This blog post continues our 3-day Easter weekend vacation at Chincoteague Island. Our first vacation day was a travel day.
On Friday, March 25th, we ate breakfast around 6:30 am at the hotel. Our complimentary breakfast selections included scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and sausage gravy, a variety of breads and bagels, cold and hot cereals, a variety of hot and cold beverages, waffles, and pastries. After breakfast we returned to our room and enjoyed a second cup of tea/coffee, while sitting on our third floor balcony. The rain, which was in Friday’s forecast, had not yet started. It was a breezy 57 degrees. I was comfortable sitting outside, with a fleece jacket on.
A little later in the morning we drove the 12 miles to Route U.S. Route 13 for gas at the Exxon station. When we reached the U.S. Route 13-Chincoteague Road intersection the night before, the fuel station had just closed for the day. Bob wanted to get gas there to earn Plenti points. There is a Food Lion store next door to the Exxon station. We made a quick stop there to pick up a few grocery items. We returned to the hotel to drop off our purchases. Soon afterward we left the hotel and drove to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, located on Assateague Island. The Best Western Chincoteague Island hotel is very close to the wildlife refuge, less than 1 mile away from the gate.
There is an admission fee charged to enter Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, unless you are on foot or bicycle. Daily admission costs $8.00 per vehicle. A weekly pass costs $15.00. We purchased the weekly pass, as we planned to visit the wildlife refuge on Saturday as well. When I am 62 years old, in 2 more years, I will be eligible to purchase a lifetime national park pass for $10.00. That pass will be a worthwhile purchase!
We followed Beach Access Road to the Assateague Island National Seashore. (See Google map of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge provided below.)
We saw a fawn soon after passing through the wildlife refuge gate. I missed the shot, as I didn’t have the camera ready to shoot. It was a windy and rainy morning; the lighting poor.
Seagull at Assateague Island National Seashore
Northern Shoveler alongside Beach Access Road, across from Little Toms Cove
We returned to our hotel, when the rain began to fall so hard that it was difficult to see anything.
Late morning we visited the NASA Visitor Center, which is located on Wallops Island about 5 miles from the Best Western Chincoteague Island hotel. According to its About Us webpage, the visitor center “features exhibits about aeronautics, orbital and sub-orbital rockets, scientific balloons, current missions, and the history of Wallops Flight Facility. In addition to exhibits, the Visitor Center also features an auditorium, a Science on the Sphere Theater, an observation deck, as well as numerous free public programs, events, and group tours of the facility. The Visitor Center also serves as the viewing site for rockets that launch from Wallops Island. Located inside the Visitor Center, the Gift Shop, open seasonally, offers models, patches, games, clothing and a variety of NASA souvenirs.” The outside grounds has rockets and aircraft used for space and aeronautical research including a full-scale four stage reentry vehicle used to study the earth’s atmosphere. I took several photographs, while at the visitor center.
The Nike-Cajun sounding rocket
is able to carry a 77-pound payload to a height
of about 90 miles and has been used at Wallops
Four-stage Reentry Vehicles were used to study phenomena
associated with high speed reentry
through the Earth’s atmosphere including
radio transmissions during reentry conditions.
Space suit seen inside auditorium
In the auditorium we watched an informative 20-minute film about the space mission.
Bob took this picture of me wearing a space suit.
This is the view from the observation deck.
This rocket was visible from the observation deck.
A much better picture was possible from the ground.
Little Joe was used to test the Mercury Spacecraft prior to manned light.
Monkeys Sam and Miss Sam were launched from Wallops
utilizing this rocket vehicle.
We walked behind the Visitor Center and found three more exhibits.
This rocket was not identified.
Bob said to say it was a UFO.
The Astrobee F, a solid-propellant sounding rocket first launched from Wallops Island in 1972,
could lift a 200-pound payload to about 260 miles altitude.
The Aerobee 150, a liquid-propellant sounding rocket with a six-foot solid-propellant booster,
was used from 1955 to 1985. It could lift a 150-pound payload to 160 miles altitude.
After visiting the NASA Visitor Center, we ate lunch at Royal Farms. Royal Farms is a privately owned chain of gas station/convenience stores headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. The store is very reminiscent of Sheetz, a gas station/convenience store with which we are familiar.
After lunch, on our way back to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, we stopped briefly at the Public Landing at Queen Sound located on Wallops Island alongside VA 175. Two seagulls were vying for my attention.
Queen Sound Seagulls
We soon made our way back to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. We followed Beach Access Road, once again, to the Assateague Island National Seashore.
Friday’s weather was quite changeable…heavy rain, thunder and lightning to heavy fog to sunshine with temperatures in the upper 70s. I have never seen fog such as in these two photographs, while at the seashore.
Everyone still had fun!
We turned around at the seashore and was again driving along Beach Access Road.
We watched this egret for quite some time alongside Beach Access Road. The egret sat in this tree for a long time. All of a sudden, the egret flew to the water below. I missed photographing the short flight. We watched several more minutes, while the egret fished.
Our next stop was the Woodland Trail.
This is Woodland Trail (photo taken by Bob). It was shocking to see how much the area had changed from when we walked the trail in past years. There were so many dead and fallen trees that the area looked barren. An Internet search revealed that this area suffered from a southern pine beetle infestation that killed many trees this past fall.
We saw this pair of Vultures, soon after beginning our walk on the Woodland Trail.
The Woodland Trial is one of the best places to see the wild ponies of Chincoteague. You have to walk about a half mile into the trail to get to the observation platform from which you can see the ponies. There are signs marking the way to the pony viewing so you can’t miss it. We saw several wild ponies grazing off in the distance.
Chincoteague Wild Ponies
From the Woodland Trail we drove to the Wildlife Loop, which opens to vehicular traffic at 3:00 pm. While driving around the loop, we saw an egret, a pair of Mallard Ducks, and a pair of Canadian Geese.
Wildlife Loop wildlife
We, then, returned to hotel and relaxed for about 1 1/2 hours, until 5:00 pm.
We ate dinner at the Chincoteague Diner & Restaurant, conveniently located next door to our hotel. This was our first meal besides Sheetz-like sandwich wraps and fast food burgers that we ate since leaving home on Thursday at 12:30 pm. Bob ordered a prime rib dinner. I ordered a meat loaf dinner. We each ordered dessert too. Bob had a slice of coconut cake, and I had a slice of chocolate cake. Service was excellent, and dinner was delicious.
We returned to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, after dinner. We drove the Wildlife Loop once again. Then we followed Beach Access Road to the Assateague Island National Seashore. I watched the ocean waves for a time, while waiting for sunset.
Assateague Island National Seashore
We watched the sunset from the boardwalk Toms Cove Visitor Center.
Toms Cove Visitor Center
Sunset across Little Toms Cove
Sunset across Little Toms Cove
At 7:30 pm we returned to our hotel, where we stayed for rest of the night.