A Travellerspoint blog

Day 82 (11.22.07) - Delaware to Virginia(Pony Photo's Added)

We made it as far as Chincoteague and fell in love with the place, so just stayed there overnight.

sunny 63 °F

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 101
Weather - Sunny & Mild (60's)
Camped at: Maddox Family Campground in Chincoteague

Confessions:

I think the folks who suggested this section were kidding of course, but I'm having some fun with it so will continue for today at least. I had never heard of the Ponies at Chincoteague (or of Chincoteague, Mom has been having fun correcting my pronounciation since this is one place she knew of but I didn't).

Narrative:

We woke up Thanksgiving morning to a splended day. It was hard not picking up the phone and just calling folks, but we tried to remember the time difference and not wake everybody in the west coast up at 5 AM! Mom felt so good this morning, she took a short walk.

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On the Jetty along the narrow inlet between the Atlantic Ocean and Rehoboth/Indian Bay's, a lot of men come out to catch the fish concentrated by the channel. Thanksgiving was no exception, they were out in force. Mom saw a short shark (slightly over a foot long) that one of the fishermen caught.

We both saw lots of birds. I tried to take pictures, but for the most part they outran (or out flew) me. I was surprised to see yellow stripes on the red-winged blackbirds. According to the research I did on the internet, this is the way they are supposed to look, I guess I just never noticed it before.

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I also took a long walk around the campground and even sat on the swings for a bit (swinging of course). Fortunately no one was around with a camera...

Somehow, we reluctantly managed to leave this beautiful area and thought we'd make really good time. Afterall, today was Thanksgiving, so of course we didn't expect any places would be open. We drove south and soon reached the southern border of Delaware. Just before we crossed into Maryland, we noticed a sign for Fenwicks Island Lighthouse - we'd been watching for it since it was marked on our atlas. It was only about a block from the main road, closed today of course, but we were able to take a couple of pictures.

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I stopped at a nice beach in Ocean City, Maryland - a little built up for my taste, but hey, any beach is better than none. With the sun shining and Atlantic waves breaking, I even took off my shoes and got my feet wet a bit. I'm pretty sure this is a ring-billed gull, a very common species.

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As we approached Pokomoke City farther south, we saw signs for a state park. Mom wanted to see if she could get sand from the Pokomoke River, so even though it was Thanksgiving, we decided to turn off and give it a try. We didn't find any park staff (or anybody else for that matter), but the park appeared to be open at least for day use so we stopped by a boat ramp to give it a look. There wasn't any sand, but some very informative signs. This turned out to be one of the northernmost Bald Cypress Swamps in the US. The water was naturally quite black due to tannens from the trees. I think to really enjoy the bald cypress, you probably had to canoe through the swamp - but as we didn't have an canoes with us we just enjoyed it for a bit. The signs also said there would be many more as we continued south.

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We passed Pokomoke City and were heading to Virginia when Mom started saying something about some Island and ponies, which I couldn't quite understand. Finally, it registered that she was talking about a place that was on her 'must see' list before we'd left home and it was not very far from us. Although I'd never heard of it, it sounded interesting and I had previously agreed that we'd visit it - I'd just forgotten and had no idea where it was. Well now, it was right on our route (or just about). So after we'd figured out what we were talking about, Mom was able to figure out the connections and we headed across the Chincoteague Bridge. (This shot is actually from the Island, looking back at the bridge).

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Immediately across from the bridge is a small city park and a couple of blocks of gift shops, restaraunts, and other sundry buildings. Chincoteague has a small town and plenty of tourist related businesses (including RV parks, lots of minature golf courses - which I forgot to mention were also abundant in Ocean City). One gift shop was actually open - on Thanksgiving no less! Mom wanted to see if she could find a book about a pony called "Misty", so we found a place to park and went inside. She found the book (on sale), and bought two or three copies. But the interesting thing was the side of the building - it had been painted by local school kids in various nautical themes. (Mom's picture came out better then mine, so I'm pilfering it here.)

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The gift shop also gave us directions to the horses. They are actually on a separate Island, Assateague, which is to the east (Atlantic side) of Chincoteague (got all your 'teague's straight?) There are two herds of ponies on Assateague, the one on the north end (Maryland herd) is managed by the National Park Service, who runs the island. The herd on the south end (Virginia herd) is managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department who rounds them up every year in late July, herds them across the narrow channel between the islands, and culls some of the yearlings from the herd to sell to support their organization and keep the herd size from growing larger than the island can support. After they've finished their work, they herd the remaining ponies back to Assateague Island. That's the big tourist attraction, the July roundup, but it's been going on since 1925.

So of course we decided we'd have to try to visit Assateague Island if we wanted to see the ponies. However, on the way, we bumped into another stroke of Thanksgiving Luck. Knowing the holiday was fast approaching and I had no formal plans for what to do (I'd thought we'd get to the Thousand Trails campground in Virginia before the holiday and have time to find a restaraunt), I had bought some nice frozen turkey dinners just in case (backup plan). However, as we drove across Chincoteague, we passed a restaraunt that was open. Just on the chance they had openings, we stopped in - and yes, they had room, No Wait! So we stopped for a nice turkey dinner with all the trimmings and still had our frozen turkey dinners we ate later for 'leftovers'. Nice.

Then on we drove to Assateague (a short drive). Most of this island is preserved from development now, so is a very pleasant place (especially with the sun out and all). The first pullout was a parking lot for the Assateague Lighthouse. It was a 1/4 mile walk to the lighthouse, but looked paved and level so I encouraged Mom to give it a try. It wasn't bad most of the way, but near the end there was an uphill grade to the top of a low sand dune and also the path turned to sand at the top of that (not good for walkers). Of course, latter I found out there was another way in for disabled access. In the meantime, we enjoyed the sun and meeting other tourists out for the day. This lighthouse looks like it needs a paint job, I wonder if that's because it's still owned by the Coast Guard (rather than a 'Friends of the xyz lighthouse' group as most of them seem to be nowdays)?

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After the lighthouse, we passed the road to the Visitors Center. Being Thanksgiving, I figured it was closed, but turned off anyway in case they had any maps or information that might be useful. Not only was it NOT closed, I found out that if we hurried, there was a 7 mile service road opened on the north end of the island for National Birding Week (or some such thing). It would only be open for about another hour, but the ranger said if we hurried, we could probably make it - and it would be the best place to be able to see ponies from the car. (We did see ponies from the car later on the south end of the island as well, but this way we got to see both herds, as well as more birds).

Anyway, we hurried off and yes - were just about the end of the line. The service road was quite narrow and the rules were 'no stopping' (and therefore also no getting out). How are you supposed to enjoy the wildlife without stopping? Don't birders take pictures also? I don't know, we tried to not stop (too much anyway). We also did not get out of the rig (but rolled our windows down for pictures).

First, we saw a few birds - then later more birds. Mom and I had a little confusion about camera's so we missed getting a picture of the crane. (We later saw more, but never did get a picture of one). We saw more snow geese and ducks and lots of lovely scenery. Then we started seeing horse droppings, but they seemed kind of small. Then I did break the rules a bit and stopped. This time, both Mom & I managed to get our camera's going and got some shots - then more later. (These are all of the north, or Maryland, herd)

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Behind us a ranger started to follow the cars to make sure everybody got out of the service road area, he drove slowly and used his flashing light on the top to spur on laggards - it seemed like he was herding us! I was several cars ahead of the ranger at first, but as the line of us slowly snaked our way out, somehow I fell back a bit and ended up only one car up from the flashing light (ugh), Mom was sure we were going to be arrested. But he was just making sure we (and everyone else) got out OK.

So we started heading out of the park when it occured to me that the day was so lovely and we were having such a good time in the park, I'd rather just stay there a little longer and not worry about making it the rest of the way to our destination today as planned. So instead I turned to the south end of the park. Along the road, we saw more ducks (American Black Ducks in this case), egret's and heron:

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And right along the road, where there was plenty of room to pull over, we also saw the south herd of ponies!

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I probably would have stayed longer, but it was getting too dark to take pictures so decided to just check out the beach at Toms Cove briefly and head out. While there, Mom took this shot of a thoughtless fellow hogging her parking spot (at least that's what she calls this photo):

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I couldn't cap off such a wonderful day just parking anywhere, so pulled into a nice RV Campground just across the bridge back on Chincoteague Island and we stayed for the night. This may not have been your typical "Thanksgiving" holiday, but it will be a hard one to top in my book.

Posted by jl98584 15:39 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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