Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Assateague Island (Maryland Version)

Virginia and Maryland both own part of Assateague Island, and both parts contain wild ponies; there's a big fence that separates the herds of the two states. The Virginia ponies are famous, with the books about Misty and the yearly pony swim and the Misty movie filmed on location (Sydney LOVES that movie, by the way, even though it's sexist as hell); the Maryland ponies are far less famous.

Even though the Maryland-owned section of Assateague Island is just due north of the Virginia section, and it's not a huge island, it nevertheless took an hour to get there, since we had to drive back to the mainland, then up and over to come back down to Assateague from the north. I wouldn't have made a special trip, but it actually wasn't too far out of our way, and since my only plans for the day were to make the relatively short drive to D.C. and safely ensconce ourselves in our hotel there, we actually had plenty of time to kill for the extra adventure.

It was hilarious, after all the pony love in Virginia, to drive into Assateague State Park in Maryland and immediately be confronted with these huge signs all over the place warning us about the "feral ponies." The feral ponies bite, kick, and charge! There was a giant poster in the bathroom of kids showing off the bites that they had received from feral ponies! Beware the feral ponies! Oh, and there were ELECTRIC fences around some of the dunes on the beach, I guess to keep the feral ponies off of them, but they were fortunately down due to Hurricane Sandy, since I caught Sydney climbing on one--I swear, I took my eyes off of her for about one second, but who would suspect that there would be electric fences on a beach?!?

Unfortunately, we didn't actually see any of these "feral ponies" in Maryland; we drove around a bit, but I didn't want to press my luck by pressing the babes into another hike, especially since we already had GREAT memories of the ponies that we'd already seen. Instead, we took advantage of an undamaged beach road to hit the beach!

Yes, the weather was just as windy and bitterly cold as it looks here. One thing that I've learned about my girls, though, is that although they're wimps when it comes to hiking, they are fearless in the face of cold. I actually just bought myself some silk long johns so that I can stick with them less miserably this winter, because those kids, they just play and play and play and act like they don't even notice that we're all freezing our butts off.

This beach was a great place to demonstrate the actions of sand dunes, because it was so windy that you could clearly see the sand shifting:

It was mesmerizing.

Again, the nature center was fabulous--I have never seen such happy tanked marine critters! The nature center in Virginia was light on critters, since many of them had been released before Hurricane Sandy in case there would be power outages, but the remaining mollusks seemed comfy and happy to move around and didn't freak out upon being picked up and petted, and the Maryland critters were just the same:

I'd never before seen mollusks that didn't withdraw or otherwise seem to care much about being picked up, and the other tank creatures were just as lively:

That starfish covers a lot of ground!

My kids LOVE a good nature center, and they loved this one:

Willow didn't spend a penny of her money on this vacation (and she had 53 dollars!), but Sydney blew all her vacation money in the gift shop here, on one stuffed wild pony. She was desperate for the other two, but lacked the funds--I checked the tag, however, and noted their web site, so Santa may have a stuffed pony surprise in store for her on Christmas morning. I purchased a horse anatomy coloring book for our science studies, and that, combined with the giant horseshoe crab shell that we found on the beach, consisted of our souvenirs for this excursion.

Don't worry, though--in Washington, D.C., I bought the girls something REALLY crazy.


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