WILD PONIES

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
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Trip End Sep 01, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Thursday, May 10, 2012

We woke up to enormous puddles all around the cabin where we stayed. But, we were dry, the clothes and towels had all dried and the sun was poking through the clouds. We packed up our stuff, rearranged the car, it's amazing how a couple of days packing can lead to a much better system for fitting everything into 'Odie'. Yes, "Odie' is the car. If we are going to name the GPS 'Bob', the the car certainly needs a moniker as well. 
Loaded up, sun shining and moods high we set off for Assategue Island and the ponies. We stopped in at the Ranger Station where Lily found and used her pocket money to buy two books; Misty of Chincoteague and Stormy, Misty's Foal. We also found out that by completing an activity book the kids could get sworn in as Junior Rangers and earn badges. This was a double bonus, something for the kids to receive, and something to keep them entertained. 
On the road over to Assateague Island we had to slow Odie to a crawl as a large snapping turtle was crossing the road. Tim ran across and got a quick photo while dodging traffic and a turtle with a very sour and cross expression. Then it was over the bridge and down to the end of the island. We discovered that we could take three short walks; Life of the Dunes, Life of the Forest and Life of the Marsh. Life of the Dunes was a bit hot and slow and we were constantly reminding the kids to stay on the trail in order to avoid the prolific poison ivy. Itchy and scratchy kids in a hot car sure seems like a horrible combination. We did not see much there, but found a great deal of enjoyment reading about the 'doodlebug'. Yes, that's right, there is a creature that is actually called a doodlebug. Apparently it is the larval form of the Antlion, a bug that lives in the sand and digs traps for other bugs to fall into.
We then started down the Life of the Forest walk and halfway down the walk we could see ponies in the distance. Sure enough, we had found some of the Wild Ponies of Assateague. According to Uncle Pete, they are one of the only remaining herds of wild horses in America. They were off in the distance but we snapped several shots and were amazed at the few that appeared to be standing in the middle of the bay. It was at this point that the kids started to become very excited about the big adventure we were on. They didn't seem to be fully grasping it until the ponies were sighted but now they turned around and started saying things like: "thanks for this Mum and Dad" or "this is so cool!"
On the drive to the Life of the Marsh walk we saw a tiny snapping turtle crossing the road. A couple cycling past rescued it and Tim and Eli dashed off to snap a close-up. We were impressed at how quickly it could move when it set its mind to it. On the Life of the Marsh walk we were able to see different wading birds, several different kinds of crab and one brown wild pony on the island close to the walk. We were all really enjoying ourselves at this point and Eli started getting excited about things like otters and birds of prey.
A quick picnic lunch on the beach by the Atlantic Ocean and then we checked back in at the Ranger Station where the kids earned their Junior Ranger badge. They had to raise their hands and make a pledge which included protecting Assateague and promising to brush their teeth and be good for their parents. As we explained to the Rangers all about the trip we were on, they kept telling the kids how lucky they were. Maybe it is beginning to sink in for them.
I could write lots about the next 6 hours which included fighting all sorts of rush hour traffic and the frustration of trying to make progress to Shenandoah National Park, but with much cursing and swearing (most of it confined to Tim's head) we made it to the entrance of Shenandoah park just as dusk was settling in. It took about an hour to drive to the campground, but this was punctuated by multiple sightings of whitetail deer, AND…..Tim's (he was blown away and couldn't stop talking about how lucky they were) and the others most exciting and rare animal sighting so far, a bobcat crossing the road. It crossed the road right in front of our car and sat on a hillside for about 5 seconds before disappearing into the bush. WOW is all we can say. Telling a ranger about it the next day, she said she had worked in the park full-time for 16 years and had only had 10 sightings in that time.
We made it to our campsite quite late and by the time we had pitched the tent and fed everybody, it was 9:30 and quite cold. We jumped into bed and after swaddling Jess in multiple layers of down jackets, she warmed up and we all went to sleep.
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Comments

Gramma on

I totally agree -- this is sooo cool! Spotting a bobcat is amazing. The photo of the brown pony could be a postcard. And I am especially glad that you are keeping up with turtle sightings!

h.o.t.
h.o.t. on

Hey there, we think they were bought in by settlers in the early 1700's,they were bought in and put on the island to avoid paying taxes, they left them behind and the ponies have adapted to eating on the salt marshes and living by the sea and on the island. They are protected and are a great sight looking out to them on the marshes.
Great to hear from you hope all is well.
Jess x

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