Activities for your visit

One of Springer’s Point sentinels disappears

The chainsaw-carved owl by Len Skinner at the trailhead to Springer's Point on Loop Road succumbed last fall to the ravages of nature. Photo: P. Vankevich

The chainsaw-carved owl by Len Skinner at the trailhead to Springer’s Point on Loop Road succumbed last fall to the ravages of nature. Photo: Finley Austin

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By Peter Vankevich

Visitors to Springer’s Point will miss seeing a longtime sentinel.

Gone is the owl carved out of a stump at the start of the trail on Loop Road.   

The owl was created out of set of circumstances that began in 2005 when Finley Austin pur-chased the house on the right of the trail entrance. On the property was a dying, long-leaf pine tree. It was recommended that the non-native tree be cut down since it would be vulnerable to falling onto the house from a storm.

Finding someone to cut it down was a challenge on the island, Austin said.

Len Skinner, the caretaker of Springer’s Point maintained by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, agreed to cut the tree down once he was assured that it was indeed dead.

By then end of 2006, all of the pine needles had turned brown.

Since Skinner would have trouble removing the stump, he offered to carve something out of it.

Originally Austin wanted a seahorse, but Skinner, a talented artist and woodcraftsman, convinced her that he should create an owl since he was already carving them at the time.

The artistic tool of choice was a chainsaw, which he used to carve everything but the eyes, for which he used a chisel.

All things must pass, owl crumbles

All things must pass, owl crumbles. Photo: P.Vankevich

When Austin returned from a working stint in Switzerland in the spring of 2007, she saw the owl for the first time and loved it.

Austin even named it Frieda, which means tranquil, or peaceful in German.

She couldn’t help but notice the cameras of the many visitors to Springer’s Point.

“I wish I had a dollar for every photograph of (the owl),” she laughed.

Over the years, the carving went through a decline.

An arborist noted that it was ravaged by pine beetles. Finally last fall, it tumbled over.

Skinner’s public wood carvings can be seen all over  the island:

The dolphin in front of Ocracoke School; the carved tree at the Anchorage Inn; the raccoon along the Springer’s Point trail; and many signs he’s created, such as for Coyote Den and the Flying Melon.

His carved owls are available in the Down Point Decoy Shop.

Hikers on the Springers Point trail will encounter this raccoon, another of Len Skinners works. Photo: C. Leinbach

Hikers on the Springers Point trail will encounter this raccoon, another of Len Skinners works. Photo: C. Leinbach