Thursday, June 25, 2015

Carolina Beach State Park - Sunset at Oak Toe


"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence, there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun." - Christopher McCandless
During a quick trip to Carolina Beach during a very hot June, the FBWG and my Faithful Hiking Companion decided to try to catch the sunset at Oak Toe in the Carolina Beach State Park.  We had hiked the park once before.  Carolina Beach State Park 

On that day the trail to two of the park's signature vistas was washed out. 

 This time new trails and decking awaited our visit.  We were not disappointed.  Our first destination was Sugarloaf.

Sugarloaf is an unusual sand dune on the eastern banks of the Cape Fear River which rises 55 feet above sea level.  Amazingly this mound has remained a historical marker since the early mariners noted it on their maps.  Called "Sugarloaf" because it resembled a mound of sugar, the site has been one of historical notoriety. 

From the top of Sugarloaf we got the first of many views of the magnificent Cape Fear River....and the first of many flyovers by the pelicans and seagulls who make the river their home.

On the summit of Sugarloaf was a crooked live oak tree adorned with Spanish moss.  

Scrambling down the riverside of the dune, we soon discovered a special treat left by some previous river rat.... a beach swing!  
My Faithful Hiking Companion eagerly hopped on the swing and soon understood why the previous river rats hung this swing....for the view and the gentle breeze was a welcome relief on a hot summer day.  And the view along the river was something to behold!
The first view was up river towards Oak Toe, you can see the outline of the old trail which traced the shore line.  

Looking down river, you can see the remnants of former Confederate gun positions as the outline of Federal Point appears around the point.  Fort Fisher is just beyond the tree line. 

Leaving the riverside to take up the trail to Oak Toe, required a slog up the deep sand of Sugarloaf.  It was a 
heart thumper for a hot day.  

Leaving Sugarloaf, the sinking sun on the horizon reminded us that we needed to hustle to hike the half mile to Oak Toe in time to catch the sunset.

The trails are all well marked.  The Sugarloaf Trail is the three mile grand loop around the park.  From it you can take spur trails of various lengths.  The trail to Oak Toe is new and begins as nice forest walk to the river side and eventually to a nice observation deck.

The trail along the river allowed us to look back to the Sugarloaf beach.  And looking up river, we got our first of many sunset views.
The trail leaves the river side to cross the edge of a dry grass marsh to access a nice overlook.  Greeting us was the nicest flyover of the day.

Additionally, the Royal Princess, a river tour boat from Wilmington also provided us with a warm welcome. 

The folks on the Royal Princess were on a sunset tour and soon we joined them in watching one of the most spectacular displays of nature I have ever witnessed.  

Watching a sunset is not only is also spiritual...if you contemplate the majesty of the moment, your mind has a hard time comprehending what you are seeing.  So I will try to capture the moment for you....enjoy!


"Dusk is just an illusion because the sun is either above the horizon or below. And that means that day and night are linked in a way few things are as there cannot be one without the other yet they cannot exist at the same time. How would it feel I remember wondering to be always together yet forever apart?"
 - Nicholas Sparks

"The first stab of love is like a sunset, a blaze of color - oranges, pearly pinks, vibrant purples..." 
 -Anna Godbersen

"Burst of gold on lavender melting into saffron. It's the time of day when the sky looks like it has been spray painted by a graffiti artist."  
      - Mia Kirshner
 "Behind us, the sun was setting in a simultaneous congruent withdrawal and the river turned to flame in a quiet duel of was the old dance of the days in the Carolina marshes...the final signature a ribbon of bullion strung across the tops of water oaks." 
                      -  Pat Conroy      

            "In order to see birds, it is necessary to become a part of the silence."  -  Robert Lynd.

"Nothing in life is guaranteed. You can't predict how many days you'll have on this Earth, how many more sunsets you'll be here to see.  I want you to make me a promise.  Always watch the sunset, baby girl."  -  Jessica Prince

At the end of the world, the sunset is like a child smashing a pack of crayons into God's face."  - Craig Stone

"The strange thing about the sunset is that we actually don't want the sun to set, we want it to stay right on the horizon, not below it, not above it, just right on it!"  -  Mehmet Murat ildan 

"A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and torn a cloud like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going." - John Steinbeck

"Peace is seeing the sunset and knowing who to thank." - Mortimer Peabody

"So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bank side in (summer)."  Henry David Thoreau

What can I say about this hike?  Rarely can you time a hike to get this kind of display of nature.  Carolina State Park is a great place to hike. If you are vacationing in the area, it is a great place for the family to visit.  

The access is a 10, easy to find right off the main road to Carolina Beach...

the trails are well maintained and marked 9....the scenery on a normal day is average ....8....on a sunset hike....10+...the effort to view is lopsided....easy hike with great views.  Overall a 9 ranked hike.