In Touch With Chincoteague

To this point of the story, our trip had been all about my convincing, cajoling, and wishing my way into Chincoteague. From the time my family arrived for the weekend, I had been creating a fairy tale, plotting and planning, attempting to control everything around me, and show the perfection of this place. None of my stratagem had worked.

The wind wouldn’t listen. The sun set before we arrived the night before. The wild ponies hid in the distance, and the marsh was brown. Bruce didn’t win the door prize during our downtown walk during their chocolate festival.  And he was concerned about water damage at the cottage I’d found, apparently he had researched floods.

The whole day of perusing houses, lots, and outbuildings cluttered my brain with prices, measurements, street names, and hazy plans for the future. I could feel my dream of a writer’s retreat slipping away. My head hurt from over-analyzing and I needed clarity. I wanted to breathe like I did when Kim and I visited earlier, in January.  In a break from my quest, Bruce, Ryan and I decided to ride the bikes along the nature trail.

It was nice to leave all the details and the car, throw a leg over a two-wheeler, and escape to a place where there were no fences, real estate listings, or schedules. Birds flew from wetland to ocean without thought to who owned what. The wild ponies claimed beach, marsh, and walking trails without consideration of deed, contract, or lease.

The wind felt good on our faces. Bruce pointed out a pair of Canada Geese on the shore. We stopped the bikes and watched the waddling couple saunter to the inlet, where they pushed off from the bank and paddled to a small island. They honked upon their arrival; we pedaled on.

My friend Kim had told us, that in the summer, the car parking beach is crowded, people laying side by side, with hardly space to walk, but the bike beach is deserted. I wanted to see this remote area for myself, so we headed further on our excursion.  I’m not in spectacular shape. I don’t exercise beyond a busy lifestyle. Yet, after my trip with Kim, on our weekend away, I had been so excited about the islands and the opportunity to bicycle wherever I wished, that I purchased a bright red Schwinn Cruiser with one speed, wide handlebars, and a big seat. If I was willing to entertain the possibility of exercise, I was serious about Chincoteague. I had a basket, a bell, and some leg power motivation.

The end of February in Chincoteage is brisk with a wind from the Northwest. The sun shines though, but this is an ocean air community and people who venture out should be prepared for changes in the weather.  I made sure to bring a jacket, scarf and hat.

Our ride was cold, but pedaling on flat ground is easy. A few brave souls were walking the trails and sightseeing. Dedicated birders balanced huge cameras on tripods, or stood bundled and spotted with binoculars. Ryan stopped beside one man to ask what he was viewing as Bruce and I pulled up beside them.

“Otters,” the man said. “They’re playing on the ice, way over there. Wanna take a look?”

We took turns sighting comical mammals with the binoculars. The pair frolicked, slid, and splashed. As if on cue, the otters repeated the show all over again, so that each of us could enjoy their antics. Bruce laughed out loud. This was an unplanned plus.

A bit further, the beach bike trail veers right at a small sign. The path is paved all the way to the dunes. There’s a bike rack, but on our visit the stands were empty, and we didn’t worry about securing the two wheelers. No one else was in sight; we had the entire beach to ourselves.

There is no development on Assateague Island; 39,630 pristine acres await the nature enthusiast. We had arrived at the doorstep of a vast, shoreline habitat. The ocean was calm and the late afternoon sun reflected pink and lavender off the surf.  A carpet of shells, like sea cobblestones, captured our attention with their mosaic.  Bruce bent and picked up pieces of conch, snail, razor clam, and oyster.  Ryan skipped flat stones over the waves and dipped in a toe—just in case the water was warm enough for a venture. February and March are a little early, and he shivered his reply.

A gnarled pine stood on the dunes overlooking the ocean and I wandered over to take its picture. Bruce walked with me and together we found a scenic spot in the sand, our backs to the tree trunk, and watched the setting sun reflect colors off the water. I was quiet, my head on Bruce’s shoulder.

“You know, this really is a nice place,” Bruce spoke.

I turned my head and looked at him, smiling, “Yes, it is a nice place.”  (I think we might be on the same page.)


In Touch With Chincoteague © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. The ongoing saga of one writer’s obsession to convince the world, and the stars, that she must live and write in Chincoteague, a quaint, seaside community on the coast of Virginia. Click to read previous installments. Or visit her picture book, Call of Chincoteague. Review more of M Dawn’s work in the Now, click her tag.


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