|Chincoteague, VA. Photo by Debi Lander.|
You know this peninsula with the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier islands on the East Coast (23) has to be worth visiting when you consider the effort and expense of building and maintaining the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel connecting it to the mainland. The 17-mile-long creation is considered one of the seven engineering marvels of the world.
|Barrier Island Center. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Westerners have been settling here since the 1600s. Early cash crops were salt and wool. The salt came from the ocean and settlers found a cheap and easy way to control sheep for the wool: maroon them on smaller barrier islands where they could forage for themselves. Today the descendents of those 17th century sheep are adding to the historical accuracy of Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon.
By the 1800s rich northerners were flocking to Hog Island for the hunting and fishing.
|Hog Island Hotel desk. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
From the Hog Island Hotel front desk and the watermen's boats to locally carved wooden decoys and the annual July Fourth baseball games and the recipes for food to fuel them, displays emphasize personal lifestyles.
|The 17th century cook house, left, and what had been the African-American women's housing. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
If, like Judy, you grew up on Newberry Award-winner Marguerite Henry's books and fell in Love with "Misty of Chincoteague," the Museum of Chincoteague will be a must stop. The protagonist of that book is stuffed and on display as is Stormy, her third and last foal. So are other mementos of life on Chincoteague, but after the Center you will have seen much of that already. You may leave wishing you had kept going with only Wesley Dennis's illustrations of Misty, but go ahead and stop anyway.
|View from the Visitors Center. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|One very preggnant mare and a Misty look-alike. Photo by Debi Lander.|
Since the early 1940s, said Denise, the Chincoteague firemen have auctioned off young ponies as a way to control the size of the herd and to raise money for equipment. The round up, swim from Assateague to Chincoteague, pony penning, auction and carnival are held the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday of July. Preliminaries - rounding up the herds, walking them to the assembly area and checking the ponies for health and destiny - fills Saturday through Tuesday. The swim takes place on Wednesday, the auction on Thursday, Friday the ponies swim back to Assateague and, as Denise says, "Saturday we fall out."
Easily understood when a town of 3,000 hosts 50,000 or more visitors.
|Make way for ducks and ducklings.|
|Kayakers in Assateague Channel.|
Marsh mud, an unbelievably dense chocolate, is worth the wait and they know when the winds blow as cold as the locally made ice cream inside, the island will be theirs again.