by Judith Bailey
Centuries have shaped Nags Head Woods into one of the most hidden and priceless gems of the Outer Banks.
Land formed into ridge and swale, or to put it another way, dune and hollow, doesn't begin to describe the majestic sense of myriad plant and animal life in this Maritime Forest ...
It is best viewed in winter when the ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes are minimal. The best way to get there is by turning west at the McDonald's in Kill Devil Hills NC onto Ocean Acres Dr. and going almost to the sound. The road turns into a narrow unpaved lane. Turn left into a small parking lot. Walking past the visitor's center buildings you will find maps, a bridge over a pond and several trails.
The day I went there I took all the trails, a distance of over 5 miles. But shorter hikes are available and every trail has something worthwhile to offer. Three deer bounded out of a swale upon my entrance. I have this ability to take photos of where wildlife has just been because I don't hold my camera up in time, so you will just have to imagine them in my photos.
The longest loop trail (Blueberry Ridge) will take you past several fresh water ponds. Stay on the trails in all seasons to help protect the flora and fauna. Bow-hunting is permitted in the woods so wear bright clothing (not white).
Thanks to the Nature Conservancy we will have Nags Head Woods as a legacy for future generations. But it was not always so. Over one hundred years ago it was home to a small group of Outer Bankers who farmed and fished its shores. There is still some evidence of their life. I took a photo of Maggie Tillett's fallen down chimney found on the Roanoke Trail. Like Jockey’s Ridge. to the south, 1970's developers invaded the woods, laid out streets and even put in fire hydrants.
Sometimes you will stumble across them, incongruous in the forest. The "Woods Road," still a sandy track, has enjoyed use from the earliest days of settlement and walking down it will give you a real sense of Outer Banks life before the Modern era.
After a short or long hike I recommend Kelly's Restaurant in Kill Devil Hills (dinner only) or the Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk NC, formerly a Coast Guard station (lunch and dinner) and both are open year round.