Fort Fisher Recreation Area
Robert Harrill lived in this structure for 17 years.
The thing about ocean-area hikes that aren't along the beach is that they all have three things in common:
- They're hot.
- They've got bugs.
- The Day Hiker talks a lot about 1 and 2 above.
No exception here, though this short walk had plenty of other stuff going on too, like ibis and herons, little scurrying wharf crabs and then . . . inches from Gail's face as she pulled up and ran back into my arms as if confronted with King Kong, Mothra or Dracula . . . a spiny orb weaver! Which is indeed as scary a spider as you could confront right there at eye level.
So scary that it apparently cannot be photographed! We tried several times and ended up with nothing but blobs, camera experts that we are. Here's a photo of what dude looks like.
The real lure of this walk is the so-called Hermit Bunker – a small concrete structure left over from WWII – where Robert Harrill lived for the last 17 years of his life (1955-1972) as the Fort Fisher Hermit, achieving a cult status that had him identified as the "second-most visited tourist attraction in North Carolina," behind only the USS North Carolina. As his legend grew, along with rumors of accumulated riches, so apparently did the perils to his life, and the circumstances of his death – his body was found with bloody wounds – have apparently never been investigated.
We always like good elevation at the mid-point of our hikes, and this one was no exception, as the observation deck at the endpoint of the trail rises to approximately 5 feet above sea level and affords a 360-degree view of the salt marsh and the dune between it and the sea.
Walking back, we sweated some more and watched out for the spider.
In the Fort Fisher Recreation Area at Kure Beach, N.C., the Basin Trail out and back. 2.2 miles
How to get there: U.S. 421 along the N.C. coast south of Wilmington.