Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Assateague Island

This past week Miss L and I ventured east to Assateague Island. It's quite a wonderful place. It's a barrier island just off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia that operates largely as a National and State park, but does have the small beach town of Chincoteague on the Virginia side.

What makes it most unique are the wild ponies. No one is really sure where they came from. Anyone who read Marguerite Henry's book Misty of Chincoteague as a child probably knows the popularized theory that they came from a Spanish galleon that crashed against the island during a vicious thunderstorm. But the more historically accepted version is that the wild ponies descend from domesticated stock; apparently it was quite common for farmers in the 17th century to let their livestock roam free so they could avoid taxes imposed upon fences.

Most people visiting Assateague Island will either stay in nearby Ocean City, Md or the town of Chincoteague, which features a number of hotels, B&B's, eateries and antique shops. We decided to do it on the cheap and camp out. This was Miss L's first time camping in a tent and my first time in several years. Here's a shot of our campsite:


It was a great place to camp. Not much in the way of firewood, so you have to either buy wood or charcoal and bring it with you. The other bad thing were the mosquitos. Although not too bad during the day, they descend upon you like a plague once the sun goes down. After dinner much of our night-time activities revolved around battling the little buggers, everything from intense repellent to candles to the ye' old slap-and-sqaush technique.

We were definitely on the low-end of technology as far as the campers went. Most people were either in RV's or tents so large you could fit an entire village in them. A number of groups arrived with full-sized stoves and gas-powered generators so they could watch t.v. while they camped. Kind of defeats the purpose of camping in my mind, but to each their own.

Much of the island is marshy, as you can see from this photo here:


But if you go towards the center of the island there are some nice hiking trails. The water between the island and the Md/Va shore is a very calm sound, making it ideal for anyone like us who enjoys a leisurely canoe ride. There are some nice beaches as well, and beaches that aren't anywhere near as crowded as Ocean City or Rehobeth.


And, of course, there were ponies. We wondered how hard it would be to find them, but they were pretty much everywhere: on the beach, walking along the roads, in the water. We even saw some piles of "evidence" that some horses wandered through our campsite, although we never actually saw them there.


By far the most memorable, though, was the stallion we saw in the parking lot of the visitors center. He was just hanging out taking a nap behind someone's car, without a care in the world. If you look carefully at his *ahem* undercarriage you might notice something to indicate that he was having a particularly nice dream.


While the kids didn't seem to notice at all nearly every adult burst into laughter. Miss L and I decided he was a wee bit of an exhibitionist. We came back a few minutes later after checking out the visitor center, and our friend was awake and no longer exhibiting.

But now it's back to work and real life, at least until we venture up to Alaska later this summer. Until next time....


No comments: