Hike or Bike to Kindred Spirit
The famous weathered “post office” by the sea has operated for over 35 years now. What started as a small tribute to the beauty and solitude of Bird Island is now an established landmark which thousands of people visit annually. Hundreds of photographers and artists trudged to the west end of the island to capture the essence of the mysterious mailbox tucked high in a sand dune, and many a beach walker has rested on the rough hewn driftwood bench to write comments in the famous notebooks within the salt-nibbled black box.
See a 2014 TV segment by CBS News by Chip Reid on this: CLICK HERE.
Before a sand-shifting storm in late 1997 completely filled in Mad Inlet, you had to use caution when venturing over the shallow water onto the spit of land known as Bird Island. Beachcombers were sometimes stranded by the tide because they lingered too long at the mailbox reading wonderful letters left inside! Notebooks, pens and pencils stay inside that old mailbox, replenished by a team of secret volunteers, so that visitors may leave messages while they sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of the pristine seaside world around them. It is an unlikely post box, but over the years the exchange of thoughts and ideas filled hundreds of notebooks.
The messages often express the writer’s utter contentment with the paradise found here, with the serene beauty of the place, and with the unspoiled wilderness they can count on finding, year after year. Others delve deep into feelings, sharing emotions that run from overwhelming grief to young, exuberant love. It is a favorite place for lovers to kneel to present a sweetheart with a ring, or even gather to tie the knot or re-tighten an older knot. It is a cathartic place to search your soul and purge your thoughts.
Folklore has it that a woman from western North Carolina came up with the idea of the mailbox. Others argue it was someone from New Hope, or possibly a lady from the Sandhills or Lake Waccamaw region. Over the years, the mailbox and its upkeep have been credited to many people; Frank Nesmith being the one most locals favor as he helped plant the first Kindred Spirit Mailbox (it’s had to be replaced a few times due to weather) in 1981. But it’s fitting that the “Kindred Spirit” be a mysterious someone who diligently collects the books, then lovingly pores over each one before saving it as a valued treasure from the sea. The anonymity going both ways makes it particularly private, sweet, genuine, and lends well to the overall mystique.
People ask what becomes of the notebooks that collected throughout the years. Several expressed the desire to own a collection of the poignant notes and ramblings. They are written by different hands, some barely legible due to handwriting and humidity, and they wrote in a vast array of languages. And of course, there is no continuity as each missive is either a letter of gratitude, a plea of surrender, a heartfelt prayer, a poem of love, thoughts of desolation, a tribute to a loved one, plaguing inner thoughts, or full blown stories that span page after page after page… a lovely hodge podge. The journals are now part of a special collection at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Frank Nesmith says most of the messages are about love, family and hope.
How do you get to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox? Due to the receding nature of the beach and some recent storms, the mailbox is now located up in the dunes about a mile and a quarter south, beyond the last public beach access at 40th Street & West Main Street. It is close to a pole, but not the tall flagpole you’ll see first (remember, things are constantly changing along the beach, and those poles, as well as the mailbox, could be moved by King Neptune at any time). It is about an 1-2 hours walk or beach bicycle ride.