View of the southern side of Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp. We had planned to kayak here, but the wind made the lake a bit choppy.
October 28 – November 1, 2019.
In my last post about the Carolinas, I wrote about my idea to head north along the east coast during the fall ultimately arriving in Pennsylvania where we would visit with relatives. It was a great plan until we started having van problems (I think I’ve alluded to this in previous posts). After a visit to a Ford dealership in Greenville, NC we found out we needed some pretty pricey work done and that it would take many days. So we headed back to Greg’s folks’ house in Denver, NC to unload the van and get another opinion.
Our second opinion was the same but now we had a two-week wait to get our needed part. The mechanic told us that we were good to travel while we waited so we loaded up the van again and resumed our journey.
We lost a little time, though, with the trip back to Denver, getting the estimate and then a quick trip to see Greg’s grandson, who we missed on our first go-around through the Carolinas a few weeks earlier. Although we did, and saw some great things, there were quite a few things I had planned that we couldn’t squeeze in before we had to be back for the van repair.
Because I think all this stuff we missed was so cool and because I spent so much time researching it all I’m going to tell you about some of it anyways. Here goes:
The North Carolina Estuarium
Not only did this sound like a cool museum they also offered free boat tours on three different rivers in the area.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks, North Carolina.
Both Greg and I have been to the Outer Banks before but we hadn’t experienced the area through the National Park system. We were looking forward to camping in the National Seashore as well as experiencing the many museums, lighthouses, wildlife areas, hiking, and kayaking opportunities in the area.
Fisherman’s Island National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.
Fisherman’s Island is a small island off the tip of the southern end of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. You can only visit it by tour. The tour is free but it only happens on Saturdays at 8:30 am.
The Virginia Seaside Water Trails.
There were tons of kayaking opportunities on this trip but The Virginia Seaside Water Trails up the coast of Eastern Shore included lots of different locations with ratings and maps.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Maryland.
This site runs along 184.5 miles of the C&O Canal with hikes, views, and visitors centers. It is run by the National Park Service and of course, I love everything National Parks!
Granted we would have never fit all this stuff in before it turned too cold, but I now have it all marked on the map for next time we head this way.
Now, I’m going to let Greg tell you about all the cool stuff we did do…
The Great Dismal Swamp
Colonial Europeans who settled here didn’t really appreciate wetlands, and named this enormous marsh in North Carolina and Virginia the Great Dismal Swamp. They did value the timber, though. In the 1970s, after centuries of logging, this became federally protected land.
Cyprus trees and knees in the Dismal Swamp are making a slow comeback. In a few short centuries they may resemble the giant bald cyprus trees that once populated the area.
View of the north side of Lake Drummond in the Dismal Swamp. The lake is unique. It is almost circular and is not fed by rivers. Need to hike 4.5 miles down the Washington Trail to see this view.
At the bottom of the pic is an otter path through the undergrowth into a canal.
Many turtles hop into the water before letting you get close. But this one is brave.
Pavilion in Dismal Swamp. Communities of escaped slaves (maroons) lived near here in the marsh. As the area’s logging industry grew, the loggers interacted and traded with the maroons.
Along the edge of Washington Ditch (named for President George).
More scenery along Washington Ditch. George Washington surveyed this 4.5-mile path. Slaves dug the ditch and built the road. The work must have been pretty grim.
View along West Ditch. Both Washington Ditch and this one were dug out to create roads that ran to Lake Drummond. Roads were used to haul out valuable cypress timber.
One of the swamp’s residents poses for a glamor shot.
NASA Wallops Flight Facility
Established in 1945, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility was an early test ground for rocket research. Many thousands of rockets have been launched from Wallops, and visitors can still come here to see the rockets take off.
“Little Joe”. Space pioneering liquid propulsion rockets like Little Joe were launched from here at Wallops in the lead up to the Mercury Space program.
High altitude research drone at Wallops.
Astro Bee liquid propulsion rocket. Most of the rockets launched from Wallops have been propelled by solid fuel.
Solid fuel rocket.
Model showing the scale of Wallops weather balloons. On the left is a ballon at launch. Though it is fully inflated, most of the skin trails below. Washington Monument in the lower left and a 747 jet above right are shown for scale. As the balloon rises the pressure in the surrounding atmosphere drops, allowing the gas in the balloon to expand. At the bottom right, we can see the size of the balloon at high altitude. Though the skin is no thicker than a trash bag the balloon can carry thousands of pounds of weather instruments.
Many of the rockets built at Wallops are made from decommissioned military missiles. The Anteres series carries payloads used to resupply the International Space Station.
Nike-Orion missile at Wallops.
In 1970 NASA sent two bullfrogs into orbit to study the effects of weightlessness on their inner ear balance mechanisms (otoliths). Here is the Orbiting Frog Otolith vessel.
Radio telescope at Wallops.
Assateague Island National Seashore
Assateague is an interesting island refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
A beautiful barrier island extends 37 miles south of busy Ocean City, MD. It crosses the MD VA border. In VA it is called Chincoteague. In MD it is called Assateague. Here is a view of the beachside at Assateague Island National Seashore.
In 1950 developers laid Baltimore Road and started building structures on Assateague Island. In 1962 the Ash Wednesday storm destroyed most of their efforts. Here is a remnant of the road. In 1965 this environment became protected as the Assateague Island National Seashore.
It is the home of many species you would expect to see on a large barrier island.
Needlefish in an aquarium display in the Visitor Center.
Living whelk in the Visitor Center.
But the real stars of Assateague are the wild horses! They rule the island. Here one wanders through our beachside campground with Ballena Blanca in the background.
The horses were initially brought from the mainland and kept here by farmers trying to avoid paying taxes on them.
Now around 80 of their descendants enjoy freedom here their whole lives grazing, along the shoreline and in the marshes.
Marsh on the bayside of Assateague.
The horses have more than the customary amount of salt in their diets, causing slight bloating.
They don’t visit vets. They are left to live their lives without interference…
… with one exception. To control the population, park employees try to make sure the mares only have one foal.
Each year a team of employees stalks mares and shoots their flanks with contraceptive darts (which fall out quickly).
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway
In 1808 it became illegal to import African slaves into the United States. The deep south still relied on slave labor, though. In the years preceding the Civil War about 1 million slaves (a quarter of the slave population) was sold by northern states to buyers in the deep south. To avoid this fate many escaped using the Underground Railroad. Maryland has recognized one of the railroad’s conductors and some of the known stops on the escape route.
Harriet Tubman grew up as a slave here in Dorchester County in northern Maryland. When she was a young girl she came to this store one day.
As she stood here inside the store an escaping slave ran through. The shopkeeper called to her to stop the man. She didn’t.
The shopkeeper hurled a 2lb. counterbalance weight like the one pictured top left. It hit her in the head. Though she had to go back to work in the fields right away, she started having seizures. She had visions during her seizures, positive that she was seeing God. (From Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park and Visitor Center.)
After the 1808 law banning the importation of slaves to the US, slaves here in Maryland lived in constant fear of being sold “down the river” into the deep south. Harriet saw one of her sisters sold off. Harriet eventually escaped to freedom via the “Underground Railroad”, but returned 13 times to lead others out of slavery. (From Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park and Visitor Center.)
Mmmmm. Muskrat meat. As a girl, one of Harriet’s jobs was wading barefoot in freezing water to catch or trap muskrats for food. (From Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park and Visitor Center.)
Memorial in Cambridge, MD painted by a relative of Harriet’s. In addition to helping some 70 slaves escape, Harriet went on to become a scout for the Union during the Civil War. She also carried a gun and led Union troops. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park and Visitor Center in Church Creek. MD has excellent presentations about Harriet’s dramatic life.
Harriet was also a champion for Women’s’ Rights. Here is another mural near the Cambridge Visitor Center. The state of MD has designated an Underground Railroad Byway with points of interest. We traveled much of the byway, which goes through Cambridge.
Here is a scenic lighthouse at the Long Wharf in Cambridge, MD. Before 1808 ships brought kidnapped Africans to the Long Wharf to be sold as slaves.
Linchester Mill in Preston, MD. Daniel Hubbard, who lived about a mile from here, and probably worked here, was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Slaves working around here would encounter freed blacks and sympathetic Quakers who were part of the Railroad.
Harriet Tubman used this cemetery as a rendezvous point for some escapes. In 1849 Quakers sold the site to free blacks so they could build a church here.
Webb’s cabin in Preston, MD on the Underground Railroad Byway. James Webb, a free black, lived here with his father, and his wife and four children, who were enslaved. The cabin is typical of the dwellings used by slaves at the time.
Interior of the Webb Cabin.