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Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Visit to the Tallest Sand Dune on the East Coast

The forecast for today was cloudy with showers, especially in the afternoon. The morning sky was dark and I spent most of it on inside chores. But then the light brightened a bit in the afternoon and the radar showed the big storm going north of us, so I ventured out on a short trip to Jocky Ridge State Park. The park is only about eight miles from where I live and only about three miles from my grocery store. But once there, I felt I had arrived at another world, except for the sounds of traffic. This five dune system is the tallest active dune system on the East Coast and squeezes three ecosystems into its 420 acres.  I explored the dune  system and maritime thicket.  The other ecosystem is the Roanoke Sound Ecosystem.

Their height is rapidly diminishing.  Currently they are about 21 meters above sea level.  Sixty years ago,  they were 42 meters above sea level. They have cycled between dunes and maritime forest in recent (geological) history.



The first thing that caught my eye was this hang glider and a sign about hang glider school

And then I saw I met the standards and will only need $100.  Humm.

The state park has a lovely visitor center that tells about the geology, the ecology and the history of the dune system.  It also has displays of shells and shelled creatures found there, as well as displays of other native animals. I particularly liked the display on the ant lion, one of my favorite creatures, that I used to enjoy tormenting with a pine needle to make them think an ant was coming down and then I'd just dig them up.


Ant lion larve and adult, along with an ant - just WAY enlarged 

ADD picture of the  sign about donations here. 


Then I continued on to the boardwalk. This is accessible and will get you to a great view of the dunes, but not let you see the sound.  The wind turbine that fuels the park's energy needs is at the beginning of it, along with a sign discussing alternative forms of energy. 


The park has a boardwalk the leads to an overlook of the dunes


I walked down the stairs from the overlook and began a walk along tire tracks that led from the dunes to an opening through the maritime thicket, which is composed of live oaks, pines, persimmons, wax laurel, and other shrubs, along with grasses and vines.  I almost had the park to myself, only seeing a few people off in the distance. The longer I walked, the more peaceful I felt.  


Beach grass and a bit of shrubs


Live oaks holding the empty acorn cups


One Tree was dressed for Christmas


I saw these mushrooms in a couple of places - haven't seen them before


The sun managed to color up the clouds a bit

I enjoyed the changing sky

A view of a Jockey Ridge from a couple of hundred yards away.  

I was excited to find one of my favorite plants - sea oatgrass


This must be the site of the hang gliding school

A view back to private land just to the north of the dunes

Thanks for all you managed to do, Sun

Sand, (Roanoke) sound, and sky - a great prescription for a peaceful mind

I think this is a coyote track because it was not near any human footprints
and I, of course, wasn't on any trail 

After wandering for three miles, I was glad to see the boardwalk 

I'll have to go back on a brighter, busier day and hopefully catch the hang gliders and kite fliers.