Many of my trips to the Outer Banks include a visit to Jockey's Ridge, a massive system of sand dunes in Nags Head, NC. The landscape here is one of seemingly endless sand, vast and sublime. The territory of the dunes begins at the waters of the Roanoke Sound where the towering sands protect a gnarled maritime thicket of live oaks, wax myrtle, and pine. From there it stretches east towards the ocean, encompassing almost the entire width of the island. Only the bending highway, appearing stretched by the bulge of sand, and a single row of beach houses separate it from the Atlantic. In its interior, you feel transported to a faraway desert world.
The fact that we can visit Jockey's Ridge today can be attributed to one person: Carolista Baum, who literally stood in the path of a bulldozer to block its destruction and was instrumental in the creation of a State Park at Jockey's Ridge. From The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources:
Beyond pickets of disappearing sand fencing or the occasional abandoned kite, there aren't many man-made objects within Jockey's Ridge. One of the few exceptions is the last remnant of Jockey’s Ridge Mini Golf: a concrete castle, built in 1975, now continually buried and unburied as the sands of the East Coast's largest dune ebb and flow. On a recent trip the castle had been almost entirely uncovered by a strong winter storm. Previously, only the top of the highest turret poked above sand. See below for a selection of photos from the John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive depicting the attraction in 1985:
From The Mapless Traveler:
Jockey's Ridge is one of my favorite places on North Carolina's coast. Its massive scale and visual might seem overpowering and elusive to translate through imagery. Whenever I'm there I stay longer than I intend and leave wanting: for one more shot, a different view, the perfect scale figure. And when I return it's a place anew, reminiscent but definitely shifted, each visit a glance at a kilometer wide wave of sand, undulating between summer and winter winds.