North Carolina (Come on and Raise Up?)

The days are long but the years are short. 

– Gretchen Rubin

If that’s not an accurate description of our time stationed at Cherry Point, I don’t know what is. Some days, particularly in the winter months when most of eastern North Carolina becomes a ghost town, when the snowbirds flee even further south to escape winter, the days felt interminable. But, as usually happens, the days quickly added up to weeks, the weeks blended into months, and the months blurred into years.

Now, I’m staring down the end of our time here feeling equally like a kid on Christmas and a kid at the dentist. Yes, I’m eagerly anticipating what’s to come, even if I don’t even up getting everything on my proverbial wish list. But at the same time, and without ever realizing it, I’m filled with nerves and a bit of regret. Probably because it’s summer, the only time of year during which eastern North Carolina is worth inhabiting, and almost certainly because I’ve finally ticked some items of my North Carolina bucket list!

Something about knowing we’re leaving soon motivated me to make the most of these last few weeks. Not unlike a kid flossing furiously the week before that dreaded dentist trip, hoping to make up for lost time. Here are a few highlights from this place I love to hate:

1. Asheville

Asheville wins hands down as my favorite long weekend getaway. It was my first time booking through AirBnb, but certainly not my last. I really wanted a mountain getaway, so I booked a cabin at the Ivy River Lodge, about which I could gush endlessly. The only bad thing about our trip was choice paralysis. There were so many beautiful trails and waterfalls, I spent nearly as much time researching as I did hiking. Definitely come to Asheville with a plan; the mountains may be close in mileage, but driving on windy mountain roads adds time, so you can’t easily bounce from one to the other. We settled on Chimney Rock State Park and Dupont National Forest, both of which were beautiful and peaceful (as long as you get up early to beat the crowds).

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2. Rachel Carson Reserve

I’m almost embarrassed we’ve never made it out to any of the barrier islands in the Rachel Carson Reserve before, considering it’s virtually in our backyard. We made two trips, one to Carrot Island (home of the wild horses) and another to Sand Dollar Island (a sandbar chock full of its namesake). Both are quick ferry trip from Beaufort and not to be missed if you’re in the area.

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3. OBX Beach House

Since J and I didn’t have a wedding and our families had never met, we decided to forego the frills and brought in family from all corners of the country to a beach house in Corolla. It was a timely reminder that the best adventures are the ones you spend with family, no matter where you are (even if that includes a beach house with plumbing problems). Hopefully we’ll go somewhere visit-worthy, because three years would be an awfully long time to go without these lovely people.

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Thanks, North Carolina, for being our first home. But thanks, Marine Corps, for getting us the heck outta here.

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