Thursday, November 5, 2009

Assateague Island - Land of the Wild Ponies

Off season road- tripping, there is nothing like it.

Enjoying a place that can be wall to wall people one month, is also a place that can offer solitude and peace another.

Fall visits to the shore mean that the carnival rides are still, and the beaches are empty.

But, the sunsets are still beautiful.

This place I bring you to is the National Seashore of Assateague Island, built by sand that persistent waves have raised from the ocean’s gently sloping floor.

A 37-mile long barrier island located off the eastern coast of Maryland and Virginia. It is known for gorgeous beaches, shore birds, lapping waves and the famous “wild ponies”.

The herd of wild horses, known as ponies or Chincoteague Ponies, can often be seen during your visit. They are descended from domesticated stock that was grazed on the island as early as the 17th century.

Slightly smaller than other horses, these ponies are sturdy, shaggy and have adapted to their harsh seashore environment including scorching heat, abundant insects, and stormy weather on a windswept barrier island.

Once a year, to keep the herd managed in population, the ponies are rounded up and swim, during low tide, between Assateague and Chincoteague for the annual auction sponsored by the Chincoteague, Virginia, Volunteer Fire Company. Many of the foals and yearlings are sold with the remainder of the herd allowed to return back to the island.

It’s wonderful to see ponies that were once born on the island now living healthy lives as trail horses, giving (as well as receiving) love and companionship. Some even revisit their former stumping grounds, with their “new” families.

Besides searching for ponies, the islands are perfect environments for bird watcher seeking migratory birds.

Birds abound throughout Assateague. This is also aided by the National Wildlife Refuge management programs that are active in enhancing the coastal habitat for the benefit of migratory and nesting birds as well as indigenous wildlife.

The protection provided for the native and migratory wildlife is the refuge primary objective.

The true beauty of nature can only be experienced firsthand.

It may not be summer vacation, but you’d be surprised by what nature has to offer throughout the rest of the year.

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