Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Posted by Stu On March - 13 - 2016

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Photos from 6/14 – Revisited 5/15

We have long been vacationing in the Ocean Isle Beach/Sunset Beach area of North Carolina, and I’m hoping to live in the area in the near future.  Sunset Beach is our favorite beach; it’s quiet, it’s peaceful, and parking is free.  This is a far cry from the Jersey beaches I used to live near.

A few years back I heard things here and there about a hidden mailbox somewhere on Sunset Beach.  A mailbox on a beach sounds odd enough, but then throw in the fact that it’s a good 1.5 mile hike to get to it.  Needless to say, my curiosity had been piqued.  Why was it there and what was its purpose?  So one morning I decided to attempt to find this reclusive mailbox, armed with little more than “walk down the beach til you’re almost in South Carolina” (Sunset Beach is right by the state line).

So I walked and I walked.  For some reason, 1.5 miles seems significantly longer on the beach than in the woods, probably because the scenery doesn’t change all that much… and you can see very, very far ahead of you, and it never looks like it’s getting any closer.  Eventually I saw a flagpole behind a sand dune and knew my goal had to be nearby.

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I walked around the dune and found my prize.

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So what’s inside?  Not a geocache, surprisingly, but letters.  Lots of letters.  A few notebooks filled with people’s reflections – joy, woe, anger, and everything in between – are what’s inside.  For decades, people have been walking to this remote, uninhabited part of the beach to write of their triumphs, regrets, and fears, and leaving them in the mailbox to share with others.  I wrote a letter to my wife and then 7-month old daughter.

My wife and I decided to renew our vows at the mailbox the following year.  Just a few days before we walked out to it, we saw the mailbox on the front page of the local paper.  It had been damaged by a hurricane just days earlier, but people had already gone out and repaired it.

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CBS News has an excellent article and video that shine more light on the history of the Kindred Spirit Mailbox.

Popularity: 2% [?]

Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson Ruins

Posted by Stu On April - 10 - 2015

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Photos from June 2013

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Old Brunswick Town predates the American Revolution and was once an important port along the Cape Fear River.  The growing size and importance of nearby Wilmington chipped away at Brunswick’s significance and population.  In 1776, the British attacked the town and scattered its few remaining residents, and the town was never rebuilt.  During the Civil War, the site was used to construct Fort Anderson.  Once nearby Fort Fisher fell, the Union then set its sights on Fort Anderson, ultimately pushing out the Confederates and claiming the fort.

Many of the foundations of the town have been excavated and restored.  Walls from the St. Philips church still stand.  A trail runs through the site with signs describing the businesses and dwellings of the town and even runs along and on the mounds of Fort Anderson.  The visitor’s center offers a small museum with artifacts found on the site.

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For more information, check out Brunswick Town & Fort Anderson’s official site.

Popularity: 7% [?]

Abandoned Family Inn

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011

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While pulling into South of the Border, we noticed an abandoned motel literally up the road on the North Carolina side of the border.  Next to it was a vacated fast food place; in fact, the only place nearby that wasn’t abandoned was a Waffle House, which is where we stopped for a quick bite (not like we had other options).  We decided to explore the motel a bit before heading to SotB, which turned out to be a good idea, as this place was far more interesting.

The sign said Family Inns of America.  I found out the chain still exists but only in VA, TN, and LA.  I was unable to find out when this particular motel closed, but I did find out robberies took place there on at least two different occasions.

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Popularity: 16% [?]

Fort Fisher and the Hermit’s Bunker

Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Fort Fisher photos from May 2010
Hermit Bunker & Grave photos from May 2011

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This wound up being a 2 part trip.  My wife and I have been vacationing in southern North Carolina for a few years.  While looking up things to do, both traditional and nontraditional (you can only go to Myrtle Beach so many times), I found something about Fort Fisher, which saw some combat during the Civil War.  This was somewhat intriguing, but what was even more interesting was something being mentioned about a hermit living in a World War II-era bunker near the fort.  So off we went.

The fort has a small but informative museum regarding Fort Fisher’s history and involvement with the Civil War and World War II.  We walked around the fort grounds for a bit.  There wasn’t all that much – a few cannons and some mounds.  No signs indicated anything about a WWII bunker or a hermit.  After going to the nearby state aquarium (that had an albino alligator), we resumed our search for the elusive bunker but came up empty.  Running out of daylight, we decided to do some more research and try again next year.

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The following year, we were much better prepared.  With coordinates and geocaching hints, we had a much better idea of where we were going.  We parked near the beach access and walked down the beach.  Eventually, a boardwalk led the way.

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As we progressed, the flies became more unbearable.  Finally, we reached the bunker, which was much smaller than I expected, and not necessarily what I think of when I hear the word “bunker.”  By this point, the flies had left, but immediately upon arriving at the bunker site, we were attacked by the largest, most persistent swarm of mosquitoes I have ever encountered.  Seriously.  Just in the area in front of the bunker.  How does that work?

I quickly snapped pictures of the outside of the bunker, the inside, a plaque on it, and a sign to the sign which I’m guessing highlighted the life of Robert E. Harrill, the Fort Fisher Hermit.  I’m not really sure, to be honest, because I didn’t get to read it.  I took my 4 pics and hauled out of there.  We must have killed a hundred mosquitoes each.  Our arms were literally covered in them.  Interestingly, just a few yards away from the hermit’s homestead, the mosquitoes stopped following us.

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Robert Harrill lived in this tiny building for nearly 15 years; all it took for me was about 30 seconds to decide to vacate.  Considered somewhat of a philosopher, he received many visitors during his time as a hermit.

We learned Harrill’s grave was found a few miles from Fort Fisher (he was found dead in his bunker in 1972).

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I found it interesting that Fort Fisher’s official website mentions nothing of its hermit.  Little indication is given as to where exactly the bunker is, and it seems a private group provided the signage and plaques in his honor.  Robert’s story, and his final dwelling, are fairly elusive to the casual tourist.

Perhaps that’s the way he would want it to be.

Popularity: 13% [?]

Rock Garden of America

Posted by Stu On November - 6 - 2009

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My mom moved to North Carolina a few years ago, and during my drive down to Ocean Isle Beach for vacation I decided to visit her.  Right on the side of the road just a few miles from her house, I found this.  It’s just sitting in front of someone’s front yard.

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If the sign and rocks don’t give it away, this is supposed to be a rock garden featuring rocks from different states.  I admit I wasn’t here all that long, but I’m pretty sure a few states are missing.  Some states have multiple rocks as well.

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Being a Jersey boy, I got a close-up of the NJ rock.

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Being a recently converted PA boy, I looked among the various tags for “PA” but was unable to find any.

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Just a random, unexpected thing to see along a small highway in northern NC, I think.  There was also some sort of platform that said “register,” I’m guessing for holding a guest book of some sort, but there was nothing on it.

Popularity: 9% [?]

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