Even with ice in the gut, spring should be just around the corner
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A Much Needed Warm Up

Hopefully Spring is around the Corner

Ice on Raymond's Gut delayed my February Crystal Coast newsletter. My will to write about this wonderful area seemed to be frozen right into the ice. So I waited with the hope that our weather might return to something closer to normal.

The gamble was worth it. The quick rise in temperature to 56F on Saturday morning February 21, has already erased memories of the low temperature of 11F that we saw on the morning of February 20. While there is a slight chance in the forecast of possible frozen precipitation on February 28, I think we are over the worst and I feel like writing once again.

I know how mild winter can be down here on the coast but the last part of February 2015, removed any hope that the fairly normal January temperatures which averaged in the low fifties for the highs and the mid thirties for lows would bring an early spring.

We found out just how cold a Siberian express can make the eastern half of the United States. Until this morning since Sunday, February 15, we have only managed to get above freezing twice.  The high temperature through this past Friday was 45F.  Maybe warmth in February is not as much as a Southern birthright as I thought.

While this might sound warm if you live in the snow-bound Northeast, it is cold for coastal Carolina.

With weather you know it will change sooner rather than later. The morning of Saturday, February 21, demonstrated how rapidly things can turn around.  Our temperature rose 32 degrees in just a little over two hours. It is nice to get back to North Carolina weather.

Even with the recent cold this has not been a boring winter.  Since late January we have enjoyed our crocus bed and a brave daffodil decided to bloom in early February.  My winter lettuce bed has been under tarps with a light bulb for most of the week but we have already enjoyed some of it.  While it is a little early to pass judgment, it looks like our lettuce bed has survived the record-breaking cold.  I will not know for a while if the same is true of the radish seeds and onion sets that I already have in the ground.  Some might make it.  My tomato plants are doing great and should be ready to plant outside at the end of March if we have a relatively normal season.  Last year they went in a little later than that, but we still managed a ripe tomato by May 24.

The weather as I mentioned was normal in January and early February so I managed a hike over on the Point on January 19.  This album is from that hike and I wrote this post about my winter visit to the beach.

With normal weather in the marsh during the early part of winter, it was easy to write a post about warmth in the marsh and another about ice along the edges. As you can see from the picture as the top of the post, ice has gone well beyond the edges.

As you might guess our recent weather has been a roller coaster. We are supposed to return to that variable weather the last week in February.

We are very fortunate that cold weather, some cold rain and winds are really all that we have had to face.  Our roads are bare and none of us within a few miles of the coast have had to deal with any snow. As I write this it is snowing in parts of Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia.

This is a weather dependent area and the time for the first outdoor festival of the season, The Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day Festival, is almost here. It is three weeks from this Saturday and we need good weather for it.  I just noticed the White Oak Church of God (252 393-8484 Mon-Thurs between 9am-5pm)is having an oyster and shrimp meal on February 28. The annual Swansboro Oyster Roast will be on March 21, so the season is moving forward with or without good weather.

There is usually a big crowd at the Emerald Isle Festival and the weather always manages to be pretty good but I do remember a year when they placed heaters around to keep folks from getting too cold.

Still it has not been a boring winter. Beyond hiking on the beach, I managed a boat trip on the White Oak on February 7.  While the air temperature was nice back in the marshes, once I got out in the river the air temperature close to the water was almost the same as the water.  The water was at 44.5F that day so I bundled myself up for trip. We also managed a trip to New Bern to check out the new history center attached to Tryon Palace. Recently we wandered through Beaufort and out Down East to Harker's Island where the ferry leaves for Cape Lookout.

All of these trips are in preparation for updating our Emerald Isle travel guide which has lots of area information in addition to information about Emerald Isle. One of the great things about a Kindle book is that you can easily get the latest version of a book like ours by just removing the old version from your device. Your device will automatically download the new version.  I will be doing another newsletter in early March so I will try to have more pictures and additional information after we make another trip to New Bern and over to the Beaufort area.

There have been a few changes around the area. Dunkin Donuts has appeared on the eastern edge of Beaufort since we visited last.  Swansboro now has a Pizza Hut and the construction of the new stand-alone Taco Bell is proceeding quickly.  This week there were signs announcing that the former restaurant on Highway 58 across from the Parkerton Inn is "opening soon" as Rookies Sports Bar.  Also the restaurant in Swansboro at the corner of Front St. and Highway 24 has changed its name to Swansboro Food and Beverage Company. The town of Swansboro has added a kayak launch, but as far as I can tell there is no place to park.  When I find some parking for it and the water warms to safe kayaking temperatures, I will pass along the location.  It also looks like efforts by the Gateway Western Carteret Community Alliance might help us get a new area trail.

It has been a great winter for birds.  We have had some beautiful hooded mergansers in the gut behind our home.  Frank29X, our Canadian great egret friend, has been around several times.  The otters have also visited (check our previous newsletter) and currently we are under siege from flocks of golden finches with some house finches, one purple finch and the odd cardinal thrown in for color.  We have even enjoyed watching robins contemplate going over to the seedy side of life since the ground was frozen. I was a little worried when we saw a junko or two, but I guess we must be on their itinerary.  We have a red-bellied woodpecker who has practically moved in with us.

It is easy to feel much better about winter now that we have warmed up.  It is hard to complain too much since we will likely go from full ice up to ice out in less than 72 hours.  Melting ice always raises my spirits so that is a big plus.  Still the way I look at it, we are likely only six to seven weeks from the first ripe local strawberries.  I can manage that.

If you would like to see our 2014 year end newsletter, you will find it at this link.

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