Ponies of Assateague Island

March 29

We went to Assateague National Seashore / Chincoteague NWR, which oddly, is on the south end of Assateague Island. We drove to the beach and then on the wildlife trail. Later that night I took pictures of the moonrise with the Chincoteague Lighthouse. I wanted to get the moon behind the lighthouse but could not find a location that worked.

March 30

This morning we took a boat tour with Daisey Island Cruises and had a great time. Captain Nate was our captain, guide, and naturalist. We saw 12 ponies, one if them a week-old foal. One of the ponies we saw was called Wildfire, and is direct descendent of Misty, about whom a book for young readers was written back in 1947. Later, in 1961 a movie was made from the book. The movie spawned a huge interest in the Assateague ponies and the annual swim. This in turn increased visitation, which in turn helped to get a bridge built to the island. The annual swim is done to corral the ponies, give them vet checks, and thin the herd to keep an ecological balance on the island. Some ponies are sold, and an auction for naming rights for new ponies is held. Proceeds go to the Chincoteague volunteer fire department. One other pony we saw, the stallion of one of the small herds, was named Riptide.

After we got back from our tour we headed back out to Assateague Island NWR and walked one-and-a-half miles on the beach. We decided it would be too far to walk for shell hunting the next day because we’d have to hike another mile out to find some good shells – so we knocked that idea off our list.

Staying on the NWR, we took wildlife drive to scout out sunset photo ops. Satisfied I’d get what I wanted later in the evening, we went out for dinner on the other side of Chincoteague Island at Don’s Seafood Restaurant. From there we made our way back to the NWR where I took sunset photos with the sunset behind the lighthouse. On the way out we saw a couple of sika elk. These are a small version if the American elk, originally brought here by the Japanese for hunting. These elk, while not indigenous, don’t compete for food with other wildlife, so they are not considered an invasive species and are allowed to stay on the island.

March 31

I was up at 4:30 AM, must have been the excitement of our 20th anniversary. Then Alan woke up and we wished each other a happy one, then shared cards. Ah, love.

Once we had gotten dressed we drove north to Assateague Island National Seashore on the Maryland side. There are no roads that span the whole length of the island. Access is limited to the Maryland north end, and the Chincoteague south end.

We checked in at the visitor center and got some good advice on what to do in park. There are several short half-mile tails in this National Seashore, so we hiked all of them. On the road into the park we saw six ponies alongside the road and in a parking lot. Out at the other end of the park we saw four more ponies – and some idiot tourists that kept getting too close to them, all in the name of selfies. While out on two different boardwalks we spotted single males out in the distance. Then we saw one more alongside the road as we were leaving the park.

For lunch we drove to the town of Berlin, Maryland and ate at the Boxcar on Main, then we walked a couple of blocks to a bakery and pick up some slices of Italian cake to have for dessert in the evening.

Our anniversary dinner was at an upscale restaurant near our hotel, AJ’s on the River. We both enjoyed seafood scampi.

In the rain, we left the restaurant to go poke around the NWR looking for Sika elk, but had no luck.

Hotel: The Refuge Inn is a family owned business that caters to tourists. It was comfortable and clean. I’d go again.

April 1

The first place we stopped today was Cape Charles to check out the nature preserve, but it started raining so we quashed a hike.

We got to Kill Devil Hills by 12:15, so we stopped for lunch at the Salt Box Café, a small tucked-away restaurant that is popular with the locals. The Caprese sandwich was to die for! Alan liked his cheesesteak and fries too.

We drove north from there to Pine Island Sanctuary and Audubon Center for a hike on the nature trail. We got a little more than a quarter-mile along the trail and found the remainder of it flooded. Disappointed, we returned to the car and changed back into our street shoes before heading back south to check into our hotel.

Dinner was ribs down the road at Pigman’s Bar-B-Que.

April 2

Alan and I both slept great last night, after a few nights of less-than sleep, our bodies and brains were grateful.

For breakfast we parked at “Stack ’em High” pancake house on the main highway north of our hotel. When we walked inside it was a bit chaotic, and set up like a school cafeteria lunchline. The place was also packed with other vacationers. Without a word we turned and headed out the door, neither of us eager to eat there. Next door to “Stack ’em High” was Bob’s Grill, whose motto was “Eat and get the hell out”. How could we go wrong? Turns out that we made a good choice.

On our way down the strand toward the tip end at Cape Hatteras, we stopped at the Inn at Rodanthe.

The Inn at Rodanthe has quite the history, but it is mostly known for the romantic film, “Nights in Rodanthe”, staring Diane Lane and Richard Gere. The house, built in the 1980’s, was slowly eaten up by the ocean, and after a terrible storm in 2009 it was sitting precariously IN the ocean. But the owners rescued it by having the entire structure moved farther inland.

The next place we visited was a Futuro House south of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

In 1970, when Futuro houses were still a novelty experiment, a couple bought a piece of land here on the strand and installed one of the quirky creations.

These portable pre-fab plastic flying saucer shaped homes arrived in two halves and were assembled on the plot of land. It has since served as a Boy Scout meeting place, magazine office, and “The Footlong Out Of This World Hot Dog Stand.” This place is listed in the Atlas Obscura, and we are trying to visit as many of these oddities as we can.

Next up was the southernmost point on the strand that could be driven, without a permit that is. If you have a capable vehicle, and purchase a permit, you can drive farther on the sand. Obviously, our Honda Accord was not up to it.

Next up was a quick stop at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. I took a couple of pictures with my phone, and then Alan, with the patience of a saint, drove all over the place so I could scope out future locations for some night photos.

After a tasty lunch we drove north toward Pea Island NWR. The weather was a deterrent though, high winds and cold temperatures had driven any wildlife away, so with a sigh we got back on the road.

Bodie Island Lighthouse beckoned as we drove on, so we stopped for another quick exploration by me. I was much happier with the possibilities here and will be working up a calendar of possible shoots through the year.

Dinner was pizza, with tiramisu for dessert. Tomorrow we head home.