Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Assateague Island (Virginia Version)

My road trips tend to get out of hand.

It goes something (okay, exactly...) like this:

My dear friend moved away from me to go live on top of a mountain in North Carolina, taking her two daughters, my two daughters' dear friends, along with her (her husband went, too). Her mountain is 8.5 hours away from here. Obviously, we HAVE to take a road trip to go visit her!

While planning our trip to go spend a couple of nights with our friends, I start to think, "Hmm...we'll already have done the work of driving 8.5 hours; I wonder what's near-ish there, but really far from here, that we could go visit?"

It turns out that Chincoteague Island, Virginia, is another 8.5 hours from my friend's mountain, but not entirely in the opposite direction from home, so that we could, say, go visit the wild ponies that live there, spend a couple of nights, and not have to drive 17 hours back home.

As a matter of fact, right on our way home, a mere three hours from Chincoteague Washington, D.C.!

And from Washington, D.C., it's only 10.5 hours back home! Heck, I do the ten-hour drive from my parents' house in Arkansas at least twice a year! I've done a 14-hour drive from Florida before!

And that's how a two-night road trip to visit my dear friend turned into a week-long road trip, and how after a wonderful stay on top of a mountain in North Carolina, the girls and I found ourselves on the Virginia Coast, on a teeny-tiny island, stalking our prey...

...the elusive wild pony:

Those darn ponies actually were pretty elusive, and I was thrilled that we found them during our first morning hike--took some of the pressure off, you know? You knew that they were around because there were piles of pony poop everywhere, but the ponies themselves weren't exactly galloping up to you for treats and rides around the paddock. You had to go hike around and look for them!

I chose a 1.6-mile hiking route (hesitantly, because I know my girls well) that promised a couple of good places for pony spotting. And they were good! In our first spot, after hanging out a while and preparing to leave disappointed, I spotted something moving WAY far away in the trees, and it turned into a fabulous opportunity for two very excited little girls to get to use the binoculars, as we watched an entire herd go by, pony after pony, through its lenses.

Later on our hike we actually left the trail, as again we spotted something moving, and this time our range was much closer:

If we bring along our galoshes next time, we'll be able to get even closer! But here we were able to spy on the ponies to our hearts' content, as they munched and walked around and went "Nye-he-he-he!" to each other--ah, the life of a wild pony! For the rest of the hike, we continued to follow little pony-made paths off of the trail, exploring their hidey-holes and gathering places and wandering grounds.

I'd planned for us to hit the beach next, and unfortunately this turned into a pretty big deal, because Hurricane Sandy had destroyed enough of the road that leads to the beach for it to be closed to car traffic. You could still get there, and to the nature center next to it, but only after another mile-or-so hike. My poor Will at first flat-out refused, inspiring my first of (a surprisingly small number of) the series of lectures entitled, "If you want to experience so-and-so, THIS is what you have to do. If you don't want to experience so-and-so, we might as well drive home now and go sit on our couch for the rest of the week." Frowny faces at my parenting, I know, but from my perspective, it's not actually a threat--if the kiddos don't want to explore the stuff, we seriously might as well call it a trip and head home; I'm certainly not going to wheedle them through an entire road trip.

Anyway, it turns out that the kiddo didn't want to call it a trip, and did decide to muscle through yet another hike, and I feel as if she learned two things from the experience:

  1. Trudging along a flat, sea-level road isn't nearly as bad as trudging along an up-and-down, up-and-down Indiana hiking trail (I'm afraid our Indiana hikes have given the girls hiking PTSD!), and
  2. Yay, Atlantic Ocean!

We did a basic unit on mollusks after our trip to the Florida beach, so while beachcombing, when Sydney spied a certain special something, she knew exactly what it was, brought it excitedly to me, and yep, we did pack it in the trunk of the car to take home and study some more:
a mollusk's egg case!!!
We brought it into the fabulous nature center there, where the ranger on duty identified it as belonging to a whelk. Fortunately, the nature center was a superb place to explore out of the cold wind--

--and doing so let the girls work their will back up for the walk back to the car.

I was pleased at the level to which this trip built upon our mollusks study, and I think that with this, we've officially established visiting literary landmarks as one of our focuses. Why else drive 8.5 hours just to visit the setting of Misty of Chincoteague?

Because it turned out to be an AWESOME trip, that's why!

We used the following materials to prepare for our trip to see the wild ponies:

1 comment:

Tina said...

Your trip sounds fantastic! Next time we head east, we will have to make sure to stop and check out Assateague Island and the wild ponies.


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