Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Faces of Ocracoke

The village of Ocracoke proved to be one of the most welcoming towns I passed through on my hike. The folks here are laid back, friendly, and seem to appreciate the beauty in life, seeing the larger picture...basically: enjoy it! Perhaps living so close to the ocean, something with that magnitude and vastness, has something to do with it. I've seen the mountains have a similar effect on people.

I liked it here so much I decided to stay a second day and take a load off, besides I was also ahead of schedule by a day and needed to slow down. What a lovely place it proved to be in which to do so. However, I was stressed about spending yet more money at a pricey campground (prices are tourist rates here) and so after a friendly barista named Scott at the Ocracoke Coffee Company struck up a conversation with me, "Off the beaten path!" he exclaimed as I went to walk out the door, I thought I'd ask him if he had any suggestions as far as cheap tenting went. He simply said, "give me an hour, I'll find you place." Well, true to his word, little more than an hour later, I was cruising with Scott back to his house where I had the offer to stay the night on the back lawn or on the couch.

Clyde, Scott, Emily, and Michelle at the Ocracoke Coffee Company

Scott's family was in town and it was with them and Scott that I enjoyed my very first ride on the beach, bouncing along in Scott's rugged jeep, playing tunes and soaking up the breeze, as well as my first dip of this trip in the ocean!

Later that night, when I stepped outside to set up my tent, I heard, "Want a cold beer?" This question emanated from another tent that had taken up permanent residency for the summer, also in Scott's backyard. Here I met Lauren and Joe, as well as Lauren's brother Kyle and his friends, Noel and Danny whom were all visiting from Ohio. Lauren and Joy's lovely abode is no run-of-the-mill-tent but is complete with homemade wooden platform, solar panels, sink, and waterpump (not to mention a full bar). It was with these awesome folks that I got a taste of Ocracoke nightlife, going to hear a wonderful jazz band at Daijo and then back to the house for a fire in the backyard till the wee hours.

Noel, Danny, Lauren, Joe, and Kyle

I said goodbye that night, figuring it'd be the last I'd see of my newfound friends. However, there I was walking down the boardwalk, crossing from road to beach for the first of my beach miles, 6m from town, when I heard, "Heather?" It was the backyard posse! And so we got to hang out just a bit longer before my long miles of the day called me off.

And so I'd like to give a big-big thank you to Scott Gray for opening up his home as well as his fridge and for simply being the awesome person that he is! I'm so glad that I went to the coffee shop that morning! If you're ever in the mountains, give me ring and I'll show you some trails. Scott Gray's family: Michelle, Emily, and Clyde, it was a pleasure to meet you!

And to Lauren and Joe, Kyle and Danny and Noel, thanks for taking a hiker out on the town and showing her how the locals hang. I had a blast! Keep on keepin' it true to heart! The same foes for y'all if you're ever in Asheville and want to do some good hiking or see how the "locals" hang.

However the opportunities afforded at the Ocracoke Coffee Company didn't stop there. Below is a pic of two friendly folks, who if I'm calling my other friends the Backyard Posse, I should call these guys the Front Porch Fellas. I met Jim and Leonard on my first visit to the shop where we chatted briefly and I said I'd be hiking on the next day. However, there I was again at the coffee shop the next morning when I hadn't hiked out as quickly as expected, again saying hello to them. This time, however, I enjoyed their company for the morning. We also had the company of Scott's mother's dogs, Jack and Bella, whom kept us on our toes. Again, I got to feel like a local, welcomed in from the throngs of tourists. We had a good time chatting it up and cracking jokes. Jim even squeezed into the "local's line" for me and bought me a coffee! Thanks guys, for offering some good morning talk! It was pleasure to meet you! I know where to find you next time I come back to Ocracoke.

Jim and Leonard with dogs, Jack and Bella

As I made my way down Ocracoke's beach for the second time that day, this time for a 6m stretch, the beaches were no longer quiet and virtually empty as they had been that morning. Now they were full of colorfully clad beach-goers in chairs, under umbrellas, hanging out on tailgates, and little ones building sand castles. Many folks politely waved and smiled, and some simply stared and craned their heads as I walked by, but a few went out of their way to say hello and find out just what this crazy hiker-girl was doing!

One of them was Howard. Unfortunately Howard and I were too busy talking for me to think of getting a pic, but that just tells you how much fun he was to talk to. He had just gotten done doing his own epic journey- 36 days on a motorcycle and 8000miles all around the country. Thanks for the frosty Gatorade, Howard! It kept me hydrated all the way to camp!

Not long after meeting Howard, I came upon some more friendly folks. This time two families renting a nearby beach house. There I was hiking down the beach watching the waves when I heard, "Cold beer?" I didn't even take the time to answer, but simply changed direction and headed for the hand bearing the frosty beverage. They offered me a seat on a boogie board and I had a thrill answering all their questions about the trail as well as getting to know a little bit about each of them. Folks like you are what make the day interesting! Thank you trail angels: Donnie and Biz Cochran, Mike and Donna and Samantha Ornorff, and family!
The Ornoff and Cochran families - bearers of cold beer

And when I finally made it to my camp that night, at a late 7:30pm, I smiled back at all the wonderful folks I'd met in the last couple of days. I found myself a lovely spot between a live oak and eastern red cedar, made my way down a long boardwalk at sunset and finally went for a good long swim in the ocean. Thank you Ocracoke.

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