Thursday, May 25, 2017

Driving the Outer Banks

I've been to the Outer Banks, those barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, several times. That's not bragging. It's just my way of saying that it's one of my favorite places. And judging by the number of OBX bumper stickers I've seen on cars in North Carolina and Virginia, I'm not the only one. (or by the traffic in summer - one of the only drawbacks to visiting the Outer Banks)

Mr. UR and I went on an off-season road trip there - off-season as in February - with the benefit of no crowds or traffic but also no beach time. But we were able to sit in deck chairs in the sunshine so we had that. And sunshine in the Outer Banks in February - I'll take it!

We started our drive at the ferry at Cedar Island. First, let me tell you that Cedar Cove is in the middle of nowhere... I mean nowhere. ( It was about an hour drive from our hotel in Atlantic Beach) You pass homes, a few convenience stores and then marshland for as far as you can see. We boarded the ferry at Cedar Island for the 2 1/4 hour ride to Ocracoke Island.

You can stay on Ocracoke but for many it's just a pass through to get to the next ferry - from Ocracoke to Hatteras. You'll pass through the small town of Ocracoke and the beauty of Cape Hatteras National Seashore - about a 20 minute drive - to board one of the most popular ferries in the NC Ferry System. The ride takes about 45 minutes and you're deposited at Hatteras Village to start the 70 mile drive north to Kitty Hawk. Our outbound ferry had a maintenance issue (who said that only happens to planes?) so we had the added bonus of walking the beach while waiting.

We passed through the small towns of Avon, Buxton, Salvo and Rodanthe while enjoying the windswept views of this portion of Cape Hatteras National Seashore which is consistently rated one of the top 10 drives in the US.  We didn't stop this time but you can stop at Pea Island Wildlife Refuge with it's 350 species of wild birds. Or climb the steps to the top of one of the Outer Banks most famous places - the black and white striped Cape Hatteras Light. Or visit the newly restored Bodie Island Lighthouse.

We made it to Jockeys Ridge -the highest sand dunes on the East Coast - just before sunset. After a climb in the sand it was time to get some dinner.

There was quite a wait at our first choice - the Blue Moon Beach Grill - so we had a drink at the bar and moseyed on down the road to the Outer Banks Brewing Station. We easily got a seat and enjoyed reading the history of the place. Did you know it's the first wind-powered brewery in America?

After dinner it was time to check in at Sanderling Resort in Duck for our weekend. Satisfied road - and water - trippers happy after driving the beautiful Outer Banks.

How about you? Have you been to the Outer Banks?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Day in Durango - Mountains, Floats and Beer

Southwestern Colorado - that corner that contains the towns of Telluride, Durango and Ouray, the Million Dollar Highway, the San Juan Skyway, Mesa Verde National Park and the Continental Divide Trail - is certainly not lacking in beauty. We simply had too little time to discover all that it had to offer. And that may well be why so many choose this area for their vacation year after year - there's just too much to see and do.

We stayed just outside the town of Durango and really only had one day there to explore. Our choice was to see some of the mountain scenery, take a float trip on the Animas River and end the day with a visit to a craft brewery and dinner.

Mountains - 
We started the day with a drive on the Million Dollar Highway - US Highway 550 - between Durango and Ouray. Our first stop was at Molas Pass with it's beautiful overlook of Molas Lake.( There are picnic tables and restrooms at Molas Pass) You can also stop at Molas Lake which has a campground - voted the most scenic campground in Colorado by AAA - picnic tables, restrooms and kayak rentals. There is also access to the Colorado Trail - a 500 mile trail from Denver to Durango - at Molas Lake.

We had booked our float trip on the Animas for late in the day so after our Million Dollar Highway run, we headed to the rafting office. There are several companies that offer rafting but we used Mild2Wild Rafting. The Animas contains  Class I, II and III rapids when the water is high. Our trip came at a very low water point so it was a mild float trip - with a guide though. Mild2Wild outfits you with all the gear you need - oar, water socks, life vest, waterproof jacket plus a helmet if you would like - and they transport you by school bus from their office to the put in spot. We had 8 people plus guide on our raft - 6 adults and 2 children. Our ride was incredibly mild with only a ripple now and then so it was very relaxing. We helped paddle a bit but it was mainly floating until the end of the ride when there was actually a rapid. I enjoyed it but I think the others in my party were hoping for a bit more excitement. Maybe next time  - if the water level cooperates!

I wasn't able to take my camera on the raft so I'm doing something I rarely do - using other's photos. Both of these photos come from rafting companies and can give you an idea of what rafting is like on the Animas.


We rewarded ourselves with a visit to Ska Brewery - a wind-powered, music themed brewery with a twist - you can drink your beer in a second story shipping container with a view of the mountains. And our view of the mountains had a rainbow included!

The shipping container hangs off the left side of the building

Nice frame of the mountains

A bit of the rainbow we saw

Our last stop of the day was Carver Brewing Company (The Southwest's Original Brewpub) in downtown Durango for some dinner on the outdoor patio. I really can't remember what we ate - some pub grub - but we were hungry and tired and the ambience was good so we were all happy. After a short walk around downtown Durango and seeing the town, it was time to call it a night for our long drive back to Denver the next day.

A brewpub patio with lots of bicycles - big and small

A mural in downtown Durango about the famed Jack Dempsey vs. Andy Malloy fight in Durango. Dempsey was from Colorado and went on to become heavyweight champion in 1919

How about you? Have you been to Durango? Rafted the Animas? or had beer in a shipping container?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and Weekend Travel Inspiration!