Assateague Island National Seashore
by Lee McQuade
September 14-16, 2012
Mother nature provided us with a 5 star weekend for our 11th annual Assateague, Maryland trip.
For those not familiar with this barrier island, Assateague island consists of three major public areas; Assateague Island National Seashore managed by the National Park Service, Chincoteague National Wildlife managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Assateague State Park, managed by Maryland’s Department of National Resources. The island has an interesting folklore and is probably best known for the Assateague “ponies” which freely roam on roads, campsites and wherever they wish to congregate. Pony patrols keep them out of harms way. Only slightly smaller than other horses, these shaggy, sturdy animals are well adapted to their harsh environment. More on these ponies later.
Our group this year consisted of Melody, Bev, Jen, Brittany, Barbara, Kathy, Donna, Alice, Susan and Lee.
Most of the group arrived at different times between Thursday and Saturday morning. There were moderate winds on the ocean side where we were staying so the tents were erected without any major problems. Rain was not in the forecast for the weekend. Hurrah.
Friday evening was ideal for a short paddle on Sinepauxant Bay. The sunset was spectacular. A fire in the fire pit ended the evening on a high note
Early Saturday morning at approximately 1:30 A.M. we had our first visit from several of the ponies. Several of them were eating grass right outside our tents and became a bit agitated with one another. We had a minor stampede as one of them became entangled in my tent lines and snapped the line holding my rain fly. The fly was ripped up the seam. Our neighbors in the adjoining site were also awakened and came out with flashlights to move the ponies out of the site. They eventually moved along. The remainder of the night went well. Melody and Bev had a number of ponies raid the site across from them the next day. They opened the large Rubbermaid bins and helped themselves to bagels, marshmallows, chips and whatever was loose. Fortunately they did not consume any of the beer. Melody and Bev helped clean up the site before the herd did any more damage. This is the first year where we have seen them so frisky. We have to remember that we are the guests in their home territory.
On Saturday morning we all ventured out into the bay for several hours of paddling. Winds were moderate and caused few problems. Alice experimented with her kayak sail. It sure beats using a golf umbrella as a method of sailing which we did one year.
Along the shore we saw several egrets and herons. Later on in the season snow geese, black ducks, mallards and pintails will winter on the island. We could not have asked for a more enjoyable day on the water. A lunch stop provided us with new energy. The balance of the afternoon was spent regrouping from the morning paddle. Time on the ocean side was well spent.
On Saturday evening we all ventured into the Ocean City area for an evening of non camp food. Ocean City has bike week (motorcycles) during this weekend so the roads were alive with bikers. A most interesting group. Back at the sites we had an enjoyable evening. The heavens were magnificent.
We had another outstanding day on Sunday. The sunrise was spectacular. I had departed during the early morning hours to catch the Lewes, Delaware ferry to Cape May for some time paddling in Cape May harbor. The harbor provides a wide choice of paddling adventures from entering the Cape May inlet to the ocean as well as paddling in the calmer Cape May canal which goes over to Delaware Bay. This is part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The other members of the group had a late breakfast, broke camp and soaked up the sun rays before hitting the road back to New Jersey.
It was a fantastic weekend. We all enjoyed the time in Maryland. Let’s do it again in 2013. For additional information go to the Assateague webpage.