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a short list of hatteras obsessions

These barrier islands have a way of getting under your skin. It can happen to any of us –whether we have just been visiting the Outer Banks or we’ve lived here and moved away– this homesickness for sun and sand and mama ocean. Writing with humor for the Island Free Press, Joy Crist hits all the right notes in what she misses about Avon and Hatteras Island.

Lightning whelk.

Lightning whelk.

“Man, I miss shelling. And I used to be such a dedicated and downright vicious beachcomber.
I would get up at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday, hit up Red Drum for coffee, and go to the neighboring shelling beaches with the single-minded intention of being the “first” one to scoop up the helmet conchs, scotch bonnets, and whelks that would drift ashore. It became an obsession, to the point that I was fighting pelicans or inadvertently glaring at other poor beach-lovers who were in my territory.
In fact, I have a fantastic example of how deep my love of shelling runs.
Several years ago, I was beachcombing along Hatteras Inlet on one of those perfect January days where the outside temperatures were ice-cold, but the sun was shining and the ocean waters were Caribbean-clear.

While strolling, I spotted a gorgeous pink lightning whelk located just offshore, about 50 yards into the water, and I had to ask myself the question that all dedicated beachcombers are forced to ask themselves at one point or another:

“Do I leave it, or do I take my pants off and just go for it?”

As any dedicated shell-lover will tell you, it wasn’t even a contest. You take your pants off.

And so I did, and waded out to the inlet — with no other beach-goers in sight cause it was January and all — to score my treasure.

Well, just as I was on my way back to the beach from the water, while sporting a newfound awesome whelk, a warm hoodie, and my tangerine-colored granny panties, a caravan of fishing trucks started to make their way down to Hatteras Inlet.

This heart-stopping moment led me to the second question that all dedicated beachcombers must at some point face in their life:

“Do I remain in freezing cold ocean waters, or do I show a bunch of strange fishermen my granny panties?”

Discover the other things Joy Crist has been missing about Hatteras Island on the Island Free Press.

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