Day trip to Hammocks Beach State Park

20 July 2022

In 2020, John and I both had Juneteenth added to our list of company holidays. Over the last few years, it’s been neat to learn more about it and find ways to celebrate it that feel honoring. This year, Juneteenth was observed on a Monday, so we took the opportunity to stay overnight at the North Carolina coast and visit Hammocks Beach State Park on our day off. It was a delight (and uniquely fitting for Juneteenth), and I’d love to tell you about it!

Hammocks Beach appeared on our radar pre-kids, when John turned it up as a contender for our annual camping trip. There are primitive camping sites on the island, but the logistical hurdles seemed a bit steep, so we put it on the back burner.

In 2019, I read an article in my favorite North Carolina magazine about the history of Hammocks Beach. In short: a (white) neurosurgeon and a (black) wilderness guide became friends in the early 1900s. Sharpe (the neurosurgeon) bought the property – 4,600 acres! – and hired Hurst (the guide) to manage the land. The families became close, and in the 1940s, toward the end of his life, Sharpe offered the entire property to the Hursts.

Instead of accepting, they forged a new plan together: in 1950, they deeded the property to the North Carolina Teachers Association, an organization of black educators and community leaders. From the article: “Because of segregation, African Americans were banned from public beaches in the state, including parks for which they paid taxes. [This plan] would honor teachers and give black schoolchildren and families in the state access to one of North Carolina’s most beautiful beaches.”

In 1961, Bear Island became a state park for African-Americans. The 1964 Civil Rights Act banned segregation in all parks, and though for several years afterward it continued to be a destination primarily for black families, it’s now enjoyed by all North Carolinians.

A fitting destination for Juneteenth, no? And what a beautiful beach it is! John and I could NOT get over the color of the water – it truly felt like we were in the Caribbean. We loved our trip, but there are a few helpful things to know if you go…

Where to stay at Hammocks Beach State Park:

Aside from the primitive camp sites, there are no accommodations on Bear Island. We opted to stay at the Hampton Inn in the nearby town of Swansboro (photos directly above from in town). It was $170 for two adjoining rooms (so nice to have when traveling with kids!). We usually stay in Airbnbs when traveling, so the hotel breakfast was a special treat for our kids :)

Swansboro is a cute waterfront town. After arriving on Sunday afternoon, we walked the main drag, ate dinner right on the water at Saltwater Grill, shared ice cream cones, and even caught some of an outdoor concert set up in the center of town.

Boarding the ferry and pulling away from the mainland

How to get to Hammocks Beach State Park:

This is part of the fun! Bear Island – the 4-mile-long, undeveloped barrier island that’s the centerpiece of the state park – is accessible only by the park’s passenger ferry or by paddling a canoe or kayak. You can find the ferry schedule here. When we visited, ferries left hourly from the mainland and from Bear Island, offset by half an hour. A round-trip ticket was $6 for adults and $4 for kids (Annie was free, but also needed a ticket).  

There are no advanced reservations and timed tickets are sold on a first come-first served basis. Since we were unsure of how hot demand would be for tickets, John opted to drive to the park office when they opened to buy tickets for the 10:30 ferry (it was only a 5-minute drive from the hotel, so not an inconvenience!). We probably also would have been fine arriving 30 minutes or so early, but our ferry did seem full.

The 15-minute ferry ride, which winds through pristine marshland, is beautiful!

What to know if you go to Hammocks Beach State Park:

  • It’s a half-mile walk from the ferry landing to the beach, so you’ll be hoofing it there and back. We all carried something on the walk!
  • Wagons are allowed on the ferry at the discretion of the boat captain. We did not bring one.
  • There is a concession stand and bathrooms on the beach. The concession stand has cold drinks, novelty ice cream, chips, and maybe some heartier food? The prices are adorably low: an ice cream sandwich was $.50.
  • There are no trash cans, so you’ll need to pack out any trash.
  • Like most beaches, there is very little shade (duh). Sunscreen is important!
  • When we arrived at the beach and set up our spot around 11, we were dismayed to be swarmed by small biting gnats. We opted to take a long walk down the beach first thing to avoid them, which worked well. By the time we were back at our things an hour later, the wind had picked up and sent the gnats packing. So maybe morning isn’t the best time to visit?

What to do at Hammocks Beach State Park:

Bear Island is absolutely gorgeous! Pristine really is the perfect word to describe it. Our kids (6, 3, and almost 1) enjoyed walking on the beach, hunting for shells (we found whole sand dollars!), digging in the sand, and wading in the water (which was a balmy 80 degrees when we visited in June). We picnicked, we got ice cream sandwiches, and we even saw three dolphins surfacing just offshore!! Highlight of the day for sure. The ferry ride itself was another highlight!

What to bring to Hammocks Beach State Park:

With three young kids at a remote location, there were a few helpful things we brought beyond the beach basics:

  • Ergo | John carried Annie for the walk to and from the ferry and up and down the beach. She fell asleep while we beach combed, which was a great way to sneak in her morning nap.
  • Shibumi shade | This was only our third outing or so with our Shibumi, and my personal jury is still out for the price. But it is a snap to put up and gets major points (especially on this trip) for being light and easy to carry.
  • Cooler backpack | We packed gear in the top and our water bottles and Jersey Mike’s subs in the cooler compartment on the bottom.
  • Beach toys | Definitely worth the space!
  • Cash | For the concession stand.
  • Folding chairs | For the parents. Kids sat on towels, ha.
  • Sun hats for everyone | And lots of sunscreen.

My fellow North Carolinians, Hammocks Beach is totally worth adding to your NC bucket list! We loved our day trip and hope to be back. In the meantime, I’d love to hear: if you’ve observed Juneteenth, how have you celebrated?

P.S. More adventures here and more North Carolina here.

July 2022 goals

13 July 2022

We are back from a week in northern Michigan with John’s family, and wow was it a delightful departure from ordinary life. Everything from the weather (75, crisp, sunny, no humidity) to the character of each day (surrounded by loved ones young and old, very little schedule, very few responsibilities) was refreshing. Though the break from normal life did include this very delayed monthly goals post, it was worth it – after all, there’s still plenty of time left in the month, and I wouldn’t have been working toward these goals while away, anyway! :)

On my calendar this month:
— All the birthdays! Annie’s, John’s, and Shep’s!
— The big photo shoot for Cultivate’s 2023 collection. Always fun to see my pals in person (most of us work remotely) and make some photo magic!
— Eating lots of peaches and making this dessert.

What I’m loving right now:
— We lived for more than a decade without a printer in our home, and we got along just fine – I’d just print the few things we needed at Office Max, which cost pennies and was right around the corner. When June started kindergarten, though, we felt like it would be helpful to have a printer in-house, and boy has it been delightful. I have very bad feelings towards printers in general – they always seem to be running out of ink and/or jamming – but this one has been docile and compliant. Turns out it’s actually really nice to hit print on something and then just run upstairs to retrieve it instead of getting in your car.
— I’m not sure if it can really be classified as something I’m loving, but this piece about the complicated and often uncomfortable realities of online returns was eyeopening. An important read for anyone who cares about waste and thoughtful consumption.
— I snagged this road trip activity book for June for our Michigan adventure, and she loved it! A great price and really well done.

As a reminder, you can find alllll the things I’ve loved over the last few years neatly organized right here!

What I read in June:
Hunt, Gather, Parent | You know me – I love my parenting books, and this one is no exception. I’ve really enjoyed it and am jotting down things to share in a future post! As a side note, I’ve always found book review posts challenging to write – there’s so much to say, and how to condense it into a manageable format?! – and so even though I read a lot and love discussing books, I’ve written very few of them. Inspired by Nancy’s podcast episodes, though, I’m going to try framing future book review posts by sharing just five takeaways (I need a constraint!). Let me know whether you’d be interested in reading a post like that?

My reading list for 2022, if you’d like to follow along!

Revisiting my June goals:
Download Blurb software, get familiar with it, and complete 2008 in book (Nope – more in my mid-year goals review!)
Finish memorizing 1 Corinthians 13 with June (We did one more verse!)
Finish editing Annie in April and film June in June, Volume 7 (Done and done! Annie’s video makes me tear up the most of any I’ve done so far. I got to use one of my favorite songs and it is just so sweet.)
Plan Shep’s fourth birthday party (and plan for John and Annie’s July birthdays, too) (Planning for his low-key nature/camping brunch celebration is complete! Annie’s birthday was celebrated in Michigan surrounded by family in one of our favorite places in the world. Scrambling a bit to get John’s festivities together in the wake of our trip, but we’ll make it happen!)
End the school year and begin our summer well (Yes! More here!)
Write the service I’m giving at the Island later this summer (No actual writing has happened but I’ve been turning over lots of ideas in my head, which is often the necessary prerequisite to writing.)
Pick blueberries, many times over (Sadly, our favorite blueberry patch has changed their hours this year, so we haven’t been able to visit yet. Hopefully in the next week or two!)

July goals:
— Write the service I’m giving at the Island in August
— Edit June in June, Volume 7
— Use Cultivate’s Leap Ahead Day to plan our Bermuda “marriage summit”
— …and strategize and plan ahead for family meeting topics
— Write out a personal reading plan for the rest of our current sermon series
— Complete June’s baby book
— Make kitchen decisions and order things

We’re off for an extended trip to Maine and Connecticut later this month, so I’m doing my best to keep this month’s list simple and relatively fool-proof! And here’s hoping that gives me a some space to squeeze in blog posts I’ve been hoping to write: our Hammocks Beach recap, Michigan recap, c-section tips, first year baby gear final reviews, some faith formation practices that have been working for us, and that book review! Thank you, as always, for being here, friends!!

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2022 mid-year goals review

1 July 2022

Happy July, friends! A proper monthly goals post will be coming shortly, but first I wanted to step back and share a mid-year update on my 2022 goals. I’ve done this for the past few years, and, as we say at Cultivate, pausing and reflecting like this really does help me to appreciate how my little efforts have added up over time. And, I don’t know, I figure you might be curious?! If so, let’s go!

Goal no. 1: Return to in-person worship. 
Progress I’ve made: I said this was my number one goal at the beginning of the year, and the progress certainly bears that out – hallelujah! Like many, we began worshipping from home when churches closed at the beginning of the pandemic, and then… never really returned, even though we were loyal online attenders. However, given my understanding of Jesus’s vision for a life of faith centering around learning, growing, and loving in a local community, I knew it was past time for our family to open ourselves back up to the discipline and delight of in-person worship. And we have! We’ve joined a new church family and have been worshipping regularly since February. We’ve joined a small group, we’ve started serving, we’ve gone to people’s houses for dinner, and we (and our kids) have made friends. From where we were then to where we are now, it’s all by the grace of God, and I am so grateful.
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: This goal is complete!

Goal no. 2: Bury the word of God in our hearts.
Progress I’ve made: I have not been particularly systematic about this goal, but it has been fruitful nonetheless! The kids’ Sunday school has memory verses each month, so we’ve memorized those as a family, and June and I have also worked on a few together (still plugging away at 1 Corinthians 13!). For the first four months of the year, we were in a sermon series on Matthew as a church, and I LOVED doing my daily reading each day at lunch as set by the church-provided plan. Since we’ve moved onto a new sermon series without an at-home plan, I’ve gotten out of the habit, but this makes me think that it might be the right season for some other kind of structured plan (something I’ve not been interested in for a few years). Regardless, I have really started to notice my increasing familiarity with scripture (also helped by my work developing Write the Word journals!), how it has increasingly come to mind when I’ve needed it over the last few months. Grateful!
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: We’re still new at church, so I don’t know if providing a reading plan to correspond with the sermon series is common or not, but if it’s not, I would love to sketch out my own so I can get back into my lunchtime study. And I want to finish 1 Corinthians 13!

Goal no. 3: Complete my outstanding creative projects quarter by quarter.
Progress I’ve made: For this goal, I assigned specific projects to each quarter of the year: a 2010-2014 family photo album to Q1, the first 10 years of EFM book to Q2, kid memorabilia and memory keeping to Q3, and finishing the Advent calendar to Q4. The Q1 goal is complete – HOORAY! The Q2 goal is dead in the water.
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: I have accepted that the EFM book is simply too large of a goal for me to complete in my current season, given the other items that my revealed preferences (i.e. what I actually do) have shown are my priorities. I do plan to revisit the idea in the future. For the second half of the year, though, I’m moving forward with my plans as laid out and feel confident I’ll be able to complete them!

Goal no. 4: Make my fitness a priority and have fun doing it.
Progress I’ve made: Fitness was 100% not a priority in 2021 – being a healthy pregnant person and a cozy post-partum person was, and that was perfect for that season of life. And now here we are in 2022! Our Q1 Peloton challenge was a slam-dunk success (apparently I’m a competitive person?!): I worked out every day but two, and biked 240 miles. Though I’ve dropped off a bit in Q2, so far this year I’ve logged 2,629 minutes of cycling, strength training, and stretching – versus 1,800 in all of 2021. I’ve also been in in-person physical therapy (and doing at-home exercises) since February for diastasis recti, and though it’s taking longer than I’d hoped, I’m grateful to be seeing progress. Finally, we’ve taken a handful of bike rides as a family of five! I have several goals under this umbrella: complete a diastasis recti program (any recommendations?), compete with our siblings in a Peloton challenge in Q1 (and probably Q4), add Annie into our life as a bike-riding family and get back out on the trails (starting in Q2!), and complete an MS75 ride in September with John and hopefully our brother- and sister-in-law!
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: We need to decide if we’re going to tackle an MS ride this year or table it to 2023… I am leaning toward the latter. Now that we have our car back, I hope to go on many more family bike rides together this summer and fall!

Goal no. 5: Celebrate our marriage with joy! 
Progress I’ve made: John and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary this year! There wasn’t a lot I wanted to *do* for this goal; I mostly just want to make it a focus to praise the Lord for all He has done and continues to do in our marriage. And I think we’ve done that! We could not be happier or more grateful for where and how we are at this point in our life together. We’ve enjoyed monthly date nights (so far this year, for my Triangle gals: Chef’s Palette, Mandolin, the Durham (and Nate Bargatze!), Taverna Agora, the Provincial (and Top Gun!), and Mandolin again). We’ve booked a beachside dinner in Bermuda.
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: On our September Bermuda trip, I’d like to incorporate some “marriage summit”-type activities and vision casting for the next decade, and am planning to figure out the format for that during Cultivate’s Leap Ahead Day later this month. Planning to read sections of Creative Love and do some internet sleuthing, but if you’ve read a book or article or listened to a podcast episode on marriage summits or milestone marriage reflections, I’d love to hear! I also think I need some sort of celebratory anniversary dinner outfit?!

Goal no. 6: Refresh our home one quarter at a time. 
Progress I’ve made: This goal is by far the one where I’ve expended the most effort and have the least to show for it, ha. The original goal was to refresh our kitchen (and possibly our mantel) in Q1, and tweak our loft into a true play room in Q2. In reality, in what felt like a part-time job at times, I spent all of Q1 and into Q2 chasing down contractors to bid on our project. We did, eventually, chose two, and their work is scheduled to start in September (!). I also worked with Callie on a design plan for the kitchen (we’ve chosen the cabinet color!), and we’ve made some changes to our loft that feel significant: adding shelving, rehoming some of my styling supplies, rehoming some toys, and displaying the ones remaining with more care, a la the Montessori model.
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: LOTS! In Q3, it looks like our kitchen project will be complete, our fireplace mantel and surround will be replaced, some detail on our stairs will be refreshed, and our power room will be refreshed, as well. In prep for September, when the bulk of the work will be done, I need to make many, many final decisions and a few purchases. I am very grateful to be able to do this project (10 years in the making!), but the decision fatigue is real. Would you be interested in hearing more about what we have planned? It might help motivate me, ha!

Goal no. 7: Establish new rhythms for our family.
Progress I’ve made: This goal was the most vague, and it’s easy to feel like nothing has happened. But, stepping back, I can see that we have absolutely established a new Sabbath rhythm: church, out to lunch, an afternoon nap for everyone in the house, and prepping for the week ahead. We’ve also done two quarters of our quarterly dates with the two older kids and they’ve been a huge hit! June and I went to our local production of Mary Poppins in Q1, Shep and I went to the trampoline park and Chick-fil-a in Q2, and June and John went to a ropes course and out for sushi in Q2.
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: I’m hoping to start family meetings when the school year starts back up! Planning to use some of my Leap Ahead Day time to do some planning on this.

Goal no. 8: Make meals easier. 
Progress I’ve made: This is my simplest goal of 2022! I wanted to 1) buy a small chest freezer for our garage, 2) get into the practice of doubling and freezing meals, and incorporating frozen meals into my meal planning, and 3) build out 1-2 “brainless” weeks of menus for each season so I can copy and paste when I’m short on time. So far, I have gone to Lowes to look at freezers, reached an impasse with John on whether we should buy one, and wrote one brainless meal plan :)
What I hope to accomplish in the next six months: Still hoping for that freezer!!

Whew! I’d love to hear how your progress on your 2022 goals has gone so far, if you’d like to share. Big or small, it’s worth celebrating!!

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