Jockey’s Ridge: Breathless Oasis

By Brittany Wheatley
I have left the plain, and each sinking step brings my wandering mind back to that realization.
The grains of sand pivot around your skin until you’ve sunk ankle deep; from the bottom of the
dune you look like a human growth on the East Coast largest sand dunes.
From the bottom of the first dune I felt that I was about to climb a really short mountain.
Breathless at the top, the trail of footprints looks like I stumbled, but no one would pay much
attention to my footprints here. The expanse of sand and the lack of a beaten path make my
leftover markings unremarkable to other people.
There are people here; at one count I spotted 28 people, but from where I stood, each individual
was an ant. A football stadium full of fans could walk on to Jockey’s Ridge, go in separate
directions and not meet their friends again for at least 24 hours. To me this is better than being at
the beach; the quiet where I can only hear wind whistles and uses the nearest American Beach
Grass as an alternative instrument. The reeds are sparse in number overall, nestled close to the
small puddle shaped lakes coming from heavy rain in the valley of the dunes.
The plant life was a surprise when I walked up the first dune. I paused in at the patch of forest
areas spread out in front of me and exclaimed: “Oh my gosh, there’s trees! There’s like this
random patch of trees.” Inside the forests, live oaks, red cedars, wax myrtle, bayberry, and read
oaks only make up a portion of the maritime thinckets. Per typical of arial perspective, the
patches looked more like broccoli bits separated on the plate. Expanses of desert shorter dunes
than the one I stood mesmerized was filled with the potential adventure I didn’t have time for.
A person can go to Jockey’s Ridge everyday of the week for years and never experience it the
same way. My experience was that of a wanderer. Turing left for ten minutes and then right for
thirty, zigzagging up one dune and down to the valley of the other side. A windmill marked the
entrance of my journey, like an enormous flag without marring the ocean view. The sand dunes
change, constantly blowing over and being built up by the wind current coming off the Atlantic
Ocean, although that in and of it’s self makes the exploration of the sand dunes an exceptional
joy. 420 acres of sand may never be walked over.
I spotted a couple who were dog walking, there was no leash and in the space of allotted, no
peace the barking dogs could bother. A family with five kids use a sand dune closer to the
entrance as a water slide. All members lined up to watch one another slide down wetted beach
sand into the shallow lakes bellow, cheering at the splash and no doubt enjoying nature’s toy and
the lack of lines that come with the territory of a manmade water slide. It’s a very safe, kid
friendly adventure. The lakes barely reach up to the shoulders of a nine-year-old boy lying down.
And the vantage point of being on a sand dune rather than flat beach is the ability to see the
actions of little kids from whatever direction they are headed easily.
I was able to observe their adventure and wade in the water as well; up to my ankles without the
fear of a currant taking me by surprise or kids tossing water up and splashing me by accident.
I’m also not in the way of young and old hang gliders, coming back from a lesson two or three
dunes outside of my exploration area. Free permits to hang glide are available through the park
office for those who have a valid USHGA rating, but for those interested in flight but do not wish
to their feet to leave the ground, the sand dunes are an ideal spot to fly kites.