Monthly Archives: October 2014

Horses of Assateague

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What in the world??!!

Trixie and Eddie are going crazy barking at the door. They never do this. Did someone knock without us hearing it? It’s dark out and Cindy is making dinner. T&E won’t stop. I shine a flashlight out the small window above the kitchen sink. At first I don’t see anything. Then I see something move by the picnic table. Cindy holds T&E by their collars while I open the door for a better look. “Horses!”, I exclaim. There must be 5 or 6 wandering around our campsite looking for a late night meal. Earlier today, I saw a horse rummaging through someone’s cooler. He found a loaf of bread and was shaking the plastic bag flinging slices all over the place. Fortunately we heeded the warnings about marauding horses and left nothing outside to tempt them.

Mare and foal - two of the many wild horses on Assateague Island.

Mare and foal – two of the many wild horses on Assateague Island.

The Park Service warns visitors that the horses of Assateague are wild and fines will be issued if you’re caught feeding or petting them. Bulletin boards around the campground post photos of people with horse bites as if to prove the warnings are serious. It’s still hard to believe.  Yesterday, a painted foal walked over and bent down to sniff noses with Trixie. Trixie’s never met a horse before and her tail was wagging a mile a minute.

Some interesting  facts I learned about horses on Assateague Island:

  • Despite what local legends say, the wild horses are not descended from those that swam ashore from a sinking Spanish ship or wrecked ship bound for the colonies. Nor did  they belong to pirates. They’re descended from horses put here by farmers in the 1700’s to avoid livestock taxes.
  • They drink twice the water of a normal horse due to the high salt content of their diet. This gives them a bloated appearance.
  • A fence at the Maryland and Virginia border separates the horses into two herds. The Maryland herd is looked after by the National Park Service which uses a vaccine  to keep their numbers in check. Each mare is allowed one foal during her lifetime at around the age of 4. The Virginia herd is managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, which swims foals and yearlings from Assateague to Chincoteague Island each July where they are auctioned off.

So Long Assateague Island – Friday, October 10, 2014

We’re leaving Assateague Island today. It’s a very popular place and without advanced reservations, it’s difficult to get a site for the weekend in the National or State Park. Our next destination is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore off the coast of North Carolina. After Columbus Day (Oct 12 this year), the only open National Park campground is on Ocracoke Island, about 300 miles south of here. The trip goes over and under the 20-mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and requires a ferry ride from Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke Island. Google Maps says it takes 7 hours to make the trip so we up this by 50% to match our driving habits. We like to take our time. Since the nights on Hatteras are forecast to be around 70 degrees, we’ve decided to spend some nights along the way to let the cold fronts catch up with us.

Kiptopeke State Park

After one last walk on the beach at Assateague Island, we load up a wet T&E in the truck for the 100 mile drive south to Kiptopeke State Park, our first of 2 stops to Cape Hatteras. Kiptopeke SP is near Cape Charles, Virginia, just a few miles from the northern terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The campground has three-way 50 AMP hookups and is reasonably priced making it the perfect place to stay until the weather cools on Hatteras.

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