Pamlico Sea Base — Sea Kayaking the Outer Banks

For the second consecutive summer, Troop 353 offered a high adventure trip option to its older scouts.  The August 2010 trip was to Pamlico Sea Base in the East Carolina Scout District.  The trip entailed a week of beach camping and kayaking along Cape Lookout National Seashore, culminating in the earning of the BSA 50-Miler Award.

The trip started with a flight to Raleigh, NC and a couple of hour van ride to reach the remote Pamlico Sea Base location on the east coast of North Carolina.  On the way, the scouts sampled genuine East Carolina BBQ at Parker’s Restaurant, a local favorite for decades.  Little did we know that this was to be the last quality meal the group would have for 6 days.

Our group was met at base camp by swarms of mosquitoes, along with the wonderful Pamlico Sea Base staff and our incredible trek guides Tony (hard to miss with his 12+ years of dreadlock growth and his unique ear décor) and Steve (who would come to be known as “the guide who doesn’t lie”).  

The next morning, after gathering equipment and provisions, including a weeks worth of no-fuss foods (including Cliff bars, canned tuna, trail mix, granola bars, easy prep canned/boxed dinners and the ever popular summer sausage) the group was off on their adventure to the barrier islands that make up the lower part of the Outer Banks.

Day 1 proved to be easy, departing Harkers Island for the quick paddle over to the beautifully remote beach of the Shackleford Banks and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.  Scouts enjoyed swimming in crystal clear waters (with the only inhabitants of the island – wild horses), hunting for conch shells and one of many beautiful sunsets.

Day 2 is when the group found out that sea kayaking differs from being pushed down a river.  Nine hours of paddling against rolling currents was enough to exhaust everyone.

Though a few hours of playing in the surf rejuvenated everyone a bit, dinner at Great Island that night was relatively quiet (and not very tasty).  One or two adult leaders consumed (more) Advil for dinner.

During the rest of the week, our group of toughened paddlers hugged the coastline, and followed dozens of duck blinds through the shallow waters of the Pamlico Sound.

Everyone got very much acquainted with their kayaks and mastered setting up tents in the wind and sand.  Each night we camped at a new destination beach, with each being more scenic than the last.  

All got accustomed to the diet of trail mix, cliff bars, oatmeal to go and, of course, summer sausage.

It rained on a few nights, and we had an especially treacherous crossing of the Sound on Day 4 as we departed the beach at Long Point for Cedar Island just after a night of thunderstorms came to an end.   In order not to tip in the high swells, we paddled our kayaks non-stop for one and a half hours.      

The trip across the Sound was well worth it as we were greeted by a rainbow and a group of dolphins (Did someone yell “Sharks!”?) on the far side.

We finished up our adventure with a 4-hour ferry ride and a well deserved night on Ocracoke Island, a popular tourist destination where Blackbeard the Pirate was reportedly killed in 1718.

Although Teeter’s campground was not 5-Star, it had showers and provided a great base camp for exploring the island and its great restaurants.  We got to sit down on chairs and relax.

It was a challenging, beautiful, awesome and memorable trip.  All participants were challenged both physically and mentally, and came away with a great sense of accomplishment and self-confidence.  We can’t wait for the next high adventure trip.

Tony, how much further?!!

For more great photos, click here!

National Park Service Cape Lookout National Seashores map

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