A dense fog had rolled in when we pulled into the visitor’s center at Assateague Island National Lakeshore in Maryland. By the time we checked in at the campground, dusk was falling, and I was pretty sure that we would not be seeing any wild horses. As we walked the dogs through the nearly deserted campground, I looked at every dark shape with the hopes that it would be a horse, but they were always bushes.
The night was chilly and blustery. We had a campsite protected by trees on the bay side of the island, but the wind still blew mightily. This was our first time off-grid in the camper at a site without water, electricity, or showers. An RV place had tested our battery before we left and said that it was in good shape, and this overnight would put it to the test. We cooked dinner on our propane cookstove and were able to use our own water for cooking and cleaning up. The battery powered lights, the water pump, and the fridge. When the temperature dropped during the night, the propane heat kicked on, and despite the wind howling outside, we were warm and comfortable.
When I woke up, I pulled the curtain by my window back a bit to see if there were any ponies outside. There was too much condensation on the window to see, so I bundled up and took the pups for a walk/pony-finding mission. We walked around our campground with no luck, so we went over to the ocean-side campground. A boardwalk led from the campground right onto the ocean, so we walked out onto the sand. Loki started dancing about, digging, and thrashing his leash excitedly. This was his first time at the beach! He seemed to enjoy it, and we walked along the shoreline for a little while before heading back to the campsite for breakfast. Unfortunately, “Pony Watch 2019” was still unsuccessful.
At some point after breakfast, the lights started to flicker, and George noticed that the fridge was off. The battery had powered us through the night, but it wasn’t strong enough to keep going through the morning. He switched the fridge to propane power, and we turned off the lights. We knew then that we would need to upgrade the battery, so we’re looking into getting a lithium-battery based power supply and solar.
But enough about batteries and energy. The real reason we’re all here is PONIES. All of the literature from Assateague referred to them as horses, but I thought that they weren’t quite as tall as full-size horses and could be correctly and interchangeably called ponies. (Note: The literature from Chincoteague does refer to them as ponies.) Anyway, we got a tip from some other visitors that they had seen lots of them down at the end of the road, so we made our way there. As we pulled into the parking lot, I could see a brown equine form just beyond a bush. PONIES! I excitedly pointed in the direction, and we parked so I could get out and stalk them with my camera. I kept the required 40 feet away and watched as one sauntered lazily down the middle of the road and paused every once in a while to nibble at the vegetation on the roadside.
I met back up with George and the dogs, and we walked together on the beach looking inland toward two ponies meandering through the dunes.
It was a bit overcast, but the landscape was beautiful. The beach stretched on into a misty horizon, and beyond the white sand, horses’ heads popped up from the vegetation on the dunes as they ate.
After I had more than enough pictures, we prepared to leave. On the drive off the island, we saw two more bands of horses in the marshy areas on the bay-side of the island.
Assateague Island was an important milestone for us. It was our first National Park System site and was where we got our America The Beautiful Pass, which gives us discounted or free access to national parks and federal recreation lands. We plan on visiting a lot of national parks on this trip, so the annual pass was a must, and it felt momentous to actually get it! Thanks to our friends back home who gifted this pass to us!
I was disappointed to have to bid the ponies farewell, but our journey (and a campground with showers and wifi!) lay southward in the fourth state of our trip: Virginia.