Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Assateague Island National Seashore
by Laurie Cochran

September 19-21, 2008
Photos by: Laurie Cochran
Trip Coordinator: Lee Mc Quade

The long awaited trip is finally here! Will the weather and bugs cooperate? All the preparation and packing is done. Now for the adventure…a 4½-hour journey to Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland where the wild ponies and Sika deer roam free. As you arrive, you can view the wild ponies grazing in the marshlands. A bizarre sight!

Eleven members of the club will meet up and enjoy a 2 night/3 day camping and kayaking adventure. The following participants attended: Lee (our faithful leader), Bev, Laurie (me), Ken & Roberta, Linda, Dave & their 7 year old grandson Jared, Kathy and her friends Donna & Joan (who enjoyed the serenity and HOT showers of hotel living as opposed to braving the camping elements!)

Although the wind was challenging, the camps were set up “Oceanside” in the National Park (the State Park is nearby) on Friday. Dinner consisted of Franks, Beans and Beer. Yes, a dangerous combination but we all survived! Bev & I made our way to the “Bayside” to enjoy the beautiful sunset. We weren’t disappointed! Many people gathered there to watch in amazement.

In the evening, members gathered together at a campsite fire and shared memories of past adventures (along with several bottles of wine!). The wind continued which kept the bugs away.

Saturday morning awoke with many clouds and more winds. Would we be able to paddle? The winds made it difficult to cook the morning breakfast so we wondered what it would be like to paddle against nature’s forces! We ventured out from Ferry Landing into the channels of the Sinepuxent Bay and enjoyed the wildlife and refreshing scent of the wind blowing through the wild grasses. Nature at it’s best. Way off in the distance we could see Lee’s kite tethered high over his campsite. A great day to be a kite!

Park visitors enjoyed watching us paddle. One woman struck up a conversation with Kathy, Donna and Joan. They invited her to try out a couple different kayaks and she was hooked! She stated she was always intrigued by kayaks and now would be buying one!

Saturday night dinner reservations for 8 members were made at Hooper’s Crab House located on the bay in Ocean City, Maryland. The table was lined in brown paper and several members enjoyed fresh Maryland crabs. The food and service was fantastic! Bev said the crab cakes were amazing and Lee enjoyed the fresh flounder. For two of us allergic to shellfish, the fajitas were delicious! (The Blue Moon beers were going down nicely as well!)

As we ventured back to the campsites, a strange scene was happening. Living in northern New Jersey we are accustomed to seeing deer grazing along the roadsides at night. Well, driving through Assateague at night is very different! First, there is no “light pollution” so the stars are brilliant. Second, as you are driving along the roads, you see wild ponies grazing along the sides of the road! Their eyes glow at you in the dark as they check you out while driving by. The tiny Sika deer graze or their young lay peacefully near them in the grass by the roadside. You can’t help but feel amazed and at peace.

We arrived back at camp and ventured up the dunes overlooking the ocean to enjoy a bonfire on the beach. The rays of a recent full moon were shimmering on the ocean. The stars were amazing. Constellations were beaming down on us and several shooting stars blazed by. We enjoyed the warmth of the fire and friendly conversations until Ken’s snoring almost put the fire out! (Just kidding Ken… it REALLY wasn’t all THAT loud!)

Sunday morning was beautiful! What a sunrise! I enjoyed a walk along the beach and found many treasures. My favorite was the “Sea Glass”. My sister collects it so I was looking for pieces to add to her collection. Surfers were enjoying the nice waves. Along the shoreline, I was watching the local sandpipers feeding on the critters that came up on shore. As I watched the birds quickly scurrying across the sand I noticed one that was moving very differently than the others. It only had ONE leg! He tried so hard to keep up with the others as he hopped along on one leg! He never fell far behind! It was comforting to see they all stayed together as they made their way along the shoreline.

Many of nature’s creatures were seen on this trip. Besides the Ponies, Sika deer, and several varieties of gulls, we saw Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Plovers, Pelicans, Osprey, Double-crested Cormorants, 2 Loggerhead Shrikes, Gray Catbirds, Common Grackles, and Red-winged Blackbirds. During one of our hikes, Bev & I were startled by a green snake crossing our path. It was a very pretty emerald green. Blended extremely well with the marsh grasses! The ponies and deer were very tame. Park visitors are warned NOT to feed the wildlife. All food items must be stored away, preferably in the car and definitely not in the tents because the deer are known for entering the tents and rummaging for food. At a campsite next to us while a young man & woman were fixing their dinner, 2 uninvited ponies walked right up to the picnic table and tried to join them for dinner. Banging a few pots & pans sent the ponies on their way. Also, the rustling sound of a potato chip bag is enough to bring every gull from miles away to your campsite. Once they get a taste of one chip they send for their friends. Although it is tempting to feed the wildlife, it is in your best interest not to.

Overall, this trip was everything I imagined and more. Thank you Lee for organizing it. Everyone was very friendly and hope to experience more trips together. I hope to return again!