On Saturday we settled into our rented beach house and enjoyed an evening walk in the sand. We returned Sunday morning to sunbathe and play in the waves. After lunch, we drove 30 minutes due south, paid an attendant $10, and parked the car to explore the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Boardwalks are an essential element of northern beaches, and despite having lived in this part of the country for over 20 years, we had never experienced it for ourselves. It was crowded, full of horribly overweight people, secondhand smoke, bad restaurants, and block after block of shops selling inappropriate T-shirts and all manner of junk food. A late afternoon thunderstorm brought everyone in off the beach and sent us running back to the car.
Monday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we drove 30 minutes southeast and doubled back to the coast, paid an attendant $10, and entered Assateague Island National Seashore. Just over the bridge from the visitor center, we came across several of the wild ponies Assateague is famous for. Grazing at the side of the road, undaunted by the line of cars snaking along, striding brazenly across the road for a bite of sweet grass, and posing agreeably for those of us who stopped our cars for the photo-op.
We then continued on to the Dunes Trail, and got out of the car to explore. Piles of dung indicated this, too, was a popular pony hangout. It was an easy walk from the trail to the beach, where we found miles of unspoiled shoreline and only a few people. Gulls and other shorebirds darted in the sand; offshore, pelicans dove for their prey. We gathered shells in the ebbing tide, and returned to the parking lot where two ponies now looked on with curiosity. It was simple, beautiful, and peaceful. We only left because of threatening weather.
The good news was, our $10 gave us access to the park for the entire week! Wednesday we got an early start, and brought a picnic lunch. Once again the shorebirds far outnumbered the people. Many of the people brought their dogs, this being one of the few beaches where dogs are allowed this time of year. By this time we were missing our own sweet dog, and jumped at the chance to greet a couple of labrador puppies. Chris took the opportunity to jog on the beach, and returned with reports of seeing a pony at the edge of the water.
Very few people seemed to have discovered this lovely piece of shoreline. Given the choice between Assateague and the Ocean City boardwalk, I know how I'd prefer to spend $10!
We enjoyed the rest of the week in Bethany Beach, taking advantage of the pool as well as the beach and enjoying dinner at a couple restaurants near Bethany's tiny boardwalk. But for all of us, Assateague was the highlight of the vacation. We're now talking about returning -- this time, with the dog -- on a day trip, perhaps in early autumn.