Today we went back to explore the tiny fishing village of Ocracoke, where the ferry had dropped us off yesterday.
On the way we stopped to see the Banker Ponies, arriving at 9 a.m. feeding time. They are reputed to be descendants of horses abandoned here by shipwrecked explorers in the 16th or 17th century.Sir Richard Grenville's ship Tiger ran aground at Ocracoke in 1585. There is speculation that he may have unloaded Spanish mustangs on the island.
Physically, the horses are smaller than other horses, and have a different number of vertebrae and ribs. Called Banker Ponies because their range once included most of the Outer Banks. There have been as many as 300 of these horses on the Ocracoke.
Since 1959 they have been confined to about 180 acres of fenced pasture land, to prevent overgrazing and to safeguard them from traffic after the highway was built in 1957.
Through the years the horses have served island residents as beasts of burden. The U.S. Coast Lifesaving Service and Coast Guard used them to patrol the beaches. In the late 1950s, Ocracoke Boy Scouts cared for the horses and had the only mounted troop in the nation (see photo). The remaining herd (currently 17) has been cared for by the National Park Service since the early 1960s.
Our first stop in the village was the Visitor Center where we got a map, got advice on what to see, and read about Blackbeard the Pirate who plied his trade off the southern coast of Ocracoke and where he met his match.We decided to go see the lighthouse first. Here is the view from across the harbor.
The Ranger suggested we take a drive down the oldest street in Ocracoke on the way.
Simon and Sarah Garrish Family House, Circa 1888. Do you see the yard art next to the tree?
More yard art
We found the Howard House, for whom the street was named.
The Howard House. Note the shark fins carved into the steps.
This house is available for rent.
As we moved along it looked like we had gone back to the 1800s. Behind the white fence is a cemetery with separately fenced family plots.
Many of the graves are from generations of the Howard family.
Fenced family plot.
On to the lighthouse!
Ocracoke Lighthouse and keeper's quarters. Built in 1823, this beacon is the second oldest lighthouse still in use in the U.S.The non-rotating light stands 77 feet above sea level and can be seen up to 14 miles out to sea.
The lighthouse cat greets visitors.
And lays at your feet for pats and belly rubs.
The small block building on the right formerly provided storage for lamp fuel. Whale oil, porpoise oil, and kerosene have all served as fuel for the light. Today the light is electric and the building houses an auxiliary generator.
Our next destination is Teach's Hole, the place where Blackbeard the Pirate anchored and lay in wait to plunder passing ships. There is no place to park at the trailhead, so we used this church parking lot and walked.
We passed some seaside cottages.Many of these are for rent.
The trail to Springer's Point.
The trail begins between two houses.
Live Oak trees and benches invite you to sit and listen to the birds sing.
And indeed this is a birder's favorite. These birders are looking for a Painted Bunting recently spotted. Notice the raccoon carving on the stump.
About 1837, Wallace Springer, for whom the point is named, purchased the land from William Howard (remember Howard Street?) and later sold it to Sam Jones.
Sam Jones is buried in this small plot next to his favorite horse, Ikey D.
From here you can gaze out at Teach's Hole, just as Blackbeard did. Anchored close to shore and hiding amongst island oaks, pirate lookouts could spot merchant ships as they cruised along the coast, allowing the crew to sail out and plunder the cargo.
Somewhere out there is where Blackbeard was killed in a fierce fight with British Navy troops in 1718.
Today it is an oyster and crab sanctuary. A restoration project is ongoing on the oyster beds.
Blackbeard the Pirate's watery gravesite.
Azaleas are at their peak on the island.
Another seaside cottage.
New beside the old.
This stylish chicken was wandering around.
The Blackbeard Exhibit, aka tourist trap, was closed, but Nan posed for a photo op.
This is Ocracoke's only fish house where you can watch the watermen work and buy local seafood fresh off the boats. Watermen are fishermen, clammers, crabbers, and oystermen.
The red dots indicate what the watermen brought in today. We hung around for the flounder boat to arrive, then bought flounder and shrimp….oh, and Gaynelle's Fig cake. Flounder and fig cake for supper tonight.
Back at the campground, Thistle and I walked the nature trail again. This time we saw a Belted Kingfisher,
And a Green Heron concentrating on his catch.
Wildflowers along the roadside.