The theme for downtime from work in 2010 has been Alison and I jumping in my car and driving until we lose our Internet connections. New Year’s Eve found us at Cacapon Lodge in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Six weeks ago, we ran out to Front Royal and found Gooney Creek, a fun and random campground. This last weekend, we decided to get out of DC for the Fourth of July to avoid the crowds, down the coast to Chincoteague Island. Pine Grove Campground fit the bill perfectly.
Finding campgrounds and lodges are better than B&Bs and hotels for a variety of reasons. Accommodations and food cost us less, we like getting out into nature and near water, and we have more privacy to focus on each other. Just about anywhere you want to go, Google Maps shows you a good number of campgrounds in the area, and in my experience the included reviews are reasonably accurate.
Chincoteague is down on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, which means that the most direct route there was across the Bay Bridge and down Route 50 with all the sheep headed for Ocean City. I was more nervous about holiday traffic than was Alison, so it is fortunate that she’s usually right – we got lucky both directions to miss several monster wrecks and traffic jams.
Pine Grove is mostly an RV site, but there were a fair number of tent sites. You don’t reserve one. When you get there, you have to take a spin around the grounds to select a place that hasn’t been taken. Luckily, we passed on the far end of the ground because the salt marsh abutting it ended up smelling horribly by the late afternoon when the heat came up.
One of the fun things about Pine Grove is that the owners have established a “waterfowl park” on part of their land. What that basically means is Don the Owner keeps any random animal that anyone gives them, or that they come across. The preserve is home to an emu, several miniature ponies, horses, goats, black swans, dozens of peacocks … and one badass rooster whose mouth writes checks his ass can’t cash. We had some adventures revisiting the waterfowl park on day two of our trip, but Alison has covered that ground. I will just say that if you choose to feed apples to goats and hot dog buns to peacocks, make sure you bring enough for the whole class — if you run out before they are sated, you have serious problems.
The town of Chincoteague is like just about any coastal tourist town – pedestrians rule the byways, there is a lot of traffic via bikes and breathtakingly dorky two-person go-carts, and the locals drive around with barely restrained homicide in their eyes and the constant invasion of gaudily dressed visitors. Only a few miles off, though, is Assateague Island, famous for its herds of wild ponies (apparently refugees from a Spanish shipwreck centuries ago) and entirely given over to wilelife preserve. Alison and I went there on day two and thoroughly enjoyed a hike and a quick dip in the Atlantic. We also enjoyed drawing comparisons between the landscape and what we imagine the Kalahari to look like.
Back at camp, it was clear that a lot of the people there are regulars for the summer. Alison pointed out that (based on the sheer amount of crap they packed) it looked like a lot of people were there, not because they like to camp (or RV), but because they can’t afford hotels. Based on the fact that we were the only ones out of hundreds at Pine Grove who were in the bird sanctuary, I was guessing that she was right. Our neighbors were a professorial couple with a probably-emotionally-disturbed son who provided us with endless wine-fueled snarkiness. Most everyone at the campground was very nice, though. You can’t judge a person by their NASCAR flag.
Pine Grove Campground
5283 DEEP HOLE ROAD
CHINCOTEAGUE, VA 23336
Phone Number: (757) 336-5200
Fax Number: (757) 336-0543