November 8, 2011

Delmarva Drive, Horses and a Virus

After a busy weekend in Baltimore with family and friends, Tim and I took it easy on Monday and slowly made our way to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and drove through Delaware on our way toward Assateague Island.  Now that it’s getting dark an hour earlier, we had to find a campground before we made it to the island.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge -
This Gives New Meaning to the Phrase "High Altitude Driving"
Somehow, my computer became infected with a virus last night before I could post my entry for the day.  Luckily, there was a BestBuy in nearby Salisbury, so this morning we headed there, entrusted the computer to the Geek Squad and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately, we were told we may have to leave the computer with them for a few days.

So, we decided to take advantage of our time.  We turned east and drove till the road ended at the ocean.  On this part of the Delmarva Peninsula, that means Assateague Island National Seashore.  The National Park Service operates two visitor centers, one on each end of the island.  We visited the Assateague Island Visitor Center on the north end of the island.

Fishing in the Ocean at Assateague
Assateague is a barrier island on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.  Winds and waves shape these landscapes continuously and create a wide variety of habitats, including costal bays, salt marsh, maritime forest, dunes and beaches and ocean.  These support distinct plant and animal communities that list some 44 species of mammals, countless bird species and marine life.  One of the most ubiquitous is the wild horse.

The wild horses of Assateague Island are descendants of domesticated horses brought to the island 300 years ago.  Local folklore places the horses on the island as the result of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast.  The horses are the subject of a 1947 classic children's tale by Marguerite Henry titled Misty of Chincoteague.  While the story is fiction, the characters, including the horses, are real. 

One of the Wild Horses of Assateague
Misty of Chincoteague was a favorite of mine when I was growing up.  My grandparents lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and we visited Chincoteague when the movie version of the book was being filmed.  I still have my copy of Misty of Chincoteague, with Misty’s “hoofograph” and several of the actors’ autographs.

Over the years, the horse population has grown to a point where the horses are having a negative effect on the other natural resources of the island.  So the herds are the focus of an ongoing management effort by the National Park Service to limit the overall numbers of horses.  The goal is to stabilize the population at a sustainable level while limiting ongoing impacts to other resources. 

The Horses Roam Freely, Just Like the Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park
We had a wonderful time walking the dunes, viewing the waves and photographing the horses.  We also got a shot of a more rare Sika deer.

A Sika Deer Beside the Road
Gulls on the Marsh
Along the Dunes
Marks in the Sand
Marsh Habitats
Blowin' in the Wind

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