Atlantic Beach weekend

by Devender Sellars

Summer always seems to bring a sense of excitement. As an adult the countdown to school being over is replaced by trips or exciting new experiences. Each summer I try to do something new, and this year is no exception.

This past weekend I took a longoverdue trip to the Outer Banks. The first stop was a cheap motel room at Atlantic Beach — concrete walls painted a pale tan, each covered in tacky beach scenes. Even the soap was named Beach Breeze.

The rest of the details came as the lazy weekend moved on. Spent days in the water and nights listening to the ocean waves over the hum of the window a/c unit above the bed.

The most interesting part of the trip was taking a boat ride to Shackleford Banks. The water taxi left from Beaufort Inlet, and dropped us off on a nine-mile national seashore — the equivalent of a beach national park. Such a trip was an entirely new experience for me.

It was neat going from the inlet through the Intercoastal Waterway and other boat traffic, and onto the island. This particular Saturday saw about 40 other tourists and a few Boy Scouts checking out the natural beauty. Soft rolling sand dunes. A few minutes’ walk down the coastline easily gave way to our own spot of beach, with no one around for a football field, or more.

Setting up an afternoon camp, I stared out at the fishermen further offshore, looking for’ deep-sea treasures in the form of that perfect catch. Or further out, to cargo ships creeping on the edge of the horizon. And endless blue held up by sea-foam green, and the calming breeze and sounds of the Atlantic at my feet. Behind lay rolling sand dunes swathed with grasses and scrub.

Looking to my left I saw nothing but coastline. To my right, a few hundred yards away, a middle-aged couple sunbathed. Behind me I spotted a family of Banker horses, and quickly got my girlfriend’s attention to watch the animals. Our water taxi had mentioned these wild horses, but this was my first time seeing them in person. The two adult horses and small pony didn’t seem bothered by our presence. I imagine they are used to tourists on their island, and continued to graze in rela tive silence.

I found out later that these horses descend from a Spanish breed and became feral after surviving shipwrecks long ago.

I imagined the ancient Spanish ships littered along the coast, and wondered which of them held these horses’ ancestors. Far from home, they adapted to their new surroundings and are now treasured and carefully monitored on our coastal islands.

It seemed like a fitting detail — a dramatic difference to the city beaches of my youth: wild horses grazing a short distance from where I was swimming.

There are no great epiphanies or revelations from my trip Down East, just a great reminder of the joys of each place and each new experience, and how summertime brings some of the best times in my life.