Our Third Anniversary Trip || July 22-24, 2016 || Wilmington, NC
This past weekend, we took the chance to get away to celebrate our upcoming third wedding anniversary. I can’t believe I’m writing that already…actually, I’m feeling both “How has it been 3 years already” and “How has it only been 3 years”. But I’ll save all that talk for the mushy anniversary post (coming tomorrow 😉 ). Despite doing so much traveling together, anniversary trips are always so special to us and this one was no different! The one thing our anniversary trips all have in common is that they were at least partially around a city/area with a large body of water. Our first one was to Santa Barbara, CA and Joshua Tree with the Pacific, our second to Door County, WI with Lake Michigan, and now our third in Wilmington, NC on the Atlantic Ocean! As you can see, they have been spread across the country – not because we travel long distance just for an anniversary trip, but because we’ve never celebrated 2 anniversaries living in the same city, or even part of the country. Pretty crazy right? And if, Lord willing, we stay on track with the Navy, then this trend will continue for at least one more year.
Anyway – for this post, I’m focusing on days 1 and 2 of our trip, minus the history. I’ll have Curtis write about his favorite parts of the weekend in another post (he has a final tomorrow which he should be focusing on 😉 ) and I’ll write about our last day in another post.
We left for our weekend in Wilmington on Friday around 4:30. In case you’re wondering, yes, Charlotte was lucky enough to join us even on this special trip! We drove on highway 41 North for most of the drive through SC, through Andrews, Johnsonville, and Mullins, where we took highway 76 East. It’s important for you to know this because we have a goal of visiting all 46 South Carolina counties, and this route knocked out 2 more for us: Marion and Horry. The drive went fast and the roads were pretty quiet, and we enjoyed listening to an audiobook on Overdrive – Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. It was a pretty cute story, maybe not Curtis’ first pick initially, but Kate DiCamillo is the author of my all-time favorite book (Because of Winn-Dixie) so that’s why I chose it. (I also heard her speak once and got my copy of Because of Winn-Dixie autographed, so yeah…I’m a fan!)
We made one letterboxing stop on the way up, just across the border in Fair Bluff, NC. The sun was setting, the sky was a pretty pastel shade of pink, and the heat of the day had finally given way to the coolness of the night. We took a stroll on the Lumber River Walk off of Riverside Drive, down the long boardwalk alongside the river and over the swamp. And we actually loved it. It was the perfect evening and we were able to easily appreciate all the beauty and uniqueness of the area. We loved how at some points, the water sits perfectly still, and just down the boardwalk there would be a current running through the water. We loved the cypress trees and the remaining sunlight disappearing behind them. And we actually found the letterbox! The boardwalk itself was very impressive, and seemed to go on and on, and we pondered the work it took to build something so expansive. It stretched across about ⅔ of a mile to and alongside the Lumber River. Altogether a great stop and a great way to stretch our legs in the middle of our 4 hour drive.
We made it to our hotel in Leland around 9:30. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express, which offered great military discounts and was super nice. (You know you’re a frugal nerd when you get excited to stay in a Holiday Inn because it’s the nicest hotel you’ve been to in a long time…haha!) Because the local places around us were all closing at 10 and we were pretty exhausted, we grabbed Applebees to go so that we could eat in our fancy hotel room and have our dog beg for our food.
Before we left for the trip, we kept saying “Let’s get up early and go watch the sunrise on the beach!” but by this point we knew that wasn’t happening, so we turned off our alarms and slept in! After a hearty continental breakfast complete with delicious chocolate milk, the 3 of us got on the road around 8 (because “sleeping in” means waking up at 7) and drove to South of Kure Beach, and parked across the street from Fort Fisher State Historic Site. The fort wasn’t open yet, but there were some letterboxes along the beach so we set off on a long beach walk. It always pays to be at the beach early – we were alone almost the whole time and didn’t have the sun beating down on us quite yet. (Our sunburns from Morris Island are still healing so we certainly didn’t want a repeat of that!)
Kure Beach was beautiful, but difficult to walk through. After visiting so many beaches you start to notice how much sand can vary along the coast, and this sand was what I might call thick or deep, and was hard on our ankles. It was best to walk along the waves, so that’s what Charlotte and I did. Curtis took a cute series of pictures of her and I running through the waves together. 🙂 Just South of the fort is an aquarium and a state recreation area, along with some trails and a boardwalk. We took the Basin Trail that led .6 miles one way to an overlook, and passed by a WWII bunker. We found 2 out of 3 of the letterboxes along the way – and at the one that was missing, Curtis found a tupperware and a silver plated spoon, which I’m pretty sure was almost as good as a letterbox. (He really likes silver – as evidenced by his interest in coin collecting, silver stacking, and metal detecting!)
At this point it was really starting to heat up – we had been out walking for over an hour – and after having Charlotte drink most of our water from our water bottles, we knew we needed to head back to our car and the fort. Instead of taking the beach way back to the car, we decided to take the parts of the trail that we missed and go through a heavily forested area. This was in favor of being in the shade and not having to walk through the sand, but it didn’t come without trials of its own. There were sooo many mosquitoes in there – Curtis had sprayed before we left but I didn’t, thinking that I wouldn’t need bug spray just for a walk on the beach. So I started running to get away from them, but suddenly I realized I didn’t have my phone. Oh no! Curtis gave me Charlotte and the keys and took off to go find it, and I took Charlie back to the car to cool her off and get her more water. What Curtis didn’t tell me at this point is that he was also seeing gigantic spiders over our heads through this forested area. He’s a good man – pretty sure I would have died if I had seen them, and thankfully I didn’t! He made it back a while later (with my phone, which thankfully was pretty easy to find back at the overlook) and after drinking and cooling off in our air conditioned car, we walked over to Fort Fisher to walk around the actual fort.
Our walk around the fort was thankfully much less dramatic than walking back from the overlook. I will have Curtis write all the fun stuff about this soon, but we enjoyed the short tour and the well-preserved area. We refilled our water bottles at the visitor’s center, then decided to go back to the hotel for a “siesta”. We showered, changed, and relaxed, and successfully avoided the hottest time of the day (it was definitely a hot one for pretty much everywhere on the East coast if not all around the country, haha!)
After working up the motivation to go back in public, we set off once again for Wilmington, this time leaving Charlotte behind. She didn’t seem to mind, we had really worn her out after the morning and she also was appreciating the fancy hotel room. Our first stop for the night was the Battleship North Carolina. This was the first time we’d visited a battleship together, and we really enjoyed this tour! We always enjoy seeing Navy related things together. 🙂 Once again, I’ll let Curtis tell you more about this attraction later, because he obviously has a much better understanding of these things.
Once we were finished with our tour, we drove to historic downtown Wilmington to walk around the streets and have our “fancy anniversary dinner.” My favorite part of the downtown area was the courthouse – definitely one of our favorite courthouses! After walking down the river walk and checking out different menus for seafood restaurants, we decided to eat at the Riverboat Landing. Everything was delicious and it was a great choice! After that we thought about getting ice cream, but out of the 2 shops we came across, one seemed to have too bland of flavors and the other had a long line that stretched out the door and past the next 2 businesses down the line. Obviously that means that their ice cream is pretty darn good, but we weren’t willing to wait so it was our loss. (We ended up getting a few ice cream cartons from a Walgreens near our hotel later though and ate it all in one sitting…#HealthFood #GoodForTheSoul)
We finished our day with a sunset stroll around Greenfield Lake Park. (Because when you’re too lazy to get up to see the sunrise, there’s always a sunset at the end of the day!) Altogether a wonderful day experiencing Wilmington – we completed all that we set out to accomplish and had a great time despite the heat. Look out for the rest of our trip posts coming soon!