The Lighthouse Mystery of Assateague Island

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Chincoteague Pony Penning 2016

The Mystery of the Lighthouse’s Open Hours

I think every mystery series I read as a child had one book that takes place in a lighthouse. Thanks to The Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Famous Five…lighthouses hold a romanticized mysteriousness in my mind, probably because I’ve never gotten to set foot inside one. I had hoped to have a chance while on Prince Edward Island where the lighthouses are numerous, daisy chained along the coast line. The lighthouses of PEI are small, square, one-story affairs, which would have sufficed, but unfortunately we never came across one that was open to the public. Assateague Island, on the other hand has one tall, round, lighthouse with 175 steps to the top. This would be my second chance this summer to pretend I was one of my childhood’s heros on an adventure. The red and white striped tower is closer to my romanticized idea of a lighthouse with a mystery waiting to be solved anyway.

Assateague Island Lighthouse
Assateague Island Lighthouse viewed from Chincoteague Island

Let me back up. Assateague Island is a nature preserve and home to the Chincoteague Ponies herd. When you’ve tired of Pony Penning Week activities and want to get out into nature, simply cross the bridge to Assateague and a small paradise of hiking, biking, bird watching, pony gazing, boating, and beach-going are available to you. You may want to start your visit to Assateague at the visitor & nature center where you can learn about all the various wildlife, besides ponies, you may encounter on the island.

Assateague Island
Bird watching is one of the many activities to enjoy on Assateague Island

I, however, wanted to start this trip with an attempt to climb the lighthouse. I had tried this on two previous trips, but been defeated by the locked door. Third time’s the charm, right? There was just one tiny annoyance I had forgotten about. Well… thousands of tiny annoyances… mosquitoes. The trail between the parking area and the lighthouse is a short jaunt through the forest, and I was so excited that I didn’t stop to reapply bug dope before leaving the car. As I entered the trees I walked right into a cloud of tiny, hungry, buzzing mosquitoes!

(This might be a good time to mention that Assateague and Chincoteague Islands are mostly marshes. Perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. On Chincoteague, the population of mosquitoes is slightly less than horrible because a truck sprays a chemical around town. Unfortunately, because Assateague is a nature preserve, the truck isn’t allowed to spray the island down. Therefore the mosquito population on Assateague can be horrific. And these aren’t the large type we have in Alaska. These are fast, tiny, terrors!)

Mosquitoes were going in my mouth, my nose, my ears. I waved my arms and hands around my head and ran down the trail like a crazy person. Only to find, that once again, the lighthouse was locked. I still have yet to go inside a lighthouse and I had about 1,000 red welts beginning to form all over my body. The mystery of the open to the public-hours of the lighthouse will have to be solved on another trip. Perhaps in a different season. Third time is definitely not the charm.

Assateague Beach

Ok…so maybe I wouldn’t recommend the trails of Assateague on a hot, muggy, summer day (at least not without bathing in bug repellent first). The beach, however, is comparatively mosquito-free. If you’re the type to rise early before the rest of the vacationing crowd, I recommend an early morning beach walk. This is my favorite time, when the beach stretches empty for miles, the good shells are waiting to be found, and the only sounds are the sweeping waves and the chatter of the small sea birds running in the sea foam at the water’s edge just like children. Assateague BeachIf you’re more of a wake-up-late on vacation and join the crowds with their beach chairs and umbrellas kind of person, that’s cool, that’s the scene you’ll find here the rest of the day. Unfortunately for me, the one time we tried to have a real beach day it didn’t work out so well. I set up my chair, umbrella, and towel, and sat down with notebook and pen to write this and the wind immediately picked up. It promptly blew the umbrella away. Then the rain drops started and my words turned to ink stains running down the page. Ah well, Assateague will not be tamed.

Assateague Beach

It’s the place where giant storms can literally move the beach, a feral pony herd of unknown origin grazes in the salt marshes, and the lighthouse keeps mysterious hours. (Yeah, I know there’s a sign in front of the doors, but that should be moved to the car park!) What I’m trying to say is, visiting Assateague is always an adventure. So pack up that mystery novel and let’s hit the beach!

Let’s Talk

What is your favorite place to get out of the city and into nature? Tell me about your favorite outside adventure! Or just your favorite children’s mystery series. Let’s discuss in the comments below!

 

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  • I love Assateague! We camp there every summer. The kids and I read Misty of Chincoteague first (pretty sure there’s a law about that). I’ve heard the mosquitoes are beastly in late summer, but we go in early June and they aren’t bad at all (thought the water is pretty cold…trade-offs). The ponies wander through the campground and will definitely steal your food if it’s left out. They even know how to open coolers! Waking up to the sound of neighing ponies and the ocean just over the dunes is really just dreamy.

    • Oh that sounds lovely! I’ve been to Assateague two other times and don’t remember the mosquitoes being bad at all. This time was quite a surprise! I can imagine ponies will steal food just like bears will in Alaska, but I didn’t know they could open coolers! I thought bears with their sharp claws had the corner on that market!