Our Coast: Fall Is Empty Beaches and Showy Skies
By Christine Miller
You can have the beach to yourself in the fall.
It's an open secret that many of us who live on the coast name fall as our favorite time of year. There are many reasons, both general and specific -- today I'm going to focus on a handful of those that are 1.) outside and 2.) free, or almost so.
Getting Outside. First, there's getting outside and the simple fact that it's more fun now than in the dog days of August. The air: Summers here are HOT. Day, night, you name it, we swelter. And humid --some mornings opening the front door feels like getting slapped in the face with a soggy washcloth. Fall eases up both of these: The days change to warm and pleasant, sometimes with a little snap in the mornings, and the humidity decreases to acceptable (to me) levels.
And this decrease in humidity, my diligent Internet research tells me, means the sky turns that particularly rich, deep blue -- less interference for the light particles, or some such.
The nights, too, are cool, to the point that making fires in the backyard fire pit or at a campsite becomes a sensible action rather than an affectation. S'mores can come out to play.
Next, the water. In the summer, the water can be in the 80s and the sounds and creeks, well, it is often compared to warm spit (at least by me). Seriously, it is anti-refreshing to jump into Core Sound in August. After a few weeks of these temperate evenings, though, the water temp drops into the mid-70s. It's still warmer than the ocean, but that refreshing thing? It's back.
Empty beaches. In North Carolina, we're lucky to have wide (in places) beaches, stretching to the horizon. During the summer, these beaches can be packed. During the autumn, the beaches empty, returning to those of us who live here. A person can go out at sunrise or sunset and have only a handful of people for company, some distant specks down the shore. It's perfect for heart-to-heart talks, belly laughs or a few minutes of solitude before rejoining the hectic, non-beach world.
The International Space Station, above, is a stunning-looking piece of technology up close. But from Earth, it appears as a streak in the night sky. Photos: NASA.
The clearer skies make it just that much easier to see what's in the night skies. You can show your kids, friends and neighbors the International Space Station zooming across the sky. NASA has a handy Web site
to find it.
Summer has the Perseids meteor shower of August, but fall is no slouch. The season hosts three sets of meteor showers, and this year may be showier than the last because many of them fall on days of a waning or new moon.
The Orionids make an appearance from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7 and will peak this weekend.
The Leonids run Nov. 6-30, and they should be particularly showy this year. You can check this Web site for the peak days, times and part of the sky to watch.
The Geminids are next, from Dec. 4-17. They are billed as the most kid-friendly meteor shower because they're viewable almost as soon as the sun sets and there's a new moon, so they will be most visible.
Here's a link to the 2012 meteor calendar.
Critters of the Night. On the evening of Oct. 27, Cape Lookout National Seashore hosts a fun event. Pack a chair, a picnic and some walking shoes. From 5-8:30 p.m., you'll get to meet some animals, courtesy of the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, then have a picnic, take a night hike, stargaze for animal constellations and end the evening sitting around a fire, talking about the nocturnal beasties. Great for the kids, great for anyone curious.
Finally, Seafood and fishing (Oysters! Spanish Mackerel! Spot! Trout!). Restaurants with 2-for-1 local specials, paddling in non-bug-infested creeks. For these, you'll have to your own Internet research, but it's well worth it.
Go to our Facebook page and tell us what are your favorite things to do this time of year.