What a way to start a week of adventure on the Outer Banks! slaDE and I were in pursuit of finding the Wild Horses of Currituck County. We were super excited to explore Corolla and the surrounding area, 4 wheeling on the beach in search of hidden treasures. Today, unlike Sunday afternoon, we were prepared for the thrills and hazards of driving through the dunes and on the sand. You see, slaDE made a spontaneous attempt at cruising down the beach at Nags Head yesterday.
The tides were mid-way between high and low (aka half-tide) and the sands at the entrance of the beach ramp were loose, piled high and quite steep. Well, you can only imagine what happened … and CAA was not an option for helping us out of our ‘bind’. So after getting stuck quite deeply in the sand and finding an alternate exit point, slaDE and I hastened to learn the techniques and finesse of 4×4 Beach Driving before launching our escapade today. We found this resource to be a terrific gem: twiddy.com. Lessons learned? We discovered the importance of walking the beach access route(s) before entering and exiting with our truck … vitally important in recognizing whether the beach is suitable or not for 4WDing. Also, prior research to the techniques of beach driving is always a good thing :).
Corolla is considered the northernmost town on the Outer Banks (pronounced ‘cor-Aah-lah’ and NOT the Toyota Corolla way :)). This tiny fishing and tourist village is a refuge to both Sea Turtles and wild ponies, the latter which act as mascots around the entire Outer Banks. The horses are descendants of the Spanish Mustangs brought to the North Carolina coastline in the early1600s. Currituck County also houses giant upscale homes (mostly along the outermost stretches of beach) accompanied by a mammoth increase of tourist population during the summer months. This unfortunately is proving to be a threat to the diligently protected horses. Reckless driving and acts of violence in recent years have led to strict and severe penalties upon those who violate these beautiful untamed and rugged animals. Yet the population is shrinking, part of which lies in the inbreeding of these lineally pure Mustangs.
So in pursuit of witnessing these ethereal creatures, we drove the full length of the Carova Beach (about 8 miles), marvelling at the deep but smooth rutted ‘highway’ this beach has become. We both took turns driving, enjoying the ability to navigate with ease, after having let out our tire pressure to 20 psi. The gas mileage went down quite quickly (from 25 mpg to 20.1 mpg) during our experiment with beach driving. The traffic was blissfully light (compared to the horror stories experienced by locals during the summer season) and made for an incredible experience. Even driving up over the heavily sanded dune in to the home access road was disarmingly easy. I was awestruck by the number and size of monolithic mansions that created a suburbia along the water’s edge. We were told that 90% of the properties are unoccupied outside of the tourist season and major holidays. I can’t imagine the cost of heating one of those places during the winter. So I’m thinking that most are rental properties (with 10 bedrooms, one can only imagine the rent!). Once we reached the end of the occupied beach, bordered by a boundary marker to the Virginia State Park, we decided to walk along the beaches edge looking for the Wild Horses. We saw big stinking evidence of their recent residency :), but there were no sighting on any ponies carousing through the Atlantic. Still with hope in our heart, we skirted beyond the perimeter road about a ½ mile back from the waters edge. Coming around one of the dunes, we slowed and witnessed a herd of 6 horses quietly mowing the fields of their neighbour. They didn’t even stir as we approached in our truck, as close as 50 feet away. It was stunning to see them feed. One of the mares appeared to be heavily pregnant, due any day. The light was gorgeous and made for an astounding photo shoot, both of us excited at having stumbled across the only horses we were to witness today (apart from the winged statue we saw earlier) :). Although my Father boards quite a few horses, the sight of these wild untamed beauties had me holding my breath at the wonder of nature, and the history behind their lineage. After an hour of sitting silently whilst they fed, and photographing up a storm, we made our way back to the village of Corolla, as it was vital that we refill the air in our tires. A flat tire would have marred the calm of our day, and we weren’t ready for that.
Before heading south to our overtly expensive RV park, we wanted to take advantage of the setting sun and thus quickly headed towards the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, for a few final photos of our incredible Corolla adventure. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse stands 165 feet tall and was built in 1875. It is the northernmost of the North Carolina Lighthouses.