I don’t know why it has taken me so long to blog about our trip to Assateague. Maybe I have been overwhelmed by all the pictures of ponies munching on grass because we took a zillion of those. Or maybe it’s just because Fall whooshed in practically overnight and all those memories of sand in swimsuits, cold (public) showers, humid nights holed up in our tent playing cards and swatting mosquitoes, breaking our flimsy body boards trying to body surf crazy waves, waiting out the rain in starbucks, and waking up in the middle of the night to a pony pushing his nose into our tent have started to fade away into a not-so-distant past.
Assateague had been at the top of our list of places to summer-camp for a long time. We even upgraded to our massive tent-home because we were warned the bugs were terrible and we knew that we needed a screened shelter/room when camping. Sly, who is usually immune to mosquitos when I’m around, was setting up the tent when he was accosted by a swarm of mosquitos that bit through the back of his shirt and through his cargo shorts. We immediately abandoned plans of setting up camp in the little grove of trees at our site (where the concentration of mosquitoes seemed to be the worst) and instead set up right by the road, just a few steps from our car. Immediately thereafter, we drove to Super WalMart and purchased two large cans of outdoorsman strength bug spray.
There’s obviously a lot more to Assateague than mosquitoes. The main attraction at Assateauge were the ponies. When we first drove into the park, I, like a long stream of fellow tourists, made the rookie mistake of photographing the first (obscure) ponies we saw. As I came to realize, the ponies were everywhere, and typically could be found by the bathrooms drinking from the fresh water pumps.
One rainy afternoon, we went searching for ponies and found a group of them just wandering around in the parking lot. When I got out of the car to take a photo, one of the ponies approached me and wouldn’t stop following me around the parking lot. I like to follow rules, especially when it comes to wildlife. For obvious reason, petting horses in the park is out of the question, but let me tell you, it was pretty hard to resist the urge to pet this sweet little girl. I named her Creamy. She had the softest, most gentle eyes.
It rained on and off our entire stay (we are 4 for 4 now in the number of times it has rained while camping this summer), but we were able to sneak in quite a lot of beach time. Sly loved body surfing. Me, I was a little more timid. After a while, Sly was able to convince me to get into the water, and we had a lot of fun jumping in and out of the waves (and stepping on a crab for me), ‘catching waves’ with our cheesy foam body boards.
When we weren’t at the beach, we were at the boardwalk in Ocean City, stuffing ourselves with Doughrollers sammies, playing shooting carnie games, eating ice cream, and of course, riding one of those haunted mansion rides. In the evenings, after killing a million mosquitoes, we holed up in our tent and, inspired by the game of Life (card edition) that we bought on clearance at Wal-Mart, we talked a lot about our dreams for the future.
It’s hard to believe that we were in Assateague just a few short weeks ago; how quickly Fall made its presence known. Goodbye, Summer, you were a good one.
Camera: Canon 5d MII
Programs: Adobe Lightroom 3.4 with my custom presets
Assateague Island National Seashore: $20-$25/night, camping fee does not include admission fee of $15/wk.
TIPS: There was a bit of confusion in booking our campsite as there were essentially THREE areas where you can see the ponies: Chincoteague Island, Assateague Island National Seashore, and Assateague State Park. If you’re interested in beach camping, you can only do so on the Maryland side (in the state park or on the national seashore). Between the Assateague State Park and the National Seashore, the state park is more equipped with amenities and seems a little more developed/RV-park-like. We chose to stay in the more rustic National Seashore campgrounds. All the camp sites (except maybe the back country sites) have picnic tables, fire rings, pit toilets, potable water, and a cold spray shower room. There are two sides to the National Seashore: bayside and beach side. We stayed on the bay side, but beach side is definitely preferable. The pros of staying bayside is that when it’s sunny, there’s at least some tree coverage (not so much on the beach, bring a shade structure of some sort). The cons of staying bayside — and I should warn that this is a MAJOR con — it’s a mosquito haven. As in the worst swarming of mosquitos I have ever encountered since Hawaii. If you’re thinking to yourself “oh mosquitos aren’t that big of a deal, I rarely ever get bitten” then think again. The mosquitos were viscious and they were no joke. Be forewarned (and bring sportsman strength bug spray).
Kirby’s Pub: $5-10 // Local dive bar/pub food. Good place to go to escape the huge themed seafood restaurants marketed towards tourists. The place can get packed and when it does, the service can be slow to nonexistent.
OC Wasabi: $15-$20 // No frills place for fresh, reasonably-priced neighborhood-style sushi.
Doughrollers: $10-$15 // Pizza, subs, hot dogs. Better than average boardwalk food. Dough is made and baked in-house. Bathrooms of the boardwalk location were less than desirable. Lots of seating that can accommodate large groups.
Dumsters: $5-$10 // known for their ice cream treats, some of the restaurants also serve burgers, etc.
Ocean City Boardwalk: Typical East Coast historic boardwalk with lots of trash flying around. Rides, food, shopping, and clubbing all in one spot.