Wow, was it HOT today in New York! Throughout the work day, the oppressive heat had me longing to take a dip in a pool or simply stand in the middle of the lawn in the sprinkler. The last time I recall being in such intense heat was last summer on our vacation to the Outer Banks when we visited Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
Visiting Jockey’s Ridge State Park was like going to the Sahara Desert minus the camels. Jockey’s Ridge has about six million dump truck loads of sand on its 420 plus acres. These are the highest sand dunes on the east coast. The dunes are about ninety feet tall and are natural, not human-made. They don’t blow away because the northeast and southwest winds blow the sand back and forth. The sand is mostly quartz rock which came from the mountains millions of years ago. Rainwater often collects near the bottom of the dunes creating a temporary pond otherwise known as vernal pools. American Beach Grass is at the base of the dunes and anchors itself to the sand. In addition to the sand dunes, Jockey’s Ridge also is home to other unique ecosystems like the maritime forest and Roanoke Sound.
To get a better understanding of the dunes, we started our visit in the most logical place, the visitor’s center. There was a museum in the visitor’s center that focused on the cultural and natural history that gave us a crash course in geology. The most interesting thing we learned were about was fulgurites. Fulgurites are hollow tubes that form when lightning hits the sand. After our science lesson, we went back to the car to get some water bottles from our ice chest to ensure we stayed hydrated while we explored the dunes on a self-guided hiking trail.
We headed out to the dunes via a 360-foot boardwalk before hitting the sand. The sand was soft. My son immediately wanted to kick off his shoes, but that didn’t happen considering the sand was about twenty degrees hotter than the 90 degrees air temperature.
One of the first things we did was fly our kite that we had bought the day before in the downtown area of Roanoke Island before visiting the Lost Colony. Jockey’s Ridge is one of the best places on the Outer Banks to fly kites. Flying our kite on top of the ridge offered up some great views of both the Atlantic Ocean on the east side and the Roanoke Sound on the west side. However, be forewarned because it is a steep hike to the top of the dune so, in addition to the great view, you get a great workout too.
The wind that kept our kite high in the sky wasn’t doing much for keeping us cool, so we ran down the dune and my son cooled off in the vernal pool. After he had cooled off, we watched hang gliders practice as we made our way to the sound side. Once we reached the Roanoke Sound, we cooled off in the swimming area and watched the windsurfers.
Visiting Jockey’s Ridge was such an adventure! As we trekked up and down the dunes, it was hard not to admire the beauty and concluded that it is a treasure trove for an outdoor enthusiast. It is also a great place for families to hike, fly a kite or even do sand-boarding during designated times. There are also several events sponsored by the park rangers. If you are a dare-devil, I can’t think of a better place to try Hang-gliding or windsurfing. Kitty Hawk Kites has a facility near the visitor’s center, and they offer lessons.
If you head out to these desert-like sand dunes, make sure you bring plenty of water and load up on the sunscreen. We had to leave before sunset to get on the road, but we heard that is one of the best times to go. Obviously, it will be a little cooler, and I am sure it will offer a sky full of splendor.