Friday, September 18, 2009

A Day at The Beach

Well, it's taken me far too long to write about it, but last week I got the chance to spend a day at the beach for the first time in a long time. One of my sisters rented a condo out in Ocean City, MD, one of the recreational destinations of my youth. I even spent the obligatory "summer at the beach" there, back in my college days. That proved to be a lot less fun than anticipated, but I'm glad I did it anyway. Nowadays, I prefer my beaches less developed and crowded... come to think of it, I always have... but a chance to stay overnight for free was too good to pass up, so last Tuesday I headed over there.

I got a late start on my day, so I didn't arrive until early evening, and to top it off, I timed my arrival to coincide with a pretty good storm that parked itself over the coast. Most of my stay, from Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening, it rained. But that didn't dampen my enthusiasm (groan)... I still had a great time. For one thing, I got the chance to spend a good chunk of time with my sister and my niece for the first time in a very long time. And I also got to spend time with my niece's kids... two year old Becca and three month old Abby. Beautiful kids, and Becca was a lot of fun to take to an indoor amusement park on the boardwalk with kiddie rides. She really enjoyed all but one ride, but the carousels were clearly her favorites. You can see her here smiling and waving as she goes by.

Aside from the family time, I also took the opportunity for some quiet, solitary time, something I truly enjoy at the ocean. First off, I rose early on Wednesday to see if there was a sunrise worth watching. With the rain during the night, I wasn't optimistic, but it turned out to be a lovely morning. And I do love watching the sun rise from the ocean. It may sound silly, but it's sort of reassuring to see that it is "still working" when that ball rises out of the sea. Besides, it's a very quiet, beautiful time at the ocean, no matter how busy a beach it may become later in the day. I walked a couple of hours, taking lots of photos, watching the sun, the gulls, the sandpipers, the sea, and one little Shetland sheepdog, intent on herding the ocean.

Before I left the shore, I wanted to stop in at one of my favorite spots, not far in miles but very distant in feel from Ocean City. The place is Assateague Island, famous for its wild horses. I first learned of the island from reading Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, and Stormy, Misty's Foal as a kid... I was one of those kids that read all the "horse books" I could. Legend has it (fueled in part by the Henry books) that the wild horses are descendants of ponies that came ashore from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon, on it's way to mythical gold mines in the New World. Historians say it's much more likely they are simply descended from farmer's animals that got loose, but the galleon story is more fun to imagine. Either way, it's delightful to see these wild creatures among the salt marshes.

It's also wonderful to explore other aspects of the island... wide, often deserted beaches, windy dunes, wetlands full of waterfowl, and thickets of loblolly pines. It's particularly striking how wild a place it feels in contrast to Ocean City, which can be seen in all it's neon glory from the beaches of Assateague. And it's all the more remarkable that it's stayed so wild, considering that there were roads and houses there in the 50s and early 60s, and plans for further development. It all came to an abrupt halt when a major storm blew in in 1962, flooding the island. Afterwards, it was decided to cease development and turn the island into a National Seashore, preserving precious wetlands, dunes and woods for the wildlife there. You can still see the remains of the one paved road that was there before the storm.

In addition to the ponies, there are Sika deer, a tiny little species you don't really see anywhere in the US except the Delmarva penninsula. There are also a wide variety of birds of all types... I've seen herons, egrets, hawks, gulls, sandpipers, terns, etc, as well as heard whippoorwills at night while camping there. I've not yet tried it, but I hear that one great way to explore the more remote parts of the island is by water, in a canoe or kayak. I'll have to try that one day.

All in all, a beautiful place... and one of my very favorite places to visit the ocean. The solitude (except in the height of summer), the quiet, the wildness of it... all just resonate with me.

Time with family, a beautiful, quiet sunrise walk, and a few hours at a favorite island... truly a wonderful 24 hour respite.

More photos:

Ocean City Morning


Assateague Island

1 comment:

kb said...

Wow. Simply beautiful.