"It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed." Art Wolf

Monday, July 15, 2013

Time for Friends, Boats, Kayaks and Ponies

After leaving Annapolis the dogs and I traveled down to a small campground outside Suffolk, VA, to catch up on exciting things like laundry, dog walks, reading and naps.   Between laundry and naps I drove over to see the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  This is not an attraction that anyone needs to drive out of their way for but since I was already here.....

There were neat boardwalks leading into the woods but there were also neat signs reminding everyone about the miracle of  mosquitoes.

Sections of the swamp had undergone a planned burn.....

And if you drive long enough you arrive at lake Drummond.  The only other access to the lake is by water or hiking in.  There was only one other car in the lot. 

Driving down through the woods and swamp I thought about the underground railroad that ran through these parts and the escaped slaves that survived by disappearing into the swamp.  I am thinking that there were probably a few soldiers that found these swamps a safety zone during the Revolutionary War and Civil War.  Safe being a relative term.

The berries are almost ripe.

After making my way out of the swamp I headed over to my friend Barb's house.  She and I used to work together back in that other life.   She and her husband have lived all over the US, but have managed to stay on the Eastern coast of Virginia for awhile now.  Something about the water.

Barb and her dog Casey. Barb helps out with a rescue group in the area and originally fostered Casey 5 years ago.  After five years Casey's home was no longer an option and she returned to the rescue group. This time she gets to stay with Barb and her husband. Casey doesn't like to look at cameras.  Really, the other picture she turned her head even farther away....

A perfect driveway for a small rig and car.   The top of the driveway is wonderfully level!

On Friday Barb and Len had wanted to take me out on the "boat."  Weather did not cooperate but Barb and I got to drive down and visit her without the sky opening up on us.

For those of us that travel in RVs the inside of a boat looks very similar....

After a wonderful dinner or two, excellent conversations and a few glasses of wine....and Len's trademark breakfast waffle, I headed out to explore some more water and ponies.....

Don't Feed the Ponies.... they may Bite!  Apparently they eat signs, also.

Little girls love their ponies....

It really is my daughter Kate's fault.  She mentioned in an e-mail a couple weeks ago that Chincoteague would be an neat place to visit. Unfortunately it was a far drive from Washington without an over night....but her suggestion got me out on the websites and checking mileage from other stops.  That is my story and I am sticking to it. I mean I was already so close....

I walked back to the light house.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) it is being rehabbed.  Found out the next day that the red had just been added this week.  I got to visit and not feel guilty about not climbing a hundred steps in the heat to get a view of the channel.

These are part of the pony pens on the island. The volunteer fireman cowboys round up the ponies and hold them in the pens in preparation to the swim. The small babies are taken over in a truck.  I am a week early for the annual swim but that is okay.  Chincoteague's population of about 4,000 changes to about 50,000 during the Annual swim and auction.   

When ponies are not swimming most people come to the islands to visit the beaches.  The beaches were much busier than my pictures show. It was evening and the crowds were thinning out.

Assateague Island is also a National Wildlife Refuge.  The ponies are not actually considered natural and indigenous.

Not going to say much about the campground I stayed in. A large section of seasonal rigs but most of the campgrounds in Chincoteague have a lot of seasonal sites.  The reviews of several of the campgrounds talked about some old rundown rigs.  Thought I would include a couple of pictures...worth a hundred words at least.

There were some nicer units and after seeing the larger campgrounds that reminded me of shadeless parking lots I was happy with the tall pine trees and shade all day.  The section I was in had few other campers and the whole campground was quiet.  Few golf carts, bikes and no loud parties.....  There was a wonderful fresh seafood shop just outside the front of the campground.  Not a restaurant but they sold fresh fish or would steam your shrimp for you.  The truck came by every evening and sprayed for mosquitoes.  It was good.

The first day I took the tour out to the marshes on the boat.

And we got to see some of the ponies in the marsh.  

I also got to see more of the campgrounds where I wasn't staying.

And if you wondered who cleans up the dead fish stinky that show up on shore unexpectedly. Here you have it.  That can't be good for anyone's business or home....

Anyway, after seeing how far the marshes are and getting a weather report for more calm water, I showed up on Monday to go out kayaking with a small tour group.  I used my own equipment but fully appreciated the guide's knowledge of the channel, the tides, the sand bars and the marshes.

The little sand spit to the right of the kayakers is the beginning of Pony Swim Lane.  It is the area where the ponies come ashore.

We headed out early in the morning which helped avoid the afternoon heat but the tide was out and we followed the guide single file through the sand bars and low water. I never would have found my way back through all the twists and turns.  Many of what appeared to be channels were actually dead ends...but then we didn't go down those.

Kayaks can get closer to ponies than boats....

The are two herds in the Virginia end of the island.  The herds have several "bands" within the herds.  The Chincoteague Volunteer Fireman own and manage the ponies.  Though there have been ponies on the island for hundreds of years the pony stock has been protected from inbreeding by the addition has been influenced by the addition of Shetland and Welsh bloodlines. Arabian blood lines have even been added to stock to bring some refinement. The decision of how many foals are to be auctioned off each summer isn't made until the annual swim.  Some years more are auctioned some years less but there is some attempt to maintain a healthy herd that can be sustained by the harsh environment of the island.

The tide was beginning to come in and I am not sure what all these little guys were scurrying around about.

Heading back towards Ohio starting tomorrow by way of the Shenandoah Valley......might still take a few days....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

More Around Washington and Annapolis

After wearing ourselves out in Washington proper Kate's husband Lucas arrived on Thursday and we branched out to find other adventures.  From the airport we drove to Great Falls and walked around the old B&O canal and over to look at the falls on the river themselves.   The falls marked the change from the coastal lands to the mountains to the west and explained why Washington was established where it was on the river down in the swampy coastal area.

A picture of the tavern and lodge along the canal, now used as a museum.

Some of the locks are still functioning and some were not.  Because of the rapid rise in the land (thus the falls) there were frequent locks to be navigated.

Again it was a warm day and the shade along the canal was appreciated.

And walking over to the falls.  This river is huge and the falls are in sections divided by rocks and an island.  

Lucas and Kate on the right walking across the boardwalk on the island to look at the Virginia shore of the falls.

What you can't hear is Lucas' and Kate's discussion of which of the kayaking routes might actually be survivable.  Kate looked up the falls and found that sections were rated either 5 or 5 plus depending upon which part of the water you were observing.   They figured which of their friends would actually run it.   Walking down the tow path along the canal before we reached the path to the fall's overlook, we had passed several kayakers carrying their kayaks back towards the parking lot and the top of the fall.  After seeing the falls I would have been so tempted to ask them questions about how and where they went down the run.

I couldn't really tell if this kayaker had already made the run of the fall or was just playing around in the fast water coming out of the last slot....   Too much current for this flat water paddler.

A glance to the sides of the walkway gives you a vision of the trees that get pulled down the current during high water flooding.

A quiet back pool with a lot of signage warning you not to get carried away and think you should actually get in the water.   We noticed a helicopter flying overhead and Kate the quick "google" checker announced that the park service use the helicopter to patrol the falls.  Sounded like a good idea to me...an ability to protect people from their own poor choices.

Decided this is an example of a mule pen near the tow path.  Need a fresh mule just park them along the path and change them out as necessary!

The back of the tavern.

We got back to the tavern just in time to see two mules heading out pulling the canal barge up the canal.  The traces behind the mules are very very long.   And I wouldn't want to be the walkers in period costumes walking along with the mules.

Here is the barge with the mules far out in front to the right.

After spending the 4th of July at the falls Lucas, Kate and I met up on Friday to head over to Annapolis harbor and a two hour sail.   It was warm enough out that I didn't think I wanted to be the one paddling the kayak and the two kids through the harbor.  Looks like work!   Notice her feet. This is one of the kayaks that have a foot operated paddle.

And on to the sail boat after plenty of sunscreen.

Lucas on the right helping raise one of the sails.

If you look carefully you can pick out the small sail boats with numbers. They were manned by youth and appeared to be from the a local club.  They seeme to be practicing their sailing maneuvers around a slightly larger boat.  They were circling and tacking back and forth. It all looked like fun.

The captain had several of the youngsters try their hand at the helm. This young man had the most focus and definitely took his role seriously.  He didn't need a lot of corrections. That couldn't be said for all the volunteers.

Back at my new campsite located in the front lawn area of my cousin's property the dogs enjoyed AC during the heat of the day thanks to the generator and the tank of gas I filled right before arriving.  My research was not tightly controlled but it seems I used about 12 gallons of gas over three days running the AC 10-12 hours per day.   Not bad for a site in the trees.  

Looking from my patio area you can't even see the front of the house.  The generator couldn't be heard from the house...especially not from the back patio.

The back patio.

Son, Ben, and his friend Taryn headed down to the dock along with Kate and Luca for a swim in the bay back waters.  The thought of hauling the kayak down for a paddle was not followed through because of the heat.

The afternoon included lawn games.....

The evening included seafood dinner out.  Lucas has mallet in hand to demonstrate technique.

Just a picture of some of my favorite real estate which just happens to be up for sale down the road.  It is being handled by Sothebys.  Comes with a huge barn with living quarters for the help above.

Ben and Taryn and Lucas and Kate had left by the time everyone got herded out to the porch for the traditional reunion picture on Saturday.  It was so hot that folks found it hard to mingle, mostly we were trying to stay cool.

I thought that we had all missed the evening fireworks when I heading out about 8 to meet the kids for  dinner.   Later while sitting out on the water eating our food there appeared a series of fireworks across the water above the  point directly across from us.   Quite professional quality fireworks I might add.  I found out Sunday that we hadn't missed my cousin's fireworks at all, I just didn't realize where their property was in relationship to where we were eating.   We watched the show even noticed the long pauses between displays....something about very long fuses for safety I was told later. 

So here is the official Reunion 2013 picture..... minus those that left earlier in the afternoon.  (There were several groups that stopped by and had to leave earlier not just mine.)