As we leave the Little River SC area and head on past Sunset Beach, we enter the Cape Fear River basin. This area is where the sweep of the east coast of the United States reaches its most east-west orientation. When you stand on these beaches you are looking south at the Atlantic. Of course when driving around we all have it in our minds that the Atlantic Ocean is to our east, so it gets a bit confusing on map directions.
The next barrier island heading North is Ocean Isle Beach. Ocean Isle is five miles long by a half mile wide.
Ocean Isle Beach has a few distinctive personalities. As you can see, the Island is pretty much developed from the Intra-Coastal Waterway to the Atlantic.
Looking back toward the mainland, you can see the vast difference in vegetation and population. There was a country club just onto the mainland that looked very nicely landscaped.
The houses are much closer to the water, and there are none of the protective dunes.
The island does have a few amenities, like a small museum and a putt putt course. The north end of the island is suffering from some severe erosion. On this end of the island there are several neighborhoods already surveyed, with streets and utilities in but no houses being built. I am not sure if it is a problem with the water level or with the economy.
Then there is a section of the island that has canals dug out to the Intra-Coastal. It really is a nice arrangement - the ocean is a couple of blocks away and your boat is in the water, ready to cruise out on the calmer waters of the channel in minutes.
And the next island up is Holden Beach, which is eight miles long by about a third of a mile wide. It too is bound by the Intra-Coastal.
One thing I enjoy watching on these beaches is the various strategies people have for getting lots of stuff on the beach with them. And although those pulling these contraptions through the sand never look happy, they at least look like it is tolerable when they are heading toward the beach. Heading back home produces a whole different expression.
Another thing that is interesting on these islands is how you can date the time period that a structure was built by the height of the stilts it is one. I am not sure of the years, but it seems things built before the 1970's were on the ground or three feet elevated, in the 70's and 80's they went up to six feet, in the 1990's ten feet to twelve feet and since then many seem to be elevated about 14 feet. Here are a few side by side.
A few of the houses have a bit of personality.
Holden Beach seems to have suffered the worst in the recent economic downturn. Here are two photos taken from the bridge to the island showing some of its shrimp boat fleet.
At ground level it becomes apparent that these boats will not be used again.
The piers that used to service the boats are falling away. . .
.. and the old fishery is about to drop into the water.
I chatted with Terry, from Mobile Alabama for about an hour. Terry has been shrimping all his life, and heard a rumor that there were some ships still going here. Well, there are a couple but they are up the coast a few hundred miles, and they are only hiring younger men. Terry finds himself fishing for sustenance.
Left un-maintained, nothing besides plastic lasts long in the marine environment.
We saw a full size golf course gone to seed yesterday - here is a putt putt course that is on its way.
A nearby condominium project sits in decay after having been halfway completed.
But I did find a fishery alive and well - Old Ferry Seafood is owned and operated by Bill Robinson. This fishery has been here since 1937, and Bill remembers the days that it was booming with the shrimping business.
But Bill is still surviving - he says the deep sea fishermen have been doing pretty good lately. He also handles some crab business. She-Crap soup is a specialty all up and down this line of coast.
Heading up the coast from Holden Beach through a town named Supply NC we meet Dale Varnum, who has lived here 59 years.
Dale has an automobile junkyard with lots of old cars, but he has added a few extras over the years. Here is a little town he has built, complete with church, bar, bordello, police department, bail bondsman and other offices.
Sprinkled throughout the place are older cars that he has in working condition.
But along the street he has a most visible presence. A large bus loaded with strung out looking dummies is the "Crack Head Express." Dale says that he lost decades of his life to the drug, "chasing the devil" as he put it. He hopes that his display sparks conversations with younger folks so that they don't have to go through the pangs of addiction that he did.
And today's parting shot - the window of the mortuary in Dale's wooden town.
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