Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Assateague National Seashore

Last week we went camping for three days at Assateague National Seashore in Maryland. This was our first experience camping on the beach so I was a little nervous about it. I'm not a huge beach fan, going once or twice a year is good for me, and I don't really like being wet and sandy. So spending three nights camping on the beach was definitely something a little different for me. But, I like doing new things and this camping trip was actually my suggestion.

Of course Julia was covered in sand in the first five minutes after we got there and I started having images of us never being sand free for the rest of the week. Which we weren't. Not completely, but I think I got a little more used to it. That and the cold open air showers at the end of each day did wonders to make us feel clean again. (Side note, we had read online about people who camp in the National Seashore, but drive to the state park to take showers since they have warm showers. I think that's a complete waste of time. The cold showers aren't freezing, and in the warm humid air it feels perfect.)

Our camp. It was like a giant sandbox for Julia so she kept pretty entertained. In the evenings if we weren't on the beach we pretty much lived inside the bug screen to keep the bugs off. And we all still came home with a million mosquito bites.

One of the cool things about Assateague is they have wild horses roaming the island. You see them all over while you are driving on the island. There are also signs all over warning you to lock up your food and stay away from them because they bite. So they can be a bit of a nuisance, especially in the drive in campsites where they've been known to break open tents looking for food while the people are gone. Our campsite was a walk-in site surrounded by fences to keep the horses out, so we didn't have any problems with them.

Robert got up early the first two mornings to take some sunrise pictures. He saw a group of horses walking on the beach. I got up the last morning but it was too cloudy for a sunrise, so I missed out on that, but I did get to see a herd of horses walking on the beach too.
The horses on the Virginia side of the island are more controlled than on the Maryland side. Once a year they are rounded up and cowboys swim the herd to Chincoteague Island where the foals are sold at auction. The next they they swim them back. It's called Pony Penning and it's a big deal in Chincoteague with thousands of people coming to see the event.

We drove down to Chincoteague for it, but when we got there the herd wasn't going to swim across for another two hours. They go at different times every year depending on when slack tide is. It was hot, it was crowded, there wasn't much to do besides sit and wait. Robert decided we wouldn't be able to see anything anyways, so we didn't stay for the swim. Here you can just barely see the horses all ready on the other side to swim across.
And here are Robert and Julia not looking too happy to be hot and bored. In the background is where the horses swam across later in the day. Just outside of Chincoteague they have a NASA flight facility (Wallops Flight Facility) where they launch a lot of rockets, scientific balloons, and aircraft. We stopped at their visitor center and looked around. Julia was excited to see a real astronaut (suit). It took her a minute to realize there was no one really inside the suit. And here are Robert and Julia pretending to be astronauts.
The rest of our time was spent lounging on the beach.

Julia had fun with the water. By the end she kept saying, "here comes the big one!" meaning, here comes the big wave. I had to work hard to teach her that even though the water is at your ankles one minute, the next minute a big wave can come in and the water can be up to your chest. At first she wanted to go deeper and deeper in the water but she got the wave concept eventually. Especially after one knocked her down and carried her up the beach a foot. That scared her into obeying.

Eating s'mores at sunset.
I think I still like camping in the mountains better so I probably wouldn't make this a yearly tradition, but every few years it would be fun to do again.
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