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Magnificent Ponies or Trash Donkeys...Assateague Island

“Life isn’t always palm trees and ponies. But it should be.”


There is more than one story about how the ponies of Assateague Island ended up there. One tale tells of a ship that sank off the coast of Virginia. Ponies from the ship ended up on the island. Another story states that the ponies were brought to the island by farmers, avoiding taxes. The ponies still occupy Assateague Island today. We spent Monday through Thursday camping at Assateague Island State Park in Maryland.

Earlier this summer, when we were traveling northward, I had tried to get a campsite on the Island, but found they were booked solid, for several months. I looked back at the reservation site when we were in New York, only to discover an available site in the state park, that backed up to the sand. I was ecstatic, to see the available booking lined up with our schedule to head back toward Maryland for the USA BMX East Coast Nationals, which Bryon had already registered to race in. The sites were just over $20 a night. The campground had water and showers available. We thought this was an excellent price for a beach front campsite, so we booked the sites.

We arrived at Assateague Island, after driving along Highway 1, through Delaware. We found the coastal highway in Delaware did not give great views of the coast, as we had hoped. The view of the coast was often blocked by towering condos and hotels, along the beach.

After we arrived, we parked passing ponies in campsites on the way. Then we chatted with some of the hosts in our loop. They were on their second year of hosting. They warned us about the aggressiveness of the ponies and talked with us about the kids (they had raised 10), the bus build, and their home near Gettysburg. They were kind, and we greatly enjoyed talking to them. We love meeting like-minded individuals that understand our lifestyle.

We spent time at the beach, Monday, before Bryon worked on switching the wheelset on my Why Big Iron, back to fat tires. I have been running a 29+ set up for mountain biking, but we had plans for late night rides on the beach. We collected shells, April played in the sand, and we enjoyed the waves washing up over our bodies. The beach has proved refreshing for each member of our clan, during our skoolie travels.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent exploring the beach. The kids and I went down to the beach with Chico each morning on our walks. We loved the ease of access to the beach, from our campsite. April observed remains of horseshoe crabs and ghost craps. We collected shells. We constructed masterpieces out of sand, shell, and our beach toys, while Daphney napped. It is our usual routine to explore our camping areas, while Bryon sweeps, wipes counters, and gets to work on bags. I feel guilty when we explore regardless of where we are, while Bryon sews, but at the beach I feel extremely guilty. Bryon said that the beach is where he most wishes he was along on our morning explorations.

Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, after both April and Daphney were clearly sound asleep we snuck out for beach rides on our Why Big Iron fat bikes. Each time we went out and then returned after 10 or 15 minutes to check in with the kids, before going back to the beach for a few more minutes. Tuesday, the night sky was so clear we could see the Milky Way Galaxy. Wednesday Bryon attached our Princeton Tech headlamps to our bars and hundreds of crabs scurried across the wet sand, in the light. Fat biking in under the night sky was incredible. As we pushed in the loose sand, we chuckled about how pushing reminded us of our experience going over Two Top Mountain in a blizzard, when we attempted the 120-mile Fat Pursuit. This was much less painful.

As we mentioned earlier, wild ponies are all around Assateague Island. Our second night on the island, 7 ponies intruded on one of our neighbor’s dinner. They went for our trash as they left. One of the campground volunteers told me to spray water at their hooves or scrape metal on the ground to encourage them to leave the trash and our site. I scraped my travel mug on the ground, that didn’t work. Then I retrieved water in a spray bottle. Surely, it worked, and the ponies, left. Bryon began referring to them as “trash donkeys,” after that.

They raided our neighbors camp again in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Tossing trash, stomping over camp chairs and bicycles as they scavenged for food. Thursday, at about 2 am, they were huddled around the bright flame of our Citronella Jar. They ate another nearby campers’ bacon and cheese, after skillfully opening the cooler where it was, Thursday morning, as we prepared to depart. Before leaving, I headed out to the beach to run, and several ponies were out on sand. There was a baby pony and it tossed a flip flop around, with an older pony. I wondered where they took that from?

Our experiences at Assateague Island were truly incredible. “Life isn’t always palm trees and ponies. But it should be.” We were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Assateague Island. We wish we could have stayed longer. We packed up Thursday morning and headed to Severn, Maryland to Chesapeake BMX for the East Coast Nationals. Bryon competed in the 46-50 Cruiser class. We look forward to sharing a recap of our weekend soon.

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