And all the pretty little horses.

New Jersey. Pennsylvania. Ohio. Indiana. Illinois. Wisconsin. New York. Connecticut. Massachusetts. West Virginia. Delaware. In my fourteen months of ownership, I have taken DH to 11 states, we’ve covered over 24,000 miles, and we crossed an ocean (well, okay, it was a bay, but same difference). Over the past two days we added another two states to the roster, drove over 400 miles, and saw an attraction well-known to wildlife enthusiasts and readers of children’s literature.

Thursday afternoon I left work at lunch, picked up a friend, and headed south, to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. The drive took approximately 3.5 hours, with hardly any traffic. The route took us south, from New Jersey to Delaware, through a small portion of Maryland, and then into the northeastern tip of Virginia. We drove over the Delaware River, past a NASCAR racetrack and the Dover Air Force base, winded our way through verdant farmland, and then hugged the coast of Delaware and Maryland, before crossing into Virginia.

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Four states in only 3.5 hours! Gotta love the geographically compact East Coast!
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The Delaware Memorial Bridge is actually two separate bridges- one heading northbound, the other southbound. Running for almost two miles, it and the Cape May – Lewes Ferry are the two primary ways to travel from New Jersey to Delaware.
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The route includes farmland. Lots and lots of farmland.

Chincoteague Island in Virginia is famous for the Chincoteague Ponies, a breed of feral ponies that live on nearby Assateague Island. Assateague Island is a 37-mile barrier island whose northern half is the property of Maryland and the southern half is owned by Virginia. Made nationally famous by the 1947 children’s book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, these ponies live completely in the wild, with no direct human interaction for most of the year, aside from when an animal is injured or in distress, or during the annual Pony Penning Day on Chincoteague Island (when the animals are herded through the water, from Assateague to Chincoteague). There are actually two herds of ponies on Assateague. The herd that lives in the Maryland half of the island is managed by the National Park Service, and the herd on the Virginia half is cared for by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. A fence bisects the island, so that the two herds never meet.

There are two theories as to how these wild ponies came to live on the island. The first theory is that nearby settlers brought their livestock to Assateague Island to avoid taxation. A far more interesting theory is that the animals are the descendants of horses that were shipwrecked off the coast of Assateague when Spanish galleons sunk in the 16th century. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company has pointed to two wrecked Spanish ships off the coast of Assateague as proof of the second theory (via Wikipedia).

A few years ago I had driven down to try to see the ponies on my own. However, it was only a few months after Hurricane Sandy, and most of the Chincoteague herd had moved into the forests after having endured the superstorm. Despite hiking for the better part of a day, I had not been able to successfully find any of these magnificent animals. This year, I decided to try again, this time booking a guided tour with a small boat company based on the island.

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Arriving in Chincoteauge in the late afternoon, I was able to grab this shot of DH near the piers.

 

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Miss Molly’s Inn, the bed and breakfast where Marguerite Henry penned Misty of Chincoteague in 1947, a story of two orphaned children and their search for one of the ponies.
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Don’s Seafood Restaurant, our dinner stop on Thursday night. Almost all of their seafood comes from the waters off Chincoteague.
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Seafood Dream. Scallops, crabmeat, and shrimp in a very light cheese sauce. So yummy!
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Checking into our hotel for the night. I swear, I’ve stayed at so many Hampton Inns, they should just sponsor this blog already.
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Sunset, standing directly behind the hotel.
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Twilight in Chincoteague.
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Not a bad view during breakfast.

Friday morning after breakfast, we drove to the southernmost tip of the island to meet up with the good folks from Assateague Explorer, a company that runs nature expeditions to view the wildlife on and near the island. We took the Pony Express nature cruise, and from a  distance were able to see two groups of ponies. We also saw some very cool birds, and some beautiful landscapes. Our guides, Gail and Ken, did a great job of giving us a tour, and I would highly recommend their services to anyone interested in touring this very cool island.

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Leaving DH for a while, and setting off for our boat.
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“Misty” is one of the boats run by Assateague Explorer. It was a very comfortable ride, and the sea breeze kept things cool despite temperatures in the mid-90’s.
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An absolutely beautiful day to visit.
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The ponies, at a distance. Despite bringing my biggest telephoto lens, I was still too far away to get a close shot of them.
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A little closer…
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The Assateague Lighthouse. Built in 1867, the lighthouse still functions, although it is fully automated now, much like the Cape May lighthouse I visited several weeks ago.
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I am not much of a bird enthusiast, but these brown pelicans made for a cool photo.
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Brown pelicans in flight.
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This osprey made its nest on a channel marker in the middle of the water.
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Erosion is a serious concern. This house was originally built on the beach.

The tour was fun, the staff of Assateauge Explorer was great, but honestly, I left the cruise disappointed. I know that wildlife can’t be predicted or controlled just so I can take pretty pictures, but I was still hoping to get better photos of the ponies. After lunch, my friend and I decided to take a quick drive through the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateauge Island. Maybe I’ll get lucky, I thought to myself.

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As you drive to the wildlife refuge, you are constantly reminded to keep your speed down. The wild ponies do, sometimes, walk along roads or dart out in front of vehicles.
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I was driving through the park when I spotted movement in a  field to the right of the road. I brought DH to an abrupt halt, pulled over (gravel and dust flying everywhere), grabbed my camera, and began taking photos. Lots of photos.
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Each pony has its birth year freeze branded on its hip. Using liquid nitrogen or dry ice, freeze branding is less painful to the animals than the traditional hot iron brand.
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Very cool scene.

Our curiosity satisfied, we began the long drive back to New Jersey. Over 3 hours later, as I pulled into my parking space at home, I noticed something else: I had not added gasoline once on the trip. I had filled up when we had first set off, and then drove over four hundred miles, returning home with about 1/3 of a tank. DH’s engine, a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 271 horsepower, uses a very cool technology called “Variable Cylinder Management” (VCM). Honda has designed an engine that provides serious power when needed, but when you do not need tons of power (such as when you are cruising at a steady speed), the engine’s computer deactivates 3 cylinders. saving lots of gas. When I bought DH, I was concerned about my fuel bill skyrocketing due to the bigger, more powerful engine. Funny enough, since owning DH, I find that I spend far less on gasoline each month than I did with my previous car, which had a small 4-cylinder motor.

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408.4 miles, and still a 1/3 of a tank left. How do you like them apples?

We unloaded the car, absolutely tired from the day. Despite our fatigue, though, we were happy with what we had experienced. And for me, I was glad that I took the time to go back to this very cool island. If you enjoy beautiful views, seaside resorts, or amazing wildlife, I highly recommend visiting Chincoteague. And makes sure you see the ponies.

‘Til next time.

2 thoughts on “And all the pretty little horses.

  1. The title of this entry makes me think of a song by Charlotte Church I had on an album years ago. This looked like a fun – albeit rather exhausting – day-trip. Excellent fuel range on DH. That house on stilts is crazy! Looks like it’s still been kept up. There has so be some kind of Hampton Inn loyalty program you could get in on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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