Bald Head Island is a magical place. It is a very small island at the southernmost tip of North Carolina with the Cape Fear River running on the western side of the island and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side of the island. The only way to get on or off the island is by ferry and you’re not allowed to drive a car once you get there. As the result of various ecological concerns and human nerve conditions, guests and residents are only allowed to get around on golf carts—and there are some seriously pimped out ones at that.
Bald Head is about six or so square miles and large portions of the island are preserved marshes, beaches and maritime forests. Nothing is bulldozed to build a house—the houses are built around the nature. It’s really quite cool having decks and walks built with holes in them for trees to sprout through. BHI takes its nature very seriously and it really wouldn’t be a bad idea for the rest of the world to take heed.
The island is incorporated as the Village of Bald Head Island, so it isn’t a private island, but it is expensive as hell to own property there. One can’t buy a lot for less than $500,000 and that’s on the conservative side. It is mostly a spot for second homes and those on vacation, but there are about 173 lucky folks that live on the island full time. Scott and I often desperately daydream about being able to call the place home.
When we were growing up, my parents took me and my brother for vacations at Bald Head Island. Back in the days before too many accidents required golf cart drivers to have valid driver’s licenses, Ethan and I drove from one end of the island to the other and explored everywhere in between.
Bald Head Island also holds a very special place in my heart because Scott and I spent our honeymoon there. Adding bridal nerves to my already potent fear of flying would have been a nuclear combination and BHI’s knack for making a person feel like they are a million miles away even if they’re only really a hop, skip and a jump made it the perfect place to go for a week.
We loved our time at Bald Head and I am ashamed to admit that we didn’t make it back to the island until 2008. On that occasion, my parents rented a house for my grandmother’s birthday, so Scott and I, the Baby Belles and their Uncle Ethan went for the celebration weekend. Baby Belle 2 was too tiny to remember it, but Baby Belle 1 loved it as I knew that any child of mine would. We went back for Easter, 2009 as well as Easter, 2011 and we had a wonderful time every time.
Of course, that’s not to say that we don’t have a little adventure every now and again.
During Easter, 2009 Ethan went for a walk. The island is covered with a really beautiful maritime forest and about three or four trails have been cut so that visitors and residents can enjoy the trees and plants...and the ticks...and the snakes. (Have you guessed that the hiking isn’t really my cup of tea?) Anyway, Ethan went into the woods.
A few hours after Ethan went into the woods, Dad received a call on his cell phone. Ethan was lost. We all did our best to figure out where he was, but saying you’re standing between and oak tree and a palm tree in a maritime forest doesn’t really do much for narrowing down the possibilities. After a rather distressing amount of time, Ethan managed to stumble out upon a road and was therefore able to tell us where he was. True to my big sister duties, I snickered in the golf cart as we rode to retrieve him.
Flash forward: Easter, 2011. Uncle Ethan wants to take Baby Belle 1 for a walk. Uncle Ethan is a very smart boy: He scouts out the route before taking Baby Belle 1, he told us where they were going and he made sure his cell phone was charged up. I wasn’t worried. Off they went into the wild blue yonder...
About an hour or so later, I got a call on my cell phone:
Ethan: Ashley, it’s Ethan.
Ashley: What’s up?
Ethan: Everything is fine. We’re both fine—nothing to worry about. Um...this is really embarrassing...um—
Baby Belle 1(in her little singsong voice): He got lost again!
Ethan (to BB1): I didn’t get us lost. I’m the one that said we needed to stop when we got to the bench, but noooooooo—
Ethan: Uh-huh, sorry...but she really did—never mind. Can you take go to the first path off of Federal Point Road and just kind of follow the path for a bit? I feel like we’re really close and maybe we can just listen out...
Baby Belle 1: Uncle Ethan is so silly!
Ashley: I’m on the way.
Baby Belle 2 was soundly sawing logs with her Bon Bon, so Scott and I headed out in the other golf cart to retrieve my other child and her uncle. Of course, me being me, I only packed two pairs of shoes: My casual flip-flops and my dress flip-flops. Accordingly, I was tromping through the woods in my casual flip-flops, occasionally chatting with Ethan on the phone about difficult decisions such as whether to take the left or the right path at “the oak with the funky limb that looks like it’s giving you the bird.” Baby Belle 1 was giggling the whole time...I often worry about her survival instincts.
Such amazing technological feats have been accomplished in the 21st Century! We’ve got GPS and satellite imagery that can pinpoint within a centimeter where someone is. We’ve got trackers and bells and whistles and we even have the ol’ search dogs to fall back on if we really want to go old school. In light of the brave new age, how did we locate my firstborn and my brother?
“MARCO!”...wait a second and walk a little further...“MARCO!”...wait a second and walk a little further...“MARCO!”...wait a second and pull a stick the size of an adult iguana off of my flip-flop...”MAR—“
A couple of Marco’s and a few Polo’s later, we laid eyes on our weary band of hikers and no one was worse for the wear...although Uncle Ethan did insist on stating for the record that Baby Belle 1 was the one who urged him past the scouted location. Those 42 pound seven year-olds can really put the screws to you. I do admit, however, that those trails don’t look the same going as they do coming.
What did we learn? Well, since Baby Belle 1 went hiking with Uncle Ethan the very next day, not all that much. However, Scott and I have come to a decision. We both want to be cremated and have our ashes scattered at Bald Head Island, but we’re making express provisions in our Wills that Ethan is the one who has to carry us out into the forest and do the deed.
Poor Uncle Ethan.