For Easter, Kristen and I travelled to Elizabeth City, a small harbor town at the mouth of the Pasquotank River, near the northern end of the Outer Banks. Our goal was simply to get away from home and be someplace peaceful and quite, knowing this would likely be our last chance to travel together before Samuel is born next month. We stayed at the Culpepper Inn, a prominent local fixture that I had seen many times before but never really visited. We arrived earlier than expected and immediately took a walk through the historic downtown area and strolled the docks. We listened to a pretty good bluegrass duo from Chesapeake fighting for the crowd’s attention at a local eatery and then made our way back to the inn.
Saturday morning we decided to head out to the islands. We drove through Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers made their historic flight, stopped for a delicious order of fresh cut fries and chocolate custard in Kill Devil Hills and then pulled over at Jockey’s Ridge in Nag’s Head. Jockey’s Ridge is the largest active sand dune on the East Coast. The bulk of the dune is likely the same pile of sand the Wright brothers launched their airplane from a few miles up the road in Kitty Hawk, it has just steadily migrated south over the past century. The dune is absolutely huge. The main plateau is probably only about 35 feet high, but the giant table-top of sand literally stretchs on for acres. Hundreds of families with hundreds of kites were already fixed atop the dune when we arrived, along with a few hang gliders. Still, it was easy to find a quite place and settle down in the dry, powdery sand that felt so different from the wet, sticky course, beach sand just a few hundred yards away. We capped the day off with a quick visit to the Currituck light house on the northern end of the island.
Sunday afternoon we decided to visit the Great Dismal Swamp — a national wildlife refuge that spans the North Carolina-Virginia border. We saw turtles, frogs and a woodpecker during our stroll through the swamp, which isn’t really as dismal and swampy as the name implies. The huge swamp areas on the northern coast of the state are worlds apart from the stagnant, slime-coated, bacteria-laden waters found in the woods in the central part of North Carolina, or in my native South Carolina. The Dismal Swamp is full of clear, blue-hued water that lazily flows to and fro among the forest of cypress trees that engulfs it. Wildlife is abundant.
We had a good visit in Elizabeth City. It was Kristen’s first time seeing the town, and the first chance I have had to explore the streets and creeks that occupied most of my time as an adolescent. I had the joy of living in a variety of locals growing up. Each one had unique advantages and disadvantages. It’s hard to compare my experiences growing up in different places because the first 18 years of life are so full of constant changes in themselves. For the most part, the bulk of my time spent living in each different community also marked a different phase of life for me as a child, adolescent and teenager, so it’s not really fair, or easy, to compare them. Still, all things considered, I think Elizabeth City was by far the most interesting, and simply enjoyable, place that my family brought me to live in. I wouldn’t have a single qualm about moving back, if that is the direction my life ever moves to again.
Visiting the places I have lived before is always a little strange though. I can’t help but to recall the experiences I hold connected with each familiar landscape. I notice how so many things have changed in my absence, while other details seem fixed forever. I never really know how to react when I encounter my past. My life has changed so much over the past few years, when ever I visit a place from my past, I can’t help but to feel that I’m no longer the same person I was when I left. I don’t know whether I want to let myself go to reconnect with my past, or whether I should just explore the city anew, looking for new experiences and new details that I would easily miss if I were only looking for things connected with my earlier life. I always face this dilemma when I visit the places where I grew up; I don’t have the same problem when I visit Blowing Rock, where Kristen and I went to college, got married, began our careers and turned our first apartment into a home. I think the difference has something to do with the fact that the life I built in Blowing Rock was my own, while my life in Elizabeth City, and the many other places I lived growing up, was inseparable from the life my parents built for me — not a bad thing by any means, just the way life is. Moving to Blowing Rock was my choice; the things I did there, the job I had, the house I lived in, were all my choices as well; perhaps most importantly, leaving Blowing Rock was my choice. The fact that I wasn’t in control of most of my earlier life — my parents decided where I would live, what I could and couldn’t do with my time and when I would move again — greatly affects the lens through which I view my past.
At least that’s what I think today. Who knows.
So, now that you’ve made it through all of that, enjoy a sampling of my shots from our holiday weekend in and around Elizabeth City. I know this gallery is way too big. Click any image or thumbnail to pull up a full-size viewer that will let you click through the entire collection at your leisure.
*I (David Anderson, Jr.) am the original author of all of the images connected with this post except for the final picture, which was kindly taken by our waitress at the Marina Restaurant in Elizabeth City. Enjoy!