Chincoteague and Assateague Islands: plan your first visit or relive your latest visit again and again through this photo adventure. Enjoy the sights: migratory birds; local birds such as ducks; views from the lighthouse; views of the beaches of Assateague; and of course the ever popular wild ponies. This guide captures the spirit and feeling of nature in this rural community easily reached from Washington, DC.
1. The first thing you see when visiting these islands is Chincoteague. This is the residential area, and includes some interesting sights, the Sundial Book store, various hotels and other housing options, and restaurants. I recommend that you nose around to see the sights there.
2. One of the iconic elements of the islands is the Assateague Lighthouse, which can be viewed from Chincoteague and from Assateague Beach. You can climb it, and enjoy some great views from the top.
3. Another iconic sight on Assateague Island are the wild ponies. Once per year in July, the Chincoteague cowboys round up the ponies and they’re driven across the water to Chincoteague Island for health check-ups and some are sold to interested buyers. Are you interested? Other times of the year, you can see them roaming about Assateague Island, often grazing out in the marshes.
4. Of course, a big draw on Assateague Island is the beach. Some days is rough, and other days it’s calm. Many people like to swim in the ocean, some like to fish in the ocean and others like to just wander up and down the beach. Happily, there is parking available there, and shower and changing facilities in the summer.
5. A big part of both Chincoteague and Assateague are the great varieties and numbers of birds. This area is a stop over form many migrating flocks, as well as the permanent home of numerous aquatic fowl. You don’t need to work hard to find birds on either of these islands, especially near the water ways and marsh lands.
6. And the birds are active down at the beach. Some are just playing in the surf, but others are hard working ones enforcing traffic ordinances.
7. Of course plants are a big deal in these islands, providing both color and texture. There are Loblolly pines, the massive marshes full of life, and the brightly colored salt-wort.
The millionaire Gordon Strong discovered Sugarloaf Mountain for himself, and fell totally in love with it at the turn of the twentieth century. He did not, however, keep it for himself. He felt that the mountain and its wonderful views were not only pleasant, but also had the capacity to improve the visitor.
It certainly has had a transforming effect on me, not only with its wonderful overlooks, but also its wealth of plant and animal life, its lively streams, and its deep history.
Below, I am sharing with you the products of my years of visiting the mountain and attempting to capture the wonders photographically.
Please view my photographic products and my individual pictures, on this page below: Book Available Later in 2021
Photo Book of Sugarloaf Mountain, Expected Out Maybe in 2021
This is the proposed cover for a picture book on Sugarloaf Mountain that Howard and I hope and expect to publish on Amazon in this year. We have created a first draft, and are currently in an editing phase. When that is done, we will be pursuing publishing efforts. Stay tuned for more developments.
Exploring Sugarloaf Mountain by Car
Stronghold Square is the first stop when visiting Sugarloaf Mountain by car. The long brick building houses the administrative offices of Stronghold Incorporated, named for its founder, Gordon Strong. This organization owns and manages the mountain and surrounding woods in accordance with the wishes of Mr. Strong in his will. This building began life as a vocational school, funded by Gordon Strong to benefit the local community. To learn more about Stronghold Incorporated and to make donations for the upkeep of the mountain, visit their website at http://www.sugarloafmd.com/index.html.
Below are additional pictures of places on Sugarloaf Mountain that can be visited by car.
Adjacent to Stronghold Square are several buildings, but also a large pond. Gordon Strong used to row about this pond for exercise.
Well, you did it! You started driving up the mountain, and now you’ve arrived at the East Side Parking Lot. Here you find a lovely picnic area and overlook, looking east over the rich Piedmont farmland.
Continuing along the road to the West Side, you see the view to the west that Gordon Strong created for his friend Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who didn’t need to leave his car for a lovely view of the valley and mountains to the west.
Now you’re driving down the mountain road and you pass some impressive mansions. The first one you come to is the Strong Mansion, which Gordon Strong built for himself and his wife, to make life on the mountain luxurious. You too could enjoy it for a day by renting it from Stronghold Incorporated for your special occasion.
Hiking Sugarloaf Mountain
Some of you may imagine that there is more to see if you get out of your car and do some hiking in the woods. Good guess! One of your first hikes might be to visit the summit, and enjoy the exhilarating view from the top, seen here. The little silver sliver is the Potomac River.
There’s more to the summit than just an overlook. Check out this Broad Headed Skink that was running along this rock, hoping that I wouldn’t eat him.
There are also a lot of interesting plants on the summit, such as this Mountain Laurel with spring flowers.
Surrounding the summit is the White Trail. On the west side of the mountain there is a side trail that goes a short distance from the White Trail to this abandoned farmstead. I can imagine a nineteenth century farmer working the land here and coming home after a long day to his log cabin, of which today only the chimney remains.
The Sugarloaf Mountain main summit is in the south, but then there is a smaller one in the north. Beneath that northern summit is a west-looking overlook called White Rocks. Although it’s not at the northern summit (it’s on the side of the mountain), it does have some great views, like seen here.
The main trail that takes you north is the Blue Trail. Here a friend and I are examining a glistening stream that was running down the side of the mountain beside the Blue Trail. That same stream contributed to early nineteenth century industry near the mountain. Today it contributes to a variety of plant and animal life.
At the north end of the Blue Trail is the Purple Trail, which skirts the lower reaches of the north end of the mountain. The Purple Trail features a frog pond, but this frog recommends that you don’t come visiting.
Circumnavigating much (but not all) of the mountain is the Yellow Trail, which hikers, bikers (in season), and horsers can enjoy. Here a tree blew over and twisted itself above the trail, like a kind of gate.
Hikers can enjoy the park in winter too–even when it snows. Here you see me ascending the Orange Trail in the snow, looking like I’m having fun.
Exploring Sugarloaf History and Local Community Features
Sugarloaf Mountain is much more than a piece of geography. It’s also rich in history with a strong vibrant community. Here is the Bell’s Chapel UMC church beside the local cemetery.
Not far from Sugarloaf Mountain is the locally famous Comus Inn, which was originally a nineteenth century farmhouse that was subsequently expanded to meet demand for the fine food.
How would you like a pond in your backyard, with water lilies and perhaps a waterfall. Well, you can! Come to Lilypons, not far from the mountain, and get all the inspiration and materials you need. Or–just come on out and enjoy the summer blossoms.
Sugarloaf Mountain certainly enjoys a lot of beautiful nature. How would you like to enjoy all that nature with a glass of award-winning wine in hand. The Sugarloaf Winery is the place to come and enjoy this wonderful combination. Note that the wines are not just OK–they really are award winning wines.
Identify Wild Fungi and Mushrooms in the Maryland Mountains Do You Know These Fungi?
I need help to identify Maryland wild fungi and mushrooms.
I found these tiny white mushrooms growing on a Black Walnut sitting in the middle of the Catoctin Trail near its northern trailhead. I believe they are Marasmius rotula. Do you find them interesting? Any ideas?
But I’m not always so successful to identify Maryland wild fungi mushrooms. Below are thirty three fungi I found growing along Maryland trails that I could not identify. I wonder if members of The Mycological Association of Washington, DC could help me?
Can you identify them for me (Genus and species if able)?
My interest in mushrooms/fungi is purely love of nature … I only eat mushrooms that come from the store, not from the field, no matter how confident I am of their identity. The fungi below are roughly organized by what they are growing on.
I found this cluster of orange shelf-like fungi in June growing out of the sawed-off end of this log in the Shenandoah on Hawksbill Mountain. Well … OK … I admit that that isn’t Maryland, but I found this cluster of fungi attractive. They look a little like Chicken of the Woods, but I generally associate that with living trees. If you have some helpful comments about the identity of this fungus, please click here and leave a comment that includes "Fungus 20" in addition to your observations about this fungus. Help me to identify Maryland wild fungi mushrooms. Thanks.
April 22, 1988 — Rockville Science Day — it was Earth Day, and the City of Rockville was celebrating it with Rockville Science Day for 2018, to promote interest in science. That’s appropriate given how science takes such a beating in the political world. This wonderful celebration was organized by the Rockville Science Center.
Note that Rockville “Science” Day might actually be called by the wider acronym STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. These are related disciplines that point in much the same direction and that reinforce each other.
Shown here is the welcome tent that people first came to when they came to enjoy the celebrations, which took place at the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College. The tent was staffed by happy and welcoming volunteers of the Rockville Science Center.
Please visit any of the pictures and reports below of Rockville Science Day on this page:
Rockville Science Day happens every year because of the dedication of volunteers and of the community coming together to make it happen. There are people who are deeply committed to science and want others to appreciate it too.
Most of the volunteers were wearing the orange “I Do Science For Fun” T-shirts.
Naturally, no big community event would be complete without some pomp. To kick off Rockville Science Day, we sang the National Anthem, posted the colors, and retired the guard with military dignity. We then enjoyed speeches by the Chair of the Rockville Science Center and by the Mayor of Rockville … and the press were there to cover the action.
Music of the Spheres
“We learn in moments of pleasure,” and that was certainly true on Rockville Science Day. And, of course, music is quite pleasurable, so we all enjoyed the Kentland’s Acoustic Jam Band. There was a “Bach to Rock” table offering music lessons, and near the entrance, kids could help Organ Grinder Lola make music. There were of course also some science projects where kids explored music in an experimental way.
You may note my odd reference to “music of the spheres,” which in medieval times referred to the irregular and mysterious motion of the planets and stars in the sky. Some early astronomers got into trouble with the law for suggesting that the complex “music” could be simplified by considering the possibility that the earth rotated on its axis while it revolved around the sun.
Since then, we have also found the many connections between music and math and science, particularly physics.
Hands-on Science for kids: STEM After School Academy
Rockville Science Day focused on kids. These kids were not just learning about engineering, they were actively building things like towers and radios at the booth for the “STEM After School Academy,” which offers after school programs and a summer camp. I wish I were a kid again.
A representative from the Academy provided assistance to the kids to ensure their success with the projects. The zip-lock bag contained all the stuff needed to build an FM radio, which can be seen being successfully used. On the table are a variety of Academy kits.
Hands-on Science for kids: 4-H, Kid Museum, and Gaithersburg Community Museum
Rockville Science Day provided opportunities for youth. The 4-H Club got into the act, with its “Inventor’s Club,” exploring physics and creativity. “The Kid Museum had a popular table too, as well as the Gaithersburg Community Museum’s sun-dial making, which was also an activity that the museum provided at the Eclipse Party that it sponsored.
Rockville Science Day helped youth to get interested in STEM, and to see it as an interesting career choice. Opportunities for STEM education for kids as well as for adults were available. The Barnes & Noble company had materials, including the “STEAM Education” program. The Montgomery County Public Library also had educational materials for home and school, to be used to demonstrate various science concepts. The Scouts and the Pursuing A Dream Corporation both promote interest among youth learning about STEM, with a possibility of going into the field. There was also a local dramatic group rehearsing for their playing of “Radium Girls,” about a time when people were careless about radioactivity safety issues.
Rockville Science Day had a space where robots were doing work, picking up blocks and moving them. Other robots, however, had seemingly lost it, and were running back and forth, frenetically spinning like tops, or just sitting there trying to regain their composure.
Actually, I don’t think these are robots in a strict sense … they are really ground-based drones, since they are not self-directed, but rather are remotely directed by radio-control.
Promoting and Teaching Robotics
At Rockville Science Day, a lot of people were there promoting robotics, including a successful robotics team from Rockville High School that presented. Two robots were competing on green cloth to attract attention to “BeSTEM! Robotics Summer Camp.” Also doing their thing were robotics scientists associated with 4-H/Adventure in Science, Inc..
It was up up and away at Rockville Science Day. A drone table got some attention, but the biggest attraction was the NARHAMS Model Rocket Club that made a splash. You can see some of their special rockets, but the real attraction was the opportunity for kids to become rocket scientists and make their own rockets from supplied kits with expert help available … and fly them too.
Biology — Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals
Rockville Science Day was for the birds … and reptiles, and even mammals. John Celia was showing off his beautiful and intelligent homing pigeons, who always know their way home. “Reptile Wonders” was also well represented by snakes, a blue-tongued skink who most enjoyed snuggling, and some lovely and friendly tortoises. People had the opportunity to touch and be touched by the snakes. “Echoes of Nature” included both snakes and mammals.
Biology — Humans, DNA, and germs
Rockville Science Day also focused on humans. Shady Grove Medical Center showed visitors inside themselves with sonograms, while the University of Maryland displayed a popular item: real human brains. There was an opportunity to synthesize DNA with beads, while Sanaria, Inc., educated us about malaria eradication.
Rockville Science Day offered a glimpse of the heavens. Skip Bird of the Westminster Astronomical Society Inc., demonstrates the creation of a “dirty snowball” comet before your very eyes, while his “minions” assist with viewing the sun with telescopes. The tops of these telescopes have special filters to protect your eyes; don’t do this at home.
Rockville Science Day provided an opportunity to learn about archeology. Montgomery County Parks gave kids the opportunity to experience archeology first hand, with reference to a place called “Seneca Store.” They sifted through sand, they detailed analyses of the contents of soil, and pieced together pottery fragments to give life to a story of yesteryear that could only be told this way.
And, Rockville Science Day also looked at the STEM of yesterday. By the sidewalk, under a tent, was a Civil War field hospital. Historian Clarence Hickey played Dr. Edward Stonestreet, a Rockville doctor, explaining the state of medicine. Also on the sidewalk was a solor oven, both old and new technology. In the room with the robots was an old-timers electronics display.
Magen David Sephardic Congregation, Beit Eliyahu Synagogue
Magen David Sephardic Congregation, Beit Eliyahu Synagogue has been the premier Sephardic Congregation in the Washington, DC, area since it was founded in 1966. It is quite diverse: Jews from Morocco, from Egypt, from Syria, from Iraq, from Iran, from India, and even a few Ashkenazi (European) Jews. Congregants have also included Jews from Ethiopia at times. Every sort of Jew can feel comfortable at this veritable rainbow Synagogue.
The glass doors allow in a lot of light. Over the doors is a brass colored image of a Sephardic style Torah tik, which is a round case that protects the Torah scroll, both when it is read and also when it is stored. The shape of the windows reflects the Moslem influence on Sephardic Jews.
After you walk in the front door of the Synagogue and straight through the lobby, you then enter the sanctuary (seen here). Beautifying a mitzvah is an important element of Judaism, and is quite evident in the sanctuary, where so many prayer-oriented mitzvot occur. The structure in the middle, the Tevah, is for prayer leading and holy readings. At the far end you can see the raised Bima and the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). The sanctuary enjoys several beautiful Middle Eastern carpets typical of those featured in the lives of Jews from Moslem countries, where many Sephardic Jews formerly lived.
The raised Bima is a spiritual center of the sanctuary, raised like the altar in the Temple that formerly stood in Jerusalem. On the Bima is the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark), the home of the Torah scrolls and the Haftarah scroll. Adorning the walls on either side are brass menorot (candelabras), harkening back to the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem. On one side of the Bima is an American flag, showing Jew’s loyalty to America, and on the other side an Israeli flag, showing Jew’s love of Israel. Below is a closeup image of the Aron Kodesh.
This closeup of the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) shows many of its details more clearly. The doors of the Ark, with a curtain behind them, harken back to the Holy of Holies in the temple that formerly stood in Jerusalem, as does also the Ner Tamid (Eternal or "Always" Light) that hangs in front of the Holy Ark, and that in Temple times provided illumination inside of the Temple. The words immediately above the Holy Ark say "Know Before Whom You Stand," taken from a saying of the great sage Akiva. Above these words are the Ten Commandments held up by two Lions of Judah. Note that the term “Jew” is derived from the name of the tribe "Judah," but no Jews today know their particular tribe except for the Cohenim and Levites, so Jews today just identify as part of the wide community of Jews. The stars behind the Ten Commandments may refer to the eleven stars in a dream of Joseph, which refer to his eleven brothers. Around the stars are a large number of the symbol "Magen David," which of course refers to the name of this Synagogue, but is also an important symbol for Jews everywhere.
This structure is called the Tevah, and is supposed to suggest the ark that saved Noah and all life on earth, and also the small ark that saved Moses. The purpose of the Tevah is to be a center for the leading of prayers and for holy readings (Torah and Haftarah).
Orthodox men and women are not permitted to pray together, in order to ensure that they are not distracted. This is one of the two sections where the women sit. When the Torah is carried around the Synagogue, it makes a stop here for the women.
There is much lore and legendary tradition to hiking the Appalachian Trail, including the so-called "Maryland Challenge:" hiking the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail in ONE DAY! You may miss some things hurrying to meet the Maryland Challenge, so this virtual hike can be done in less than one day and still see plenty of the special sites available in Maryland.
Join me hiking from the Mason-Dixon Line to Harper’s Ferry, or the other way if you prefer, and see all the sites in a much more relaxed and comfortable way.
Visit the Appalachian Trail, starting from any point in the listing below, and virtually hike from place to place — click on the up arrow () to hike toward Maine, or click on the down arrow () to hike toward Georgia; the up and down arrows are located at the left side of each Appalachian Trail page.
Below is a listing of places you can visit that correspond with places on the map marked by large red dots.
In 1862 Robert E. Lee brought his southern troops up into Maryland as the beginning of an invasion of the north during the American Civil War. General George B. McClellan of the Union Army of the Potomac had learned that Lee had divided his army between forces invading Harper’s Ferry and those stationed in Boonsboro, MD, to the west of South Mountain, in preparation for the invasion of northern cities to the east. To head off Lee, and take advantage of the split in his armies, McClellan attacked the southern armies at three gaps in South Mountain to push through to Boonsboro:
> Turner’s Gap near Boonsboro;
> Fox’s Gap near Boonsboro; and
> Crampton Gap a bit farther south.
Each of these three sites are National Heritage Landmarks.
The Appalachian Trail runs through each of these three gaps, and there are some things to see in each of them.
Additionally, there is a fourth site at High Rock, mostly without anything to see other than a great panoramic view of the valley. Union troops were stationed there to spy on southern troop movements in the north.
In the Battle of South Mountain, the Union forces had mixed results attacking the southern forces, which held Fox’s and Turner’s Gaps precariously until nightfall, and gave Lee time to reorganize. This was, however, sufficient victory to give the Union leadership a much needed morale boost. McClellan failed, however, to capitalize on Lee’s weakened position, allowing Harper’s Ferry to fall into the hands of southern forces, and leading up to the terrible and bloody battle of Antietam, which led to southern forces retreating back across the Potomac, and led to President Abraham Lincoln replacing McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac, for being not sufficiently aggressive in his tactics.
Turner’s Gap: The Old South Mountain Inn is located in this gap, just uphill from the Appalachian Trail. This inn was founded as early as 1732. In 1859, John Brown and his men, in an effort to free southern slaves, captured the inn as a staging area for his raid on the armory in Harper’s Ferry. In the Civil War Battle of South Mountain, the inn was the headquarters for southern General D. H. Hill. A later owner of the inn, Madeline Vinton Dahlgren, also built a stone chapel in 1881, a short distance from the inn, and that chapel stands today immediately next to the Appalachian Trail.
(Visit the photo gallery for Turner’s Gap).
Fox’s Gap: General Jesse Lee Reno led his troops in attacking this strategic gap, and was killed in the effort. A monument was later placed there by his men in his honor, and it remains there today, immediately next to the Appalachian Trail.
(Visit the photo gallery for Fox’s Gap).
Crampton Gap: This was the scene of the greatest Union success. Later, after the war, it became the home of George Alfred Townsend, a war correspondent during the Civil War, who wrote under the pen-name of Gath. During the Civil War he was an immensely popular writer, but his writing style later became less popular. On his estate in Crampton Gap, he erected the War Correspondents Arch, honoring those who risked their lives in his profession. His estate was known as Gapland, and is now a Maryland State Park called Gathland State Park.
(Visit the photo gallery for Crampton Gap / Gapland/ Gathland State Park).
This wooden building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it was actually part of an international cooperative astronomical study of the earth's precession (wobble) on its polar axis of rotation. This Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory was built in 1899 as part of a system of six international latitude observatories; highly remarkable scientific cooperation during a period of terrible international warfare. The observatory and grounds are now designated a National Historic Landmark.
The "Skywatching" programs are held evenings at the Latitude Observatory, and admission is free. Get this on your calendar now: International Observe the Moon Night will be observed on Saturday, October 28, starting at 7pm. The calendar of events is on the museum's Facebook page.
This pagoda-looking thing was used for precisely calibrating the orientation of the telescope. The telescope was aimed through a window in the side of the building (see picture of observatory above) at crosshairs in these windows to ensure that it was correctly oriented, since orientation of the base and mounting of the telescope could drift from day to day. In this way, the measurements at this telescope could reliably be compared with similar measurements at the sites in the cooperating locations internationally, to create findings that could be relied on.