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Posts Tagged ‘Assateague Island’

Love the Ocean … Hate Love the Beach

I love the ocean. I just love the vastness of it all (similar to my love of the Great Plains). I love the power of it, how it carves and weathers the rock and land around it. I love how it can create storms of such immensity men cower in fear, and how it also provides a tremendous bounty for mankind to eat. I love how it’s the giver of life, for we all can trace our roots back to its nutrient-rich waters. I love the serenity of it, how the waves lap the shores in a soothing, rhythmic, sexual fashion. The sea caresses the land, then, during moments of great power, parts the shoals and penetrates inward, over and over and over and …

Um, wait, where was I? Oh yes …

Ocean City T-Shirts — © 2008 America In ContextI love the ocean, but I hate the beach. I really can’t stand it, and it’s not just because I’m a fair-skinned freak who fries easily. It’s also not because it’s freakin’ hot (but that doesn’t help). I hate the beach because most of them are crowded, and filthy, and full of miscreants. Here’s a question: why do Goths hang out at the beach, going out of their way to alienate people? Aren’t they pretending to be vampires or something? Can’t they hang out in caves? Why do they hang out at the beach?

For that matter, why do bikers in full leather hang out at the beach? Don’t they cook in their black outfits? I don’t think that percolating in one’s own filth in a black leather suit is a great idea. And why do people squeeze into bathing suits against all the rules of physics to lay in the sun and broil themselves? Is the baked-potato look really that fashionable? Yeah, sure, there’s occasional eye candy at the beach, but for every hot babe, there are a dozen drunken louts frying their brain cells while aggravating all who pass. Bah!

Beaches are a pain to get to, impossible to park at, and surrounded by the sleaziest bars, restaurants, and crip-crap shops imaginable. Try to get a decent burger, or a good beer, or anything else, on a beach strip. Just ain’t gonna happen, not at a good price, anyway. And I dare you to walk across a beach without stepping on a cigarette butt … it’s mathematically impossible, I’m sure Stephen Hawking would agree.

Or, if you do find a beautiful beach, odds are it’s blockaded by tony, extravagant homes, owned by slimewads who think their money puts their beach rights over everyone else’s (well la dee dah). Why don’t the hurricanes target those dipweeds and leave the poor folks alone … if they want the beach to themselves, they can have the ruddy cyclones to themselves, too.

Red Wing — © 2008 America In ContextI originally planned to avoid all the National Seashores under the National Park System because of my natural antipathy to beaches. I figured the NPS just protected the little sliver of land between ocean and the t-shirt shop, and the rest was up for grabs by Goths and snobs. Who needs that?

Assateague Island changed my mind.

Assateague Island is a barrier island south of Ocean City, Maryland. It has a strip of beautiful, pristine beach that stretches for miles and miles. It’s totally clean, almost totally natural, and (at least when I was there) unencumbered by throngs of beach-goers. Yes, there are people, but on the day I went, I walked down two miles of gorgeous beachfront, just me and the sea and the birds. It was a gorgeous day, sunny yet temperate, breezy yet quiet. Yes, there were a few people, but they kept to themselves, and I to myself, all of us thoroughly enjoying one of the most spectacular stretches of land on the East Coast.

Assateague is a place where you can absolutely just stand in one spot, and stare out at the ocean, and wonder just what the heck is over that horizon. Looking back, I’m not even sure if I saw any shipping. I may be romantizing the island too much, but seriously, I can’t recall seeing anything: no freighters, no jet-skis, no parasailers, nothing. Nothing but birds, and seashells, and sand dollars, and that’s it. No industrial sounds, either. No horns, no ghetto blasters, nothing but wind and waves and that’s it.

Just Me and the Birds — © 2008 America In Context

The other side of Assateague is bounded by the Chincoteague Bay. Although the western side does have its share of boat docks and marinas, the eastern side, against the island, is still pristine and beautiful. Rent a kayak and spend an hour or two paddling around all the inlets and coves, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon. It was past bird-migration time when I was there, but there were still plenty of egrets, pelicans, and storks to see.

Of course, Assateague is most famous for its wild horses. Apparently, a couple of centuries ago, local farmers abandoned their horses on the island (perhaps in an early tax evasion scheme), and they thrived and bred on the island (smaller, of course, because of Foster’s Rule). Today, descendants of these horses remain.

I wanted to find these horses and snap some pictures of them in their environment. So I beat through the brush and walked along the waterways, hoping to take some spectacular photos. Oddly, though, they were nowhere to be seen … until I stumbled across an RV campground. There they were … eating scraps left for them by campers, totally against NPS rules. Yep, even on remote, protected Assateague Island, people have to muck around with nature. People just can’t leave things be, can they? No, they have to get their perfect picture from the comfort of their folding chair, while idiots like me traipse through the woods, trying to see wildlife as nature intended.

OK, to be fair, these horses aren’t really there as nature intended. Man put the horses on the island and left them there, but still, it would be cool to see them just living on their own, instead of begging for scraps at mankind’s overladen table. I did take some pics, I had to use some clever angles and cropping to make them look “native”. Such a shame.

I guess even the pristine beaches have their share of spoilers.

Wild Ponies — © 2008 America In Context

[See more of my Assateague photos, plus a couple from other sites in the area (including Atlantic City, where I won $2K at the slots — I don’t just hang around in the woods, ya know) here.]

Sand Toad — © 2008 America In ContextLinks:

Assateague Island National Seashore

Clean Beaches Council

Google map to Assateague Island

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Just for the heck of it, here’s a picture of a sand toad…

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