dune disaster

jockey's ridge state parkKeys.

They’re great when you have them, essential even. But when you lose them. Oh, when you lose them there’s that sinking black hole of a pit in your stomach that makes you want to crawl in a hole.

Now don’t ask my father (who often bails me out of precarious situations) because I probably have more “losing-my-keys-getting-locked-out” stories than the average bear, but I can’t help but share the latest.

Rachel and I were on our Outer Banks, North Carolina adventure, also known as the post-school-year rehab stint. You should visit. It was beautiful. A week on the beach in a cottage equals relaxation to the max.

Except for this point in our tale.

We visited Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home of the East coast’s largest living sand dune. What is a “living” sand dune, by the way? To this day, I still don’t know.

Arriving just before sunset, we park our car and being the responsible rental car driver that I am, I drop the keys in pocket of my hoodie. Safe place, I know.

This state park is incredible. And they’re not kidding when they say “largest living dune.” Lots of sand. Massive dunes. I’m thinking this is the closest to the Sahara that I’ll get.

I don’t know if it was because our brains were already half-baked from our day at the beach or if the inner-child in us just needed to break out, but something about these dunes just called our name. And before we know it, we’re running through the sand, which for a girl who’s lucky to crank out a 10:00 minute mile, is not all the fast. We race to the top of the first dune. Then the second, and by this time, it’s clearly evident I need to hit the treadmill a little more often. But we arrive at the pinnacle, as the sun begins to dip below the horizon.

They say ignorance is bliss. And at this point, that could not be more true. I know what you’re thinking. Uh-oh. And uh-oh is right.

As I marvel at the view and how the sunlight hits the sand, I reach into my hoodie pocket. And then my front pockets of my shorts. And then the back pockets. No keys.

I make the sweep again. Hoodie pockets. Front pockets. Back pockets.


I give Rachel this look. You know the one. Like the YouTube dog who ate the bag of cat treats when his owner left and got caught. Terror meets remorse meets panic.

Like a hound dog hot on a coon’s trail, we retrace our steps. Rachel even recruits another family for the search. Mind you, there is so much sand that when you take a step you sink about six inches, and then inevitably the ocean breeze blows more sand to fill the hole.

Things are not looking good.

I make the half-mile hike back to the car, praying the whole way for miracle and still no keys. I try all the cars door. Locked. No keys in sight. And it is now dusk.

Out of sheer desperation, I approach the park ranger who’s leaning against a post and say, “I think I locked my keys in my car.”

Of course I didn’t want to tell him I was an idiot who unknowingly dumped my keys in the East coast’s largest sand box.

But he quickly replies, “No, I have your keys.”

What?!?!? Disbelief. Shock. Joy. This has got to be too good to be true.

And sure enough, two park rangers ride up on a four-wheeler with my rental car keys in hand.

Thank you was an understatement.

The keys fell out of my pocket at the beginning of the trail, and a family turned them in.

Can you believe that?

Who says miracles don’t happen even in the little things?

Turns out, I’m not the only bright crayon in the box out there. The park ranger said this key routine happens fairly often.

The moral of the story is if you plan on climbing a sand dune, SECURE YOUR KEYS.

Lesson learned.

Ignorance is bliss. Rachel has no idea what's about to transpire. Unlike me, she was calm and supportive. That's a good friend in my book.

Ignorance is bliss. Rachel has no idea what’s about to transpire. Unlike me, she was calm and supportive. That’s a good friend in my book.





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