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Short Takes: Summer 2018

In this issue, a reader shares a unique experience at Assateague and the department explores new technology. 

Photo of horse on beach

Pony at sunset; by Daniel Pogonowski

The Stare Down
For a man, the “Big Five-Oh” is a wake-up call. It’s the one birthday where he finally realizes that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t going to accomplish all of the things in life that he had hoped. Personally, I’m still holding out for that NFL draft pick.

So there I was, with Aug. 8, 2009, my 50th birthday, staring me right in the face. I asked myself, “What can I possibly do to celebrate? Then: Bing! It dawned on me. How cool—and appropriate—would that be to drive across the country on U.S. Route 50? It just made sense!

So on June 9, I departed my home on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in a rented Dodge Caliber with the following ground rules:

  1. I would remain on Route 50 for the entire drive. No interstates, except for the beltways around Cincinnati, D.C., Kansas City and St. Louis.
  2. I would only deviate from Route 50 for short distances to see National Parks, historical sites and off-the-beaten-path Americana.
  3. To maintain my level of fitness, I would hike or go on a bike ride every day.
  4. I would not take my laptop or cellphone.
  5. I would not stay at a chain motel or eat at a chain restaurant.

Let the games begin!

For starters, I had always wanted to see the wild ponies of Assateague, located just south of Ocean City, which is the official start of Route 50. How convenient!

Assateague Island is a 37-mile long, barrier island just off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Two herds of wild ponies freely roam the island, slightly smaller than domesticated horses and subsisting on marsh and dune grasses. Local lore relates that these ponies are descendants of horses that swam to shore after a Spanish galleon sank off the coast, but that has never been verified. Instead, these robust creatures are more likely the descendants of horses that early American settlers took to Assateague Island to avoid taxes.

The morning of June 10 found me crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Assateague State Park, where I had reserved a campsite on the beach.

All of my pre-trip homework had told me how these wild ponies roamed both the state park and the national seashore. So before heading to my campsite, I drove all over both sites, trying to find the ponies—all to no avail. I was disappointed.

After dinner at a local crab house and a shower, I threw my air mattress down upon the sandy ground next to my car. I had to; at the time, I didn’t own a tent! In any case, I crawled into my sleeping bag, dead to the world.

Sometime in the early morning hours, I was awoken by hot breath on my forehead. Then I felt whiskers touching my cheek.  I opened my eyes to have a wild pony’s snout in my face! I popped up and rolled over to see three wild ponies that had ambled into my campsite. Who could have predicted such an event? I didn’t find the wild ponies of Assateague Island—they found me!

Submitted by reader John Scanlan, freelance outdoors writer and retired U.S. Marine.


Photo of man sitting on rock fishing

Fishing on the Miles River; by J. Scott Bruce

Enhancing Content
Anglers and fishing enthusiasts: you now have another option for obtaining our popular weekly fishing reports! Users with an Amazon Echo and other affiliated devices may simply say, “Alexa, open Maryland Fishing Report” to hear the latest conditions, hotspots and more.

You can then choose to hear the entire report, or specific details on the upper, middle or lower portions of the Chesapeake Bay, freshwater or Atlantic fishing. Rest assured, you may continue to read the report online as well, and even have it delivered right to your inbox.

The Alexa Skill was developed for the state at no cost by NIC Maryland through a statewide, self-funded digital government master services agreement with the Department of Information Technology.

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