Assateague Island is the place where all limitations, restrictions, fears, and doubts are washed away by the soothing lull of waves crashing on the island shore.
It’s the place where wild mustangs nosily poke around your campsite, the freshly caught seafood is plentiful, waiting to be plucked from their bushels, and better yet — free. Shoes and flip flops don’t have much meaning in the land of silky soft, white sandy beach, and the amount of stars carefully sprinkled in the milky way night sky will break your heart and mend it over again in one sitting. Let’s not forget that you’re forever surrounded by the calming sound of gentle waves being reborn again as they crash, churn, and repeat their soothing musical dance.
Whether you want to dive into the ocean and wrestle with the waves, admire or be chased by wild beautiful mustangs as they raid camper’s sites, be a championed breadwinner for the day and go clamming, blue crab, and mussel hunting, watch bold and bright shooting stars whiz on by one after another as the universe is unfolded right in front of you… The opportunities are endless, and the ability to learn about yourself and revel in these beautiful moments is priceless.
Yes, this place appears to have just the right amount of charm, beauty, and wonder that I think we all need in our lives, especially when we live in the heart of Washington, D.C. It’s my home away from home, a hiatus from all of the noise permeating D.C. life, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies and certainly not a vacation resort getaway.
So come prepared.
I’ve sensed everything in this place — fear, anxiety, peace, frustration, happiness, fulfillment, adventure, achievement… and all of these feelings have shaped my holistic perspective of this majestic, magical place. I’ve been going to Assateague Island for about three years now, here are a couple things I recommend.
Depending on when you go in the summer, you should almost always expect there to be a swarm of mosquitoes waiting to feast on your tender, city-living skin. So yes, we recommend bringing Deet, the strongest of all mosquito repellants because I’d rather not think about pesky creatures buzzing around in my ears.
While the wild mustangs are one of the main source of attraction to Assateague Island, they’re also extremely dangerous and can easily ruin your getaway trip. Locals recommend staying at least a bus-length away from the mustangs because they’ll bite and chomp on your skin if you get to close. Remember, they’re wild, untamed, un-civilized animals — they don’t know that over the past decades their species have been trained to obey and respect humans for our own endeavors and entertainment. This is also, perhaps, the most redeeming and intriguing feature of the mustangs that I’d never truly put into perpsective until my most recent trip.
I camped with my boyfriend Sam, my sister and her boyfriend in early May and it was a most joyous and blissful time. We ignored the signs of bold luscious rain clouds and chilly weather, loaded up on plenty of warm jackets, and enjoyed all of the free and bountiful activities this place offers. What we didn’t anticipate was the horses raiding our campsite, licking our pots, and rumaging thorugh our things while we were off frolicking on the beach. When we came back we found our food, bags, utensils, pots, water, and yeah pretty much all our things spread out all over the sandy floor.
Luckily, we had most of our food in the tent which thankfully concealed the scent. Shortly afterwards, while I was on my typical pathway walk to the restroom near the campsite center, I was vigorously chased down by a mustang and didn’t stop sprinting until I was in the bathroom. I’m not sure if an insect scared it or it just felt like scaring the sh*t out of me, but my adrenaline kicked in fierce and strong until I was miles away from the animal.
So, like I said they’re completely unpredictable… and they can also be one of the most mysteriously magical, beautiful creatures that pose perfectly in front of the full moon shining big and bright over the gentle blue ocean.
While there’s no doubt so much beauty in this place, Sam and I are big foodies and I can’t forget to mention the fresh-catch that’s just waiting to be eaten! Whether you’re a fan of blue crabs, clams, mussels, or fish — there’s plenty of foodie activities here to keep you plenty busy, happy, and full. Plus, who doesn’t want an endless supply of free and fresh seafood that usually costs a fortune in the D.C. area?
You just have to go out there and find em’! Just ask an Assateague ranger and they’ll usually recommend spots that are filled with seafood goodness. We tend to go further out on the bay side and just use our feet to feel for sharp edges where the mussels may be hiding, and in the heat of summer the clams will peak out of the sand in the deeper water — just make sure to bring a cooler, bag, or tub to keep your fresh catches!
There is another aspect of this place that sticks when you first visit. There’s an air of humility, a sense of familial connection rooted deep within the sand, perhaps even a feeling of true love for this place because it’s contributed to my relationship’s blossoming growth. Sam took me here when we first started dating, a lovely beach-side, camping vacation just a couple campsites away from the main center — for just you and me. I rememeber thinking I loved that idea, and thought it would be a perfect way to get to know him personally. Or so I thought…
Because the island was in its busy season, ‘just a couple campsites away’ really meant four miles of walking in the stubborn sand, where one large sandy step takes you two stubborn steps backwards before reaching our remote campsite dug comfortably between two large sand dunes.
Yes, it was a tiring, frustrating walk with several sweat-filled pit stops that I’m not very proud of… but we finally made it and the solitude of our campsite was undeniably worth it. While I’d shown Sam a side of me I hadn’t intended on him seeing, it was an inevitable break-through in our relationship, one in which he didn’t judge me for.
But perhaps, one of the reasons why I love this place so much is because I know I’ll be leaving the east coast soon, and I’ll miss having a place where I can witness some of the most breath-taking moments. Whether it was seeing a herd of mustangs perfectly pose beneath the swollen, brightly lit moon above the calming crash of the moon-lit waves, or having your own campsite with a man you’re slowly and deeply falling in love with. This place has so many diverse, wanderlusting moments of wonder and beauty.