September 24th, 2009 – by: Andy99
NASA historical marker
Thursday was our day to further explore Chincoteague
and neighboring Assateague. On the way in to Chincoteague, we'd noted the NASA Visitor Center for it's Wallops Island facility. But, it did not appear to be open. I discovered (via the Web) that now, in the fall season, it's open Thursday to Monday only. So, it would be open today! We planned therefore to see it first, have lunch, and then see more of Assateague Island.
The NASA Wallops Fight Facility
is about five miles back from Chicoteague Island, on the mainland. (I'd been there in 2002 with Drew's Boy Scout troop.) It's not often thought of when other NASA sites to visit, like the Kennedy Space Center or the Goodard Manned Spaceflight Center, are mentioned.
Tracking antennas at NASA's Wallops FLight Facility
But, as we learned, it is the busiest of NASA's scientific rocket launch facilites. The visitor center is small and appears to be undergoing a renovation. We watched the animated film "Field Trip to the Moon", describing how the planned return mission to the moon will operate. (A lot of Saturn and Space Shuttle technology will be employed.) But I found the most intriguing exhibit here to be the "Science on a Sphere" display. In a darkened room, images of the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Calisto (one of Jupiter's moons), and the Sun were projected on a sphere with accompanying narration about these celestial objects. I had never before heard that balloons will be used to explore Mars or that Jupiter is considered the "vacuum cleaner" of the solar system. (Through its strong gravitational pull, Jupiter intercepts many large meteors and comets that would produce cataclysmic disasters if they collided with Earth.
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility
Outside the Vistor Center are several exhiubits of rockets launched from Wallops. I went around to take photos of these and soon noticed my legs were itching. I had attracted a horde of mosquitos and flies fromthe marshland! They bit hard! As it is part of the Wildlife Refuge, the area is not sprayed with insecticide. Time to apply the insect repellant.
After NASA, we returned to Chincoteague. Nearing the island, there was a commotion ahead on the causeway. A bread delivery truck had run off the two-lane causeway into the marsh. The local fire department was pulling the truck out while succeeding in keeping traffic moving around the scene. (A similar accident where we live would cause a long traffic tieup.)
At Chincoteague, we enjoyed lunch at A&J's on the Creek restaurant and did some shopping at The Brant.
Susan in the spacesuit
Then, we made for Assateague Island
. Would the poines be out and about this afternoon? First stop was the Visitor Center operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This visitor center focuses on interpreting the National Wildlife Refuge.
Displays and dioramas tell the story of the devlopment of the refuge and of the species, ranging from squirrls and the famous ponies to a wide vareity of birds that live here.
I wanted to hike over to Assateague Lighthouse
on the Lighthouse Trail, but the visitor center staff said that it had been closed due to the intesity of the biting insects that afternoon. (The experience at Wallops was not out of the orindary today!) In fact, the lighthouse keeper had come down to the visitor center! No lighthouse tours today.
Me in the spacesuit
The Wildlife Loop
was open to motor traffic, so we drove the 3.2 mile path around Snow Goose Pool. Many birds and waterfowl were out and we observed egrets, herons, plovers, geese, and ducks. Whenever I tried to step out for photos, the biting insects descended once again.
Next, we planned a walk along the beach. The beach on Assateague is part of Assateague National Seashore
that also includes the Maryland part of the island. A drive along the causeway over Swan Cove Pool brings one to Tom's Cove beach
. The visitor center at Tom's Cove is operated by the National Park Service and is oriented toward the National Seashore. Displays here tell the story of the barrier islands like Assateague and their constantly shifting topgraphy.
Science on a Sphere: The Earth
Tides, wave, storms, and hurricanes constanly rearrange the configuration of the beach and the island. A photo shows that today's coastline is far "inland" of where it was twenty years ago. A road that once led to the old Coast Guard station on Tom's Cove Hook and a old fish factory has been washed away. That area is now accessible only by foot or off-road vehicle. A rain squall came up while we were at the visitor center. It was interesting to see the rain move in across the cove, drench the surrounding area, and then move out again.
Chincoteague Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Seafood at AJ's
AJ's on the Creek has an unprepossessing look about it. You might think it was abandoned--but it definitely is open. It is located on a creek and if y… read entire review