My recent vacation found me in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. My family and I have been heading to the Maryland/Delaware shores for so many years I can't remember when it all started. I just know Rehoboth has become my favorite spot, not only for its family-safe atmosphere, but because it provides me the opportunity to take a jaunt across the Verrazano Bridge to the Maryland end of Assateague Island, home to the wild ponies and countless other forms of beach wildlife.
When our children were much much younger, we visited Assateague Island. I had not been back since. I went alone because dragging people with you when you are concentrating on photography work isn't always the best thing to do. I like the solitude that Assateague allows.
I kept my gear to a minimum. One small camera bag. My Nikon D300 and two lenses: a 70-300mm Nikon Zoom and a 50mm 1.8 prime lens. I bagged my camera from the elements by using a ziploc bag with a hole cut out for the lens.
Driving over to Assateague there is much to see in the many pull offs for wharfs and piers along the journey. This fleet of boats caught my eye from the main roadway as I took a leisurely drive to the island.
There was probably much more I could have stopped and photographed along the way to Assateague, but I wanted to get to the island and spend the largest part of my day there. I'll save some of the stops for another trip.
Assateague Island is a National Park. The park covers an area of 41,320 acres (37 miles). The portion of the island designated as national seashore extends from the Ocean City, Maryland inlet to the Maryland/Virginia state border. Over 2.1 million people visit the park each year with more than 1/2 staying and camping in the park's many camp areas. The park was created in 1965 after a strong nor'easter destroyed the planned and started resort community of Ocean Beach, Maryland. The nor'easter destroyed the few existing structures on the island that had been built and ripped the roads apart. Realizing that the island was too unstable to build upon, the housing development firm sold all of its land to the federal government. To this day, it is not possible to drive the entire length of the island; one must travel on the mainland to journey between the National Seashore in Maryland and the National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. The national seashore is famous for its white sand beaches and wild ponies.
It is also famous with me for it's nasty biting insects. What I remembered from our past visit was that upon exiting our car we had to sprint to the beach, where the wind kept the biting flies and mosquitoes from landing on us. We also had to slather ourselves in bug spray. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to not have a SINGLE encounter with a biting bug on this trip, even though I came prepared and ready for bug battle. Maybe the 97 degree weather and the prevaling island breeze were helpful? Or maybe it was the time of year (September). Whatever it was I am very thankful because my camera hands got to remain steady, instead of being used to swat at things.
My first stop was the main gate where I paid my $15 car fee (good for one month) and got my map of the island. I was also issued a flyer about the dangers of getting near or touching the wild horses. I own six horses and have years of experience in horse body language. But I am astounded at the number of people who put both themselves and their children in peril by trying to approach these ponies or get close to them for photos. I know that the ponies have become used to people and their camps, sometimes raiding campers' lunches, etc. But for the most part they stay their distance and they are wild animals. I once was bitten by a perfectly well trained mare who wasn't wild, so I know how quickly that can happen without a person expecting it to happen. Multiply that tenfold in terms of a wild horse and you have an inkling of the danger involved.
I did find this pony parked in the parking lot as I pulled into the North Beach area. There was a stallion munching on the side of the road (see photo at top of this blog entry), so I'm guessing she was waiting for him to decide what he wanted to do next, or she was a car buff.
At Old Ferry, this fellow--a Black-backed Gull--was a great poser.
And so as my day drew to a close, here are some of the pony sightings.
These road warriors came galloping in front of my car (luckily, the speed limit is 15 mph and I saw them out of the corner of my eye in the forest, hiding just like deer) and then came to an abrupt halt and walked slowly by. I jumped out as they were passing to grab these shots.