Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Castle Beneath the Dunes


Somewhere, hidden under the vast sand dunes at the Outer Banks, lies a giant sand castle. How much of the castle is visible depends on the ever changing dunes. Sometimes just the tips of the turrets are visible, sometimes the castle stands ten feet tall over the sandy hills, sometimes the castle disappears without a trace and doesn't resurface again for many years.. It's like a mysterious mirage, and makes you wonder what else may have been engulfed by the dunes.


I remember the first time I saw the giant sand castle. It was during a beach trip when I was eight years old. As we drove past the sand dunes, I spotted these small peaks poking up in the sand and wondered what they were. We kept driving past, day after day, and I kept wondering what was up there. 



Finally on one of the last days of the trip. My dad parked the car and we raced across the street to trek up the sandy hill and see what it was. At the time only the very tip of the castle was visible. We weren't sure exactly what it was for, or how big it actually was, but I was fascinated. I couldn't stop thinking about the mysterious hidden sand castle. There is already so much history and folklore at the Outer Banks, and this was just another feature that added to that feeling.

The next year when we returned to the beach, so much more was uncovered!!  That was when we read somewhere that it had belonged to a miniature golf course. Shortly after that it spent many years completely buried. I couldn't see it on our subsequent visits, and many people thought it had been buried for good.



But when we visited not long ago, the sand castle had once again made an appearance! This time with the addition of some grasses.

















The giant sand castle is part of a miniature golf course that was built in the 70s near an enormous living sand dune called Jockeys Ridge. It wasn't long before the dunes began to migrate towards the golf course and eventually consumed it. The strong winds at the beach mean the sand dune is constantly changing, and because the winds blow more from the Northeast direction, it tends to move a few feet to the southwest each year, which is why the miniature golf course became buried and has stayed buried ever since. 

The sand castle is the only evidence that remains of the old golf course. I always wonder about the other things buried under there, and if maybe, one day, a wild storm will pass by that uncovers them. Even just a little bit.




And just for fun, here are some pictures of me the second time I visited the sand castle!  I think this was in 2000.  The pointy turrets have since disappeared.






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