Wild Ponies

Berlin Travel Blog

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the first wild pony, actually just outside the national park

According to legend, several centuries ago a Spanish ship wrecked on the coast of Assateague Island.  As the ship broke apart, the horses fought the waves to find sanctuary on the sandy land, and today their descendents roam the barrier isles.  Although the ancestors of the wild ponies are most likely simply runaways, I was still very excited to visit Assateague.

After stopping in the Visitor Center (which has a neat touch aquarium), I drove across the bridge to the island.  I turned right towards the National Seashore and after about a mile, noticed a car on the side of the road.  Thinking back to my visit to Yellowstone, I immediately looked for wildlife.

an egret
  A light chestnut pony grazed next to the road, so I pulled over to take a few photos (keeping a safe distance).  My goal for the day was complete before even entering the national park!

I paid the $10 fee for a car and parked in the ranger station lot where I walked over to the beach.  Little spits of rain had just started but I didn't care.  I had a great view of the ocean all to myself, the touch of wind on my face, the smell of salt and water in my nose, and the rush of waves in my ears.  I wandered in the sand for a few more minutes until the increasing rain forced a retreat to my car.

Luckily, the rain petered out by the time I reached the Life of the Forest Trail a short distance down the road.  This half-mile loop introduces visitors to the wooded areas of the park.

on the dune trail
  I spotted my first white egret of the day (I would see about a half dozen in total).  I also met phragmites which are basically just reeds.

The next stop was the Life of the Dunes Trail.  While the Forest Trail was an easy to navigate boardwalk, the Dunes Trail was completely sand, so I definitely got a bit of a workout hiking this 3/4-mile loop.  Shortly after the loop section began, I came across a long broken slab of black rock.  Just beyond the rock an old wooden street sign poked out of the sand.  Curious, I read the nearby information sign and discovered that the black rock was actual the remains of what was once a 15-mile road.   A severe storm in the 60's destroyed the road along with dozens of buildings and put a stop to the development taking place on Assateague.

  Although I did not spot any wildlife on this hike, I did learn more about some of the plants I had been seeing including heather and bayberry.  After finishing the trail, I headed over to nearby beach.  This beach hosted several people, some just sitting on benches, a few walking dogs, and four very adventurous ones out on the water.  The birds caught my attention as well: seagulls, a scurrying sandpiper, and two larger avians out over the waves.

I headed to the Old Ferry Landing next.  I followed the boardwalk to its end point and then jumped a narrow strip of water to a slightly muddy landing on a semi-island.  Here I noticed some crab shells and another egret.  Feeling as though I was exploring land not trod by every visitor, I thought how neat it would be to see another wild pony.

  I looked across the water then and noticed some irregular shapes in the shoreline: a small herd.  I stayed in this quiet place for a few more minutes, reveling in my private view.

My final stop was the third trail: the Life of the Marsh.  Grateful for a smooth boardwalk, I relaxed as I started the half-mile loop.  Coming around a corner, I noticed one pony near the opposite boardwalk.  I quickly took a picture, just in case.  My caution was unneeded.  Not only did she keep munching even when I walked right past her but five more ponies came into view, all of them equally willing to stay in the area.  As I admired this herd (the same ones I had seen from the Old Ferry Landing), the ponies foraged for their meal by pulling at the taller grass growing under the boardwalk, chomping the smaller shoots growing in brackish water, or in the case of the youngest one, nursing from mom.

  The five adults were colored brown tones while the youngest had a patterned coat.  They moved around peacefully, sloshing water as they stepped towards better food options.

On my way out of the park, I spotted two more sets of ponies.  The first three ponies stood by the edge of the road (although two disappeared into the woods) while the last two were on the bike path on the opposite side of the road.

brett4321 says:
Sounds like a great little island. I'll have to check it out if I make it up that way.
Posted on: Jan 22, 2008
bkretzer says:
Loved this blog. It made me very sorry I missed Assateague when I was in Maryland. This would be a great reason to go back! Thanks
Posted on: Jan 10, 2008
o_mendfornd says:
I really enjoyed Assateague. I did it as a day trip from DC, though, which was a bit of a long drive!
Posted on: Dec 03, 2007
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the first wild pony, actually just…
the first wild pony, actually jus…
an egret
an egret
on the dune trail
on the dune trail
another shot of the first pony
another shot of the first pony
to the beach near the Ranger Stati…
to the beach near the Ranger Stat…
beach by the Ranger Station
beach by the Ranger Station
incoming waves
incoming waves
more incoming waves
more incoming waves
on the Life of the Forest trail
on the Life of the Forest trail
possibly bayberry
possibly bayberry
part of an old road
part of an old road
sign for a former road
sign for a former road
another view of the old road
another view of the old road
from the dune trail overlook
from the dune trail overlook
changing leaves on the dune trail
changing leaves on the dune trail
breaking waves
breaking waves
the grass under the boardwalk tast…
the grass under the boardwalk tas…
43 km (27 miles) traveled
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photo by: diisha392