chincoteague national wildlife refuge: the lighthouse trail & the woodland trail

Sunday, October 25:  I’m prone to making sweeping generalizations, and one I commonly make is that “It’s always gorgeous on my birthday.” I rarely worry when making plans to travel on my birthday, especially in Virginia, as the end of October (almost) always has perfect weather.  By perfect, I mean cool (in the 50s or 60s F), with a nice breeze and crisp, dry air.  Everyone who knows me knows I dislike humidity and heat; after having lived in Oman for two years and Nanning, China for one year, I’ve had it with hot and/or humid weather.

On top of having beautiful weather, the autumn leaf color is usually at its peak and the world seems vibrant and festive.  I feel so lucky to have been born at the end of October, which is also, coincidentally, my favorite time of year.

This time, I’m wrong.  This Sunday morning, on my actual birthday, it’s cloudy, rather humid and near 80 degrees.  At least it’s not raining, not at the outset anyway.  It’s a little disappointing as I’m used to getting my way weather-wise.  Oh well, it will have to do as we have lots of activities planned while we’re here at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge today.  We’re not going to let uncomfortable weather ruin our day.

The Channel Bass Inn
The Channel Bass Inn

We start our morning in the Channel Bass Inn with an amazing breakfast of cheese and onion quiche, yogurt and fruit parfait, and zucchini bread.  Innkeeper Barbara also makes a variety of delectable scones, including her special ginger scones, which she instructs us to open with our fingers, not a knife! The breakfast is a community breakfast; as only three couples are staying at the Inn, all six of us share breakfast together.

After our filling breakfast and social hour, we head out by car to explore the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  Our first stop is the Lighthouse Trail.

The Lighthouse Trail
The Lighthouse Trail

The first Assateague Lighthouse was constructed in 1833 to warn ships of the dangerous shoals offshore. In 1860, construction began on a taller and more powerfully illuminated lighthouse, but its completion was delayed by the Civil War. After the war, work resumed and the lighthouse was completed in 1867. The light was also upgraded that year, to a first order Fresnel lens, according to Chincoteague: History.

a plaque with the words of 14-year-old Inez Doon
a plaque with the words of 14-year-old Inez Doan

In 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the light as an active navigational aid, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is responsible for preserving the lighthouse. The Assateague Island lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Chincoteague: History).

Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Lighthouse
me at Assateague Lighthouse
me at Assateague Lighthouse

We climb to the top of the lighthouse where we have sweeping views of the Wildlife Refuge and Chincoteague Bay.  It’s pretty overcast at this hour of the day, around 11:00 a.m., so the views are pretty gray.

View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse

Below us to the south, we can see the assistant keeper’s house that was constructed in 1910. In 1929, the keeper staff was reduced. In 1933, the lighthouse’s oil lamps were replaced by an electric lamp, and the original keeper’s house was removed.  Today the 1910 assistant keeper’s house is used as seasonal staff residence (Chincoteague: History).

View of the assistant keeper's house from Assateague Lighthouse
View of the assistant keeper’s house from Assateague Lighthouse
View from Assateague Lighthouse
View from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
me atop the Assateague Lighthouse
me atop the Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View of Chincoteague Bay from Assateague Lighthouse
View from Assateague Lighthouse
View from Assateague Lighthouse

After leaving the Lighthouse Trail, we drive to the Woodland Trail, where we stroll around a 1.6 mile loop. Because we’re surrounded by forest, it’s quite humid and, surprisingly, mosquitoes are ravenously sucking my blood.  During the entire walk, I’m swatting the mosquitoes and splattering my blood from their feast all over my clothes.  I’m wearing long pants and long sleeves, including a sweater over a long-sleeve shirt, and they’re biting me through all those layers!  For some reason, I’m the meal of choice; Mike hardly gets bitten at all.

The Woodland Trail
The Woodland Trail

The maritime forests are the parts of the island that have been stable for the longest time. These forests are important to the survival of the endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel and of forest dwelling wildlife, such as the white-tailed deer, exotic sika elk, raccoons, and many others (Chincoteague: Habitats).

The Woodland Trail
The Woodland Trail

I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of lowland forest walks because you can’t see any grand sweeping views. I do love the forest in the mountains, when the leaves are changing color or when the leaves have fallen off the trees, so there are views aplenty.  I’m not a fan of walking through the forest in heat and humidity and getting devoured by mosquitoes!

views along The Woodland Trail
views along The Woodland Trail
views along The Woodland Trail
views along The Woodland Trail

I do love the sea grasses along the trail.

sea grasses along The Woodland Trail
sea grasses along The Woodland Trail
Sea grasses
Sea grasses

On the edge of the forest, where the woods meet the marshland, the trees seem to be rioting.

on the edge of The Woodland Trail
on the edge of The Woodland Trail
chaos reigns on the edge of The Woodland Trail
chaos reigns on the edge of The Woodland Trail
The Woodland Trail
The Woodland Trail
brambles galore on The Woodland Trail
brambles galore on The Woodland Trail

Finally, we leave the Woodland Trail after what seems like an eternity.  I’ve removed a layer of clothing and am scratching all over.  I’m looking forward to getting into the open areas of the refuge.  We head next to the beach and to the Tom’s Cove Visitor Center, and then take a drive around the park.

 

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8 thoughts on “chincoteague national wildlife refuge: the lighthouse trail & the woodland trail

  1. I was just going to say you look lovely, in spite of the weather, then I got to the bit about mozzies! Was the Woodland Trail Mike’s choice? I’m not wild about forest walks either but the grasses were superb. Loved the lighthouse, of course 🙂 Happy days!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jo. Those mosquitoes were the pits! I don’t know why I get attacked by them and Mike is just ignored! We were just trying to do as many of the trails in the refuge as we could do, and this was just one of them, but not my favorite. I have many more pics from other trails to come! I loved the lighthouse too. Too bad it was so dark and dreary!

    1. Maybe I missed this lesson about the scones, Carol, since I’m not British and I rarely eat scones. It took the British innkeeper to teach me that! We did have a lovely day and it got better in the afternoon, though still not sunny. 🙂

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