Island Living: A ‘locust’ homecoming -- or how a former local wound up being a real jerk of a tourist

Island Free Press columnist Joy Crist, who is spending some time with her fiancÚ away from Hatteras Island and living in the North Carolina mountains, writes about returning in winter as a “locust” or “touron.”

‘Perhaps it is my current proximity to fast food, interstates, and a dozen microbreweries, all of which I have shamefully taken full advantage of,” she writes, “but somehow, living off island for over a year now has transformed me into a big honking jerk when I return home.’
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Hatteras native turns her childhood memories into a series of books for young and old

More than 65 years ago, before Highway 12 stretched between the seven villages and Bonner Bridge spanned Oregon Inlet, small, resilient communities thrived on Hatteras Island.  Lacking a reliable road, direct access to the mainland, and many of the modern conveniences, life on the island was challenging, yet idyllic in its simplicity.

The children, especially, reveled in this time before the road.  The entire island was a safe haven, while its expansive beaches, untamed wilderness, and unique history provided an endless supply of excitement and adventure.

Jeanette Gray Finnegan Jr. who grew up in Buxton before the highway was built, recently began writing a series of children’s books based upon the island’s history, her childhood experiences, and family heritage.
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Cape Hatteras graduate Paxton Gwin is winding down her college basketball career with accolades

Each player on the women’s basketball team at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., has a unique story that led her to become a Maroon, but only one can claim that her journey began in the small village of Buxton on Hatteras Island.

Two-time Tideland Conference Player of the Year Paxton Gwin has not only conquered the challenges of playing competitive sports in a small, rural community, but has excelled throughout both her high school and college careers.

This was evident on Monday, Dec. 16, as Gwin accomplished the rare feat of scoring her 1,000th career point during a game against Maryville College.
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Tragic fire spurs tremendous show of community support

During the holidays, many families gather around a crackling fire and bask in the warmth of good company, but, sadly, the flickering flames spotted in the Hooper home in Avon shortly after Christmas were no sign of merriment. Though the young family of three suffered a devastating loss of their home in a tragic fire, the Hoopers have since been overwhelmed by a bounty of community support.

“Everybody has really come together and helped us out,” reflected Kerry Hooper Jr.  “It has been something really good that has come out of something so terrific.”  
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2013:  The year in photos…WITH SLIDE SHOW

Life on Hatteras and Ocracoke has been, in some ways, less eventful than the stormy past few years.  Though there were no tropical storms to speak of, there were still some problems with transportation and a government shutdown to deal with.

Island Free Press photographer Don Bowers has chosen the photos in this slide show as his favorites for 2013. Enjoy!  And Happy New Year!  
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Youngsters sharpen their target shooting skills for competition…WITH SLIDE SHOW

Frank Folb Jr. wants you to know that you need not be concerned if you hear gun shots in the Buxton Woods on Sunday afternoons.

“I would like to get a message out to the residents of Hatteras Island and especially those in Buxton to please have patience with our shooting and please understand that this is a great group of young folk trying to get better at something they love.  We are not just random hoodlums shooting guns!” 
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Ocracoke woman with metal legs aims to spread her message about life with disabilities

Kelley Shinn finds Ocracoke the perfect place to write her memoir about losing her legs—and almost her life--when she was 16.

Shinn, 40, an adjunct professor of writing at the University of Akron, is living on the island with her two children on a writer-in-residence fellowship to chronicle her life. She also is conducting a writing workshop for islanders through the Friends of Ocracoke Library.

She is out and about frequently—riding her bike, off-roading on Portsmouth, swimming and walking on the beach, and engaging in many activities on the island, charming all with her ebullient personality, quick wit, and ready laugh.  
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Stemming the stampede of people who want to see Currituck’s wild horses

Wild horses on the Currituck Outer Banks are so used to tourists gawking at them, shrieking at the sight of them, and rumbling past them in trucks hour after hour, day in and day out for four months straight, that they seem to ignore the constant stream of motorized steel and gaping humanity in their midst. 

But the 180 or so year-round residents of once-quiet Carova have noticed all too well.
New rules that the county implemented earlier this year put more limits on horse tours operating in the four-wheel drive area north of Corolla and has helped stem what was becoming a free-for-all, said county manager Dan Scanlon.  
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We all scream…for oyster ice cream?

We like our oysters any way we can get them -- steamed, fried, baked, in soups and stews or just pried open and dotted with Tabasco. But we were surprised to learn that an ice-cream maker in Wilmington turns our favorite bivalve into a creamy concoction. With sprinkles, we hope.  
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Our Coast's Food: The Seafood Bible

Joyce Taylor died last year, but the seafood bible she wrote with the help of coastal North Carolina cooks endures.

“Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas” compiles not only dozens of recipes developed and carefully tested by Taylor and the team but details about North Carolina’s seafood history, the health benefits of fish and shellfish, aquaculture, seafood safety, and how to handle, clean and store seafood -- as well as kitchen tips and cooking tidbits like how to clarify butter.  
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New Feature:  The Island Free Press Recipe Box

The Recipe Box is a new feature of The Island Free Press because we know many of our friends and regular readers are great cooks.

The purpose of this new feature is just to share recipes.  Yes, we are located on barrier islands where the fresh seafood is awesome, so we want your seafood recipes – both traditional island recipes and new takes on the old favorites or regional specialties from the area where you live.  
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Our Coast: Kayaking Ocracoke in Winter

Summer at Ocracoke finds lots of kayakers plying their paddles along the shores of Pamlico Sound’s residents and tourists alike take to the water. As the temperature fall, the experience of kayaking changes, but there is still plenty to see and enjoy while paddling around the island in the winter.  
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Cape Lookout: Visiting another of the state’s famous capes and lighthouses

After millions of years of erosion, winds, tides, currents, storms and hurricanes, the North Carolina coast is now decorated with barrier islands and three prominent capes. Each of these capes -- Hatteras, Lookout, and Fear -- has its own distinctive natural and cultural history.

Sam Bland, a native of Carteret County, is very familiar with and has visited Cape Lookout many, many times. In this article, he writes that the words “Cape Lookout” immediately bring to mind memories of fishing, swimming, surfing, boating, history, sea turtles, shorebirds, isolation, serenity, and, of course, the lighthouse.
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A guide to beachcombing on the Outer Banks

Legend has it that Blackbeard buried his treasure on the island of Ocracoke, and every once in a while some enthusiastic believer goes treasure hunting for a stash of gold. He's not likely to find buried gold, but there is most definitely treasure to be found on these barrier islands.

The beaches of our coast are often littered with interesting shells and other sea life, driftwood, and odd flotsam-- all gifts to the person who know what to look for.
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Dumpster Diving on Ocracoke:  Reusing and Recycling

Reaching into the dumpster, I lift out a half-full can of mauve paint, just the right color for my bedroom door. Next I find a set of exercise weights, still in the box with instructions. While I don’t want them myself, I am sure I can find someone who does, so I chuck them into my bicycle basket. Over at the metal debris dumpster I see someone pull out a perfectly good folding bed frame. “Looks like we both scored!” I call out. 

As part of my daily bicycle errand run through Ocracoke Village, I often swing by the Ocracoke Dump, more correctly known as the Hyde County Solid Waste Convenience Site, Ocracoke.  Sometimes I deposit a bag of trash or recyclables, but often I just come to see what people have brought in -- if there is something I or someone else can use. I often meet others who are doing the same.  
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Brown algae is closing in on N.C. waters from the south and the north

Fish kills, decreases in shellfish, murky brown water, and loss of underwater grasses -- these are things no one wants to see in their coastal community waters. But these are the effects of a brown algae that is becoming more and more common in the estuaries of the eastern United States. Brown algae blooms, also known as tides, have, in the last 30 years, become a huge problem in such states as New York, Virginia, Florida, and Texas.

Is it just a matter of time before North Carolina’s estuaries are infected?
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The coming of spring to our coast

Although it hasn’t felt much like spring for the past four days on Hatteras and Ocracoke, the new season begins today. And, despite the nasty weather, signs of spring are appearing along our coast.

Enjoy it in this story and photos by Sam Bland of Coastal Review Online and hope that we see some warmer, spring weather very soon.  
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Tourists flock to Ocracoke to see snowy owls, bringing mini-tourist boom...WITH SLIDE SHOW

Peter Vankevich has been a birding ambassador this winter for more than 100 visitors wanting to see the two rare snowy owls now calling Ocracoke their winter hunting grounds.

There may even be a third one, Vankevich said on a recent morning while driving his red Jeep on the South Point beach where the owls have been seen most frequently.

His posts on his Facebook page prompted locals to drive with him for sightings.  Then his posts on the “Carolina Birders” Facebook page prompted birders from all over the state and beyond to visit Ocracoke in the last several weeks, resulting in an uptick of winter tourists.  
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What's wrong with Lake Mattamuskeet?

Lake Mattamuskeet, the state’s largest natural lake, is troubled. Its good vegetation has been depleted while its bad plants are thriving. It has questionable water quality. It might or might not be too shallow, too salty and suffering impacts from climate change.

Everyone is worried, but no one can definitely say what’s going on in the lake because little long-term data exists.
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Rare snowy owl spotted on Hatteras Island…WITH SLIDE SHOW

Christmas came early this year for many on Hatteras Island as a snowy owl took refuge along the seashore.  The stunning bird, renowned for its white feathers and piercing orange eyes, was first spotted on Nov. 26 and spent over a week in the Cape Point area.  
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Volunteers fan out on Hatteras and Ocracoke to rescue cold-stunned sea turtles

For most folks, the subject of sea turtles conjures images of nest excavations on the beach and enormous 80-year-old turtles gliding along the Gulf Stream, but for many on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, it also evokes visions of cold-stunned sea turtles stranded along the coast in the winter.

Each year, National Park Service rangers and local volunteers patrol the coastline daily in search of stranded sea turtles, and on Thursday, Dec. 5, 15 islanders attended a training session at the Cape Hatteras Secondary School to learn how to locate and rescue the stranded endangered and threatened animals during the winter.  
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Saving the soul of Ocracoke

It’s a preservation victory when heritage and water quality both stand to benefit from a real estate deal. Last week, the nonprofit Ocracoke Foundation closed on the half-acre Ocracoke Community Square and its docks, shops, and views of postcard-pretty Silver Lake harbor. The acquisition is a vital step toward protection of the vibrant heart of the village.

But the $4.4 million Community Square Revitalization Project, funded by The Conservation Fund’s Land Conservation Loan Program and foundation partners, goes far beyond saving historic buildings and the traditional centerpiece of the old fishing village.
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New monument on Bodie Island honors the amazing work of early surveyors and mappers

At the gateway to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, in the middle of woods inhabited mostly by ticks and deer, there is now a monument honoring the only remaining original baseline for surveying on the East Coast. 

Among all the intriguing history on the Outer Banks, there may be none that seems so prosaic.
 
“We all know this may not mean a lot to very many people, ” Charles Brown, a state Department of Transportation location and surveys engineer, acknowledged during brief comments at the monument unveiling on Friday, “but it means a lot to us surveyors.”  
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Has Hatteras islander found a significant Civil War-era fort in Waves?

After piecing together clues found on old maps and historic documents, local historical investigator Mel Covey is confident that he has located a significant Civil War-era fort on Hatteras Island, as well as the underwater spot where artifacts were tossed off a fleeing Union gunboat.

Covey, an island native who grew up in Rodanthe, said that his familiarity with the island waters and topography has helped him pinpoint where Camp Live Oak had been built prior to the famed Chicamacomico Races, when Confederate and Union forces in 1861 chased each other up and down the beach.
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North Carolina, Ohio team up to dispute Connecticut’s first flight claim

The tale of Gustave Whitehead and his flying machine might be the zombie version of aviation history -- it was killed long ago, but it keeps coming back.

In an effort to slay Connecticut’s persistent claim that the German immigrant flew the first manned flight two years before the Wright brothers, the First Flight Foundation called its partner in all things Wright, the National Aviation Heritage Alliance of Dayton, to hold a joint press conference on Thursday with Ohio state Rep. Richard Perales and North Carolina state Sen. Bill Cook. 
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Connecticut reigniting the controversy over who was first in flight


“First in Flight” is apparently still up for grabs, at least as far as the state of Connecticut is concerned.

The centennial of the Wright brothers’ first manned, powered flight was 10 years ago, and the mostly good-natured feud between North Carolina and Ohio over where flight began has long quieted.

Now Connecticut has stirred up the coals again with a claim of being first in flight. Its state lawmakers this month passed a bill to proclaim an annual Powered Flight Day “to honor the first powered flight by Gustave Whitehead” and to commemorate the state’s aviation industry. 
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New book details a horrific chapter in World War II history that unfolded off the North Carolina coast

Two years before the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane devastated Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, a national tragedy had played out in the waters off the Outer Banks, and to this day, many Americans have little knowledge of the horrific slaughter that took place.

Kevin Duffus, author of the recently released book, “War Zone: World War II off the North Carolina Coast,” said that many who have attended his lectures and book signings about the U-boat attacks off the U.S. coast are astounded at the extent of the death toll, and how people lost their lives in such hellish circumstances --- blown to pieces, tossed alive into flaming seas, shot to death in mid-escape, deserted by would-be rescue ships, consumed by layers of discharged oil.  
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