Herds of free-ranging horses roam Assateague Island, a barrier island off the east coast of Maryland and Virginia. As you cross a bridge to enter the island, it's not strange for a "welcoming party" of brown-and-white horses to greet you on the other side. Usually, the "wild" animals are surrounded by a circle of people taking pictures—often getting closer than the 10-foot limit signs around the park prescribe. This tourist paparazzi is hard for the horses (and humans) to avoid on the beaches and main roads, but if you camp on the island there's a completely different vibe. The tables turn, and instead of people seeking out the horses, the horses are curious about the campers. During my most recent stay three horses saw us coming and immediately came to check us out as we pulled into our campsite.
Well, check our car out for goodies is what I really mean.
These guys weren't there so much to welcome us as they were there to do a thorough inspection; it was as if we were crossing into a new country and the border patrol needed to interrogate us. Or, perhaps, like a group of bullies had come in to steal the new kids' lunch. One horse was even bold enough to stick his head into our car—right where I was sitting. With his face only inches from mine, I couldn't help but let out a squeal. In my opinion, that's a little too up close and personal. The plethora of graphic pictures posted around the park featuring horse bites didn't exactly help put me at ease.
My friends, of course, just laughed as I imagined the horse's giant teeth clamping down on my nose. (What else are friends for?) But once he and the rest of the border patrol found out we wouldn't give them any food, they moved on to interrogate the next campsite. The people over there were smart, though, and scared the horses away by banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons. I'll have to remember to pack the cookware next time.
Friends on the beach after the crowds cleared for the evening.
Don't leave home without your beach blankets.
One afternoon the beach was packed until it started to rain. There was a mass exodus, but we stuck it out (along with some other beachgoers who had tents or large umbrellas). The rain didn't last long, and we had a blissful hour or two of blue skies without large crowds of people.
The island is marshy and beach-y, not to mention all-around pretty.
And it's dog friendly year-round, which means we get to take our pup, Penny, along.
It wasn't planned, but we stayed during a "supermoon." I caught this young girl looking out at the giant moon as the sun set behind us.
The moon was so bright that we could see our shadows at night. I couldn't believe it!
I hate leaving, but I secretly (well, not anymore) kind of love packing up cars. It really satisfies the inner Tetris-fiend in me.
The images above are from two recent stays at Assateague Island National Seashore. If you're looking to meet the horses, keep in mind that in addition to the national seashore, the island also has a state park in Maryland and a wildlife refuge in Virginia (people tend to get them all confused). On the Maryland side, the population is controlled by a contraceptive program, and on the Virginia side, the population is controlled by auctioning off horses during an annual Pony Swim.