Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Waking Up in Assateague...

For those of you who don't know, I don't like to be cold. I know, I grew up in Montana, went to school in Utah, and I should be used to it by now. Wrong. I love to ski, love the snow, but if I can't be slaloming down the slopes than I don't want to deal with it.

That said, the last thing I could possibly think of being classified as a "good time" is going to the ocean in northern Virginia in JANUARY and sleeping OUTSIDE in a TENT. You can see how I'm feeling about this.

So when my friend Ben emailed me and suggested New Year's Camping I told him he was crazy. Then he told me the plan was to go to Assateague Island, a state wildlife sanctuary on the coast and one of the only places in the United States where you can see herds or wild horses.

*NOTE: Sucker for animals...particularly horses

Soooo I told Ben to talk me into it...and then he hit me with this "When have I ever taken you on an adventure that wasn't fun?" Dang. He had a good point. Ben has taken me on some good adventures and they are always fun. Shoot. Okay, fine...why not. How bad can one night of mild to moderate hypothermia be, right?

All I have to say was, I am incredibly glad I went. It turned out to be one of the coolest experiences that I have had out here.

Assateague is beautiful. The sand of the island is white and sparkly and looks like sugar scattered in the grass and covering the beaches. The sugar sand paired with the thin layer of frost covering the scrubby ground and reedy trees made everything sparkle in the moonlight while we drove around the island looking for a campsite and set up our tent.

It was a clear night and the moon illuminated the bay lapping the edge of our campsite and the lights of the nearest town sparkled far off on the opposite shore. The clump of trees behind our campsite was silhouetted against the moon creating a perfect semblance of a giant and somewhat friendly looking Tyrannosaurus Rex.

So, the night was cold and long. Okay, fine to be honest and fair the night was not that cold. I guess that is what happens when you put three not tiny people in a tiny two man tent. (*Note: Two man tent does not mean two men and whoever else you can shove in there. In case you were ever tempted. Whatever, we were warm.) The biggest problem for me was I have a bit of a problem with claustrophobia and after 6 hours of feeling like I was sleeping in a coffin I woke up on the verge of a panic attack.

This actually worked out well for me. I got up just before 6. (*Another Note: This doesn't happen voluntarily...EVER) Neither of the guys were ready to get up yet, but I guessed they problem didn't want to see me go postal, so I quickly vacated the tent and started the fire going.

The sun hadn't come up yet, and I watched the leeward side of the island be washed in deep blues and violets, then pinks, golds, and oranges. It was like everything sparkled. The complete absence of pollution and heat left the air totally void of anything that might impair viewing the scene with perfect clarity. I honestly have never seen anything quite like it.

We got up, made breakfast and enjoyed the crystal cold of the morning. As we were packing camp, a stallion and his small group of mares wandered into our campsite. The horses of Assateague are short and scrubby like the trees that grows near the shore. Although these tough little ponies are not necessarily much to look, it was beautiful to see them and know that this was one of the last places we could see a sight like this.

We packed camp, spent a few minutes at the Visitor's Center learning some more about the other wildlife of Assateague and went for a short walk along the windward shore. We drove to Annapolis, taking turns passing out/driving along the way. Let it be known that I DO NOT SNORE! Just wanted to put that out there. We gorged ourselves on crabcake and gelato and then returned to Arlington to end our adventure. It was definitely one for the books, despite my initial trepidation over the sub-freezing temperatures.

Point Team Ben.

Below are some of the photos I took on the trip. There's no possible way that these can capture the beauty of the whole trip, but it's a start. Enjoy.

Before the sun really started coming up

More Pink

On the Bay

Ice and Bushes

A Little Bit of Man Over Nature
Bare Branches
Our VERY Little Tent

The Car...Yes, Ben did bring the surfboard...Just In Case... You can kind of see the T-Rex in the trees behind the car...

Then the Ponies Showed Up...
Ponies on the Beach
Misty on Assateague

I'm Artsy, No?

Ben and Brian on the Beach

Happy 2009!


Roger and Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing this cool adventure. I did think that the picture with the leaf was artsy.

Ben said...

the tent did say it was a three man tent.

Mike and Emily said...

What beauty! Wish we could have been there with you.

Deja said...

So beautiful, and beautifully captured.

Melinda K Helm said...

Looks like a great time Amanda-I love the horses! Heading out that direction in a few months and it looks like Assateague would be a great place to visit!

Ashlee said...

This would be awesome! What a fun little trip. Its beautiful. Glad to hear about all the fun things going on while im just sitting around getting a fat baby bump! Ha I love all your pics. You are very good at taking pics amanda! Thanks for sharrin! Talk to ya soon. Love the blog.