On the eastern shore of the Delmarva Peninsula there is a barrier island called Assateague. Two different people recommended I go visit there, so I figured it had to be good. After a stopover in Salisbury, MD to use the internet in a library and explore the downtown, I crossed the bridge and made my way over to the island. I arrived just in time, as they close the registration office at five, and I wouldn’t have been able to camp if I had showed up fifteen minutes later.
Driving south down the island, I realized how narrow it was. There are places where it’s less than a quarter mile wide, and a couple of times I could see water on both sides. I chose to camp on the bay side, figuring it would be less windy. I bought some firewood on mhy way in from town, thinking it would be nice to have a fire that night. The campsites weren’t anything too special; pretty much just a slot in a row of slots, with no vegetation between them.
Right when I got out of my car I saw some horses hanging around the bathroom. I had been told that there were wild ponies on the island, even that they often hang around the campgrounds, but it was still such an unusual sight to behold. And exciting. One hardly ever sees horses that aren’t slaves, so seeing some free ones roaming about and doing whatever they want, unbranded, untethered, is a grand thing.
I went up and talked with one of them, but he didn’t take much interest in me. I saw another horse in a different place who came right up to me with piece of straw sticking out of his mouth, like a farmer. It made me think of my wife Laura, who always asks me if she has anything in her teeth after we eat. This guy obviously didn’t think to ask his mare.
I also saw quite a few rabbits and some deer, all of which were playful, clearly used to being left alone by the humans who were often in close proximity. I took a lovely walk through the bay side marsh area before it got dark, and then I made my cold burritos before lighting the fire. Even though that’s pretty much all I’ve been eating, I still don’t get tired of a good avocado filled burrito, with salsa, bell peppers, and cheese.
I played my guitar for a bit as well, though it started getting cold and my hands didn’t work too well. The fire helped with that, but I couldn’t really get it blazing, as I only bought so much wood, and it wasn’t great wood. Probably a bit green. Also, the fire pit had a grate on the bottom, keeping the fire and coals up off the ground, which is a terrible design, because it doesn’t allow coals to build up and stay hot. All the small pieces of coals fall down through the grates, and the heat doesn’t stay concentrated. I wasn’t supposed to forage in the brush for wood, but I had no choice, because my fire kept dimming to the point of almost going out.
I went to bed early, with little else to do once the fire dimmed. I suppose I could have sat in the car and looked at the internet on my phone, but I still don’t like using the phone for anything other than checking messages, making calls, or pulling up a map. I’ve only had an iphone for a little over a month, and in truth, I’m not a big fan. Getting maps has been the only real reason to have a computer for a phone, as far as I’m concerned. Everything else is easier to do on an actual computer.
In the morning I went for a hike on the beach, and then through the forest on the interior (to what extent there was an interior) of the island. It is beautiful land, though it’s really quite barren. Salty air makes it hard for many plants to grow, and the soil isn’t so great. Still, lots of life thrives there, and I enjoyed seeing all the birds and rabbits.
I thought about getting into the ocean, but I declined. It was pretty cold. With no hot shower to follow. The campgrounds had showers, but they were closed for season. I was irked by this, as it was my second night in a row camping, and I paid as much for that campsite (counting my admission to the national park) as I would have for a hotel. Shower facilities, right there, but they're closed?
I did actually find a shower on the beach, but it was an outdoor shower, for rinsing off after the beach. Fully exposed, and only cold water. The weather wasn’t freezing, but it wasn’t warm, either. High fifties maybe. But I had to shower, because I was overdue, and I was heading back into DC that evening to be in the audience for a taping of Redacted Tonight. I couldn’t be stinking of campfire and vagrancy for that...
So it was a cold shower for me that morning. Few people were about, and I gave serious consideration to just going for it naked, but I didn’t want to risk an ugly confrontation, just in case somebody did come around. I wanted to be able to wash up thoroughly, and not have to dive for my towel if someone came by. What to do with my wet bathing suit afterwards, I wasn’t sure. I put it in a bag, hoping I’d remember to hang up that evening when I stopped for the night.
After showering I got on the road again, taking a long way back to DC so I could go up to Dover, Delaware, where I had never been before. I also stopped in Annapolis on my way back to DC, which was a beautiful city. One of the more interesting downtowns I have seen, right up there with Savannah and Charleston.
I also had several other neat little short stopovers, which I will cover in other articles. It was great to get out into nature for a bit, after so much city time. We live in a truly beautiful world, and I am very blessed to get to be exploring it as much as I am!