts wafting through the studio had me wishing for warmer climates, salty air, a sunny beach and clear blue water.

Almost 70 miles West of Key West hidden among one of the largest Maritime preserves in the world, is just the beach I’m dreaming of. Dry Tortugas National Park, is arguably one of the most remote and most beautiful parks in the US.  Accessibly only by boat or seaplane, just getting to the park is an adventure. tortugas_1

Spend the day snorkeling the reef and exploring the ocean front fortress of Ft. Jefferson. If you’ve ever imagined an island paradise, it probably looked an awful lot like this.Jefferson_1

While a day on the island is satisfying, spend a few nights and you’ll never want to leave.  Camping on the island is limited and primitive, but offers its own set of rewards. At the end of each day, when the boats board up, and the seaplanes depart intrepid travelers have a rare and unique opportunity, a National Park all to themselves.  Without the interference of artificial light, stars over the water shine bright, and the ocean glows with the life light of bioluminescence. Its a once in a lifetime experience you will want to repeat time and time again.

happycampers

The “Dry” Tortugas are aptly named for their lack of fresh water. Travelers who plan on spending a night are responsible for their own supplies of potable water and any other supplies they may need. Know before you go…get all the details you need by visiting the park’s website here.

Shop for theses images and more at the Rebelphoto shop, here.

 

The Crystal Coast: Cape Lookout

SailorsDelightClose your eyes and imagine an undisturbed island, with wild shores, crashing waves, and howling winds. Wild ponies roam, and the rustic beaches are rich with shells and sea life.  The good news is you don’t have to imagine this place. It exists.

$5 and a  15 minute ferry ride around Shackelford Banks from Harkers Island will get you there. Stay for an hour, a day, or a few days, the choice is your’s. Nestled within the tumultuous waters of Lookout Shoals, Cape Lookout National Seashore is the perfect refuge for those seeking solitude and nature.  If you visit in the cooler months, solitude is exactly what you’ll get.

Looming over the island and guarding the coast is the 163 ft. Diamond Lady. Named for her black and white diamond daymark, the Cape Lookout lighthouse stands in beautiful contrast to the raw nature of Cape Lookout.blackandwhitebeautylight_1

seatstakenThe second lighthouse on the island, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse was completed on Nov. 1, 1859 and has survived more than her fair share of conflict.  In 1861, during the Civil War out of fear that Union forces would use the light to navigate the coastline, the Diamond Lady went dark, all her lenses and lamps removed. She stood lifeless for almost a full year until 1862 when Union troops who had captured nearby Beaufort and Morehead City brought her back to life. However, her time of conflict had not passed. On April 2, 1864 a small group of confederate soldiers snuck out in the night and attempted to blow the lighthouse up, they were not successful in their attempt. However, the Diamond Lady did not make it through the ordeal unharmed. A large portion of her iron stairwell was blown away, and was replaced with wood until after the war when iron was once again readily available.keepershousebw

Today she still stands guard lighting the coastline for ships and sailors. Annually in the summer months visitors from around the globe flock to her shores to climb the tower, and explore her island home. Survivor, savior, guardian the Cape Lookout Lighthouse stands as a testament to the history and beauty of the NC Coastline.

For more information about visiting the Lighthouse, Keeper’s Quarters and Cape Lookout National Seashore  click here.

 

 

The Crystal Coast: Old Baldy

Old Baldy. The title of this post might be a teensy bit misleading, if you think I’m referring to some aged long lost relative under certain circumstances you might be right. In this case though, not.

 

closesignBuilt in 1817, the Bald Head Island Lighthouse affectionately known as “Old Baldy” has been standing guard over the mouth of the Cape Fear River for over 187 years. lightin bw

When you step off the ferry on to Bald Head Island it is hard to imagine the beautifully manicured and maintained resort island could be home to the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina. Originally known as Smith Island ( after a wealthy Charleston merchant), this gorgeous little barrier island as long been a destination for Native Americans, fishermen, explorers and pirates. The most famous among them being the infamous Stede Bonnet.  Now days, Bald Head Island is more vacationer’s paradise than pirate’s playground; but none the less once you know the history of this tiny little island it is easy to see all of it’s uniquely hidden secrets.

stairwaytoheaven_1Old Baldy despite it’s age was not the first light to stand on the island. The original light, completed in 1795 on the island’s South West point. Erosion quickly threatened the site and after only a few short years the light was torn down, and the new and still standing Old Baldy was given life. Constructed from soft red bricks, many of which were salvaged from the original light station. In it’s time as a working light station Old Baldy required constant upkeep from the elements; the 110 ft tower was once completely white. When the light was decommissioned in 1935, it was left to ruin. On occasion the caring good citizen would “patch” the old tower’s stucco and add small bits of white here and there, thus giving “Old Baldy” the patchwork look it now enjoys today. In 1988 the historic light was relit, but does not serve as a navigational aide.

darkdoorwayToday Old Baldy stands watch over the island as a reminder of it’s rich history, and those who have come and gone before. Some say the old light is haunted. Numerous reports of ghost sightings are reported every year. And although during my visit I didn’t encounter anything other worldly, it is easy to imagine lost souls wandering the grounds of this beautiful place.

With so much history, beauty, and vibrance. Bald Head Island, is a place that must be seen to be believed. A short ferry ride from South Port, NC will get you to this “car free” island paradise. Stay a day, stay a week. Either way go. You won’t regret it.

brick2_1For more information about the Bald Head Island Lighthouse visit click here.