Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paddling with Ponies


Remember the movie “Dances with Wolves” about the guy who lived surrounded by wolves?  Well, my couple of days living on Assateague Island surrounded by wild ponies seemed like a similar experience.  This island is certainly theirs and we humans must abide by their rules!  But in return, they’ll let us camp on their island, use their beach, paddle their bay, and take lots of pictures of them!

The road to Assateague Island was tree-lined and curvy:

The bridge over the bay is the only way to get on/off the island other than via boat.

The island is home to a Maryland state park as well as the national seashore park and a small herd of ponies greeted us immediately as we reached the island:
I also spotted two miniature deer that looked very similar to the Key Deer I’d seen on Big Pine Key in Florida last winter:

We had a spectacular campsite right on the ocean beach at the National Seashore campground.  No hook-ups, but since the temperature was in the low 70’s and upper 60’s each day, we didn’t need heating or cooling.  To top it off, I had great cell and internet signals from here so it was a great place to work from the beach!

But first, Millie had to walk the boardwalk and check that beach out!  She doesn’t like to swim in oceans, but she certainly likes to run in and out of the waves!


We enjoyed a pretty sunset sky on our first night on the island.

With no electricity, it got very dark on the island at night.  I took Millie out for her final walk before bedtime and used my big flashlight.  As we walked the camp road, I saw a small white object crawling sideways across the road….it was a crab!  I must have scared it half to death by pointing a flashlight at it!  Millie was rather curious too--- never had seen a crab on her evening walks before!

It rained most of the second day we were on the island, but there was a brief reprieve in the late afternoon, so I decided to get quickly over to the bay to go kayaking before the next wave of rain came in.  Only one problem…a herd of ponies decided to come visit the campground and were determined to block every single car in the campground from leaving!  (they actually were so fun to watch no one wanted to leave).








This little gal decided to call my campsite home for a while:

Finally, I decided I had to make a run for it.  I started the car and began to back up.  Ut oh, rats!, blocked by a pony behind me!

Ok, well I’ll just drive forward to get out of here….neyyy!!!  Think again yellow car!!!

These ponies actually seemed to be laughing at me… ha ha, camper, we own ya now!!!


Well, after this bit of horse play, they finally let me go on my way.  The bayside boat launch was wonderful, and Millie and I were on the water fairly quickly to go check out another herd of ponies grazing on a small island.

These ponies are good swimmers too and think nothing of swimming over to another island if the food looks more appealing.

There were lots of egrets enjoying the marshland as well:

The clouds began to roll in so we had to paddle back to shore and call it a day, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable hour on the water…and very glad the ponies allowed us to do so!



  1. Beautiful! It looks like Millie's living the perfect retriever's life. It looks like the ponies are being groomed. Wild horses generally look a lot scruffier. Is there a volunteer group taking care of them?

  2. wow very much have to show my sister this one!!

    Any problems with the horses and deer eating equipment because of the salt from human hand transferring?

  3. yeah, the ponies looked very clean and well-fed for being "wild", but the Park Service insists they are indeed wild. Apparently, they shoot contraceptive darts into most of the mares each year to keep the herd's population at a manageable 150. Down on Chincoteague Island, they limit their herd size by doing the annual "pony swim & roundup" to sell off excess foals.

    As I understand it, the ponies look so nice because they tend to swim quite a bit in the salt water bay to get to all the tiny islands such as above where they like to graze. The temperatures there are also fairly moderate and not nearly as harsh as the winters the wild mustangs out West must endure.

    The rangers didn't mention any problems with the horses chewing/eating camping gear...only food. If you happened to put any food on your picnic table while the ponies were roaming the campground, you'd likely have a crowd of them trying to swipe your hot dogs or other goodies. So, best to eat in your camper if the ponies are around!


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