Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer Wrap Up – Wild Horses at Assateague with kids

Growing up, one of our favorite books was called Misty of Chincoteague. This is a wonderful story about a wild pony and life on Chincoteague Island. There is even a Misty of Chincoteague Foundation. Their mission statement is: (Marguerite Henry’s love of children, her love for animals, especially horses, and her passion for writing children’s literature is the inspiration for the Misty of Chincoteague Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to promote in children a love for reading and an appreciation for fine art. The Foundation perpetuates the timeless legend of Misty by preserving and disseminating educational and research material and displaying the Misty of Chincoteague© artwork.) You can find more information HERE

Misty was taken from the island of Assateague which is an island on the Atlantic Ocean that spans the Maryland and Virginia boarder. As far as we understand the ponies that roam the island came from a Spanish Galleon Shipwreck during the 17th century. Since that time they have been roaming the island free and wild. In 1943 Assateague was sold to the U.S. Government for use as a National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, a fence on the state line between Virginia and Maryland separates the island's two herds of about 120-150 ponies each. The National Park Service watches over the Maryland herd on the northern part of the island, and the Virginia ponies - known as "Chincoteague ponies" - are the property of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. http://www.chincoteaguechamber.com/map-pony.html

Each year on the last Wednesday in July, foals and yearlings from the fire company's herd, escorted by Chincoteague cowboys, swim the channel from Assateague to Chincoteague. On Thursday they are auctioned off, and those that are not sold will eventually swim back to Assateague. While pony penning on the islands can be traced back to the 17th century, the modern version was organized in 1924 by the fire company as a fund raiser. You can find more information HERE

So, in the spirit of Fun and Facts with Kids, we had to bring the kids to swim in the ocean and to see the wild ponies that roam in Assateague State Park. We took a special day this year when our niece from Colorado was in town and took her and the kids to the island. We went onto the island on the north side. Before we crossed the bridge to the island we stopped at the Visitors Center. The center was very educational and had many hands-on exhibits. They have tanks where the kids can “pet” and hold some of the sea creature indigenous to the island. They offer maps and very helpful information. We highly recommend stopping here before you venture your way onto the island. We decided to drive into the park and walk on the beach from there. We were able to use Laurens National Park Access Pass, which always makes her happy. While driving to our parking destination we passed 3 horses on the side of the road; two adult horses and a baby which was nursing right there on the side of the road. What a fabulous site and we were so happy we saw the horses right away. After parking we walked to the beach. This beach is so beautiful and majestic. The waves were huge and crashing onto the shore and there were a lot of large seashell for the kids to collect. We waded in the water and all had a fabulous time. Since the water was very strong and there was not a life guard in the area where we were walking we did not swim there but they do have a life guard at a designated spot on this beach. While walking back to the car we stopped to clean our feet in the fountains offered for that purpose and while cleaning our feet, we realized that there were many horses just walking around the parking lot. These horses are so cool to see. They are not afraid of cars or people and they just mosey along eating the grass while you walk past them. This was such a beautiful and exciting thing for the kids to see. Needless to say, it took us a while to walk back to the car as we had to walk over and take picture of the ponies and see them up close. Although we did not take advantage of it Assateague does offer some great ranger guided programs so you can learn about this barrier island and the environment of the island.

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