Beach Camping Through a Derecho

I recently planned a trip to the beach for my friends.  We wouldn’t be able to check-in to the Ocean City condo till noon on Saturday… so I booked us a beach front campsite on Assateague Island.  Sounded like a wonderful idea, until I realized as we were driving down that a huge storm system was headed our way.

 
We arrived late to our campsite, around 11pm and saw people tacking down their tents and battening down the hatches.  We hurried to our site and got our tents setup and started a fire.  We made s’mores, drank beers, and started to enjoy our evening.  
 
I’m sitting on the picnic bench in front of the fire when all of a sudden the wind rushes at me, picking up hot coals out of the fire and spraying them in every direction, including my face.  
 
I screamed!  And ran for my tent.  The wind was howling all around us, waking up campers that had already laid down for the night.  I unzipped the door to my little 4 person Coleman tent and the wind flew in the door, knocking me inside, ballooning the whole tent in different directions, as the fly flew in the air!  
 
Help me!  
 
My friend grabbed my fly… and I asked him to help me break down the tent so I could just throw it back in the car.  I guess you can call me a fair-weather camper.  
 
We hustled a big wad of tent back to the parking lot and shoved it in the trunk.  I told him I would be fine and just stay in the car.  He ran back to join my friends in the other tent, that also wasn’t holding up very well, but it was weighed down by their bodies, and they weathered through the storm.
 
I, on the other hand, setup camp in the back seat of my friends car.  I waited for the rain to start and turned on my little portable ipod speaker.  The car started to get hot inside… I started to get bored…


The storm wasn’t as scary as the first burst of wind.  But the lightening was breathtaking.


As I moved to the front passenger seat to charge my phone, 2 guys rolled up in a Land Rover next to me.  I saw them hop out and admire the storm.  One of the guys had the storm on radar on his phone screen. 


I perked up, because that’s exactly what I had been trying to do with my phone.  I hopped out of the car, “Hey do you have the storm on radar?!”


They immediately welcomed me and explained that they had been in the off-road section of the beach, drinking around a fire on the beach when the wind started and did the same thing to their fire!


So they packed up as quick as they could to get back to the camp ground where they had a very sturdy REI tent setup on their site.  


We hung out in their car, drank Captain Morgan, admired the lightening, all while sharing travel stories.  These guys had a couple years on me and I admired their level of outdoorsiness.  They had 2 sea kayaks strapped to the car right above me, I was sitting next to their fishing poles and a surf board.  These guys loved the outdoors and turns out they have a camp site booked in Assateague for every weekend of the summer.


For those of you who don’t know, Assateague books up months in advance.  The only reason I was able to book a site at the last minute was because campers cancelled in anticipation of the storm.  These guys are Assateague die-hards, which is part of what contributes to the difficulty in getting a site there. If you want to go, book in April.  


OK, back to the story… We continued to drink as the storm mellowed down.  We finally decided the rain was light enough to go check on their tent.  I walked with them to their site, a few sites down from my friends.  While they investigated how their tent weathered the storm, I walked over to my friends tent to find them all asleep.  


I told them I made new friends and walked back to the guys.  What I learned later, was that my statement freaked out the girls in the tent, imagining the worst…


The guys had a broken pole in one spot that had ripped through the tent, but for the most part the tent was solid and dry.  I left them to their tent repair and walked back to my car.  


I got in the front seat and started to play with my phone, when I noticed one of the guys walking up to my car.  I opened the door and he said he still wanted to hang out.  I was tired, had no idea what time it was, but the adrenaline from the storm was still in me, so we went for a walk.


We talked and talked and walked and ended up on the beach.  Next thing I know, my guy has stripped down to his boxers and he’s running into the surf!


It’s pitch black on the beach… the clouds are blocking out any ounce of moon or starlight so it’s hard to see anything except the water line and the splash of white on the breaking waves. 


“Fuck it!”  


I took a layer of clothes off and ran into the water.  The water was warm and we had a blast.  Every once in a while a wave would wash me out pretty good out of nowhere, but aside from that it was fun.  


It even got a little romantic when we noticed we were circling around in a cloud of glowing algae.  The more we moved our arms on the surface of the water, the brighter the algae became.  It was beautiful and I’d never seen anything like it.  


It’s amazing how a series of events can occur sometimes, from a collapsed tent to a romantic swim in the Atlantic….


The next morning, we all woke up at the crack of dawn.  What my friends didn’t realize is that I only got 30 minutes of sleep.  But I was excited for the beautiful morning on the beach.  


We packed up the car, stopped by the beautiful bayside nature walk on the island before we headed to Ocean City, Maryland for breakfast.  

Bayside of Assateague Island




Camping in Assateague with the Wild Ponies

I recently had the pleasure of going camping at Assateague Island National Seashore.  I went with a hiking group off meetup.com and we had over 100 people.  We took over one group site and had a bunch of individual sites on the same ocean front loop.  

The ocean front camp sites are the perfect location, tucked behind the dunes which protects you only slightly from the constant breeze blowing off the ocean.  You can hear the waves crashing in the background as you enjoy the wildlife around you at these sites.  There are plenty of interesting birds that love to chirp and visit your site, and they aren’t sea gulls!  

We went camping in late April to beat the mosquitoes.  There can be a mosquito problem if you go later in the summer, so just come prepared!  

Paddling through the mist on the bay side.
It was misty and foggy the first day I arrived.  It was not raining, but it was like the clouds had dropped from the sky and were floating across the island.  

I made friends with some of my camp neighbors and we decided to explore the island and see what there was to see.  We walked over to the bay side and found beautiful views from a boardwalk trail.  We could see people in the distance on stand up paddle boards.  

In the distance behind the paddle boarders we could see wild ponies on the narrow peninsulas.

We saw a pair of mother and child ponies.

Itchy ponies

A cloudy misty beach.  

Dogs were having a blast on the large open beach.  After exploring the island, I setup my camp chair on the beach and enjoyed the beach as well.  


Later that night, we all go together for a bit of a potluck and everyone grilled their meats on one big grill.  We enjoyed a beautiful night on the beach under the stars.

Camping under the stars!

I couldn’t help but wake up and watch the sunrise, with my tripod in tow.  

Our tents for the “group” camp site were nestled among the dunes.

Sunrise over the dunes from my camp site.

Beautiful boardwalk trail leading to the bay.

Kite Surfer enjoying a perfect day on the bay.


At the end of a perfect day, hiking and socializing with the group I headed south for a journey to the Low Country, but that’s another story!

Fun in Ocean City, Maryland

The mid-Atlantic beaches may not have crystal blue water like the Caribbean with palm trees, but when I think of going to the beach, this is where my mind goes.  I’ve grown up with these beaches.  On occasion I have been to prettier beaches, warmer beaches, with fancier hotels and restaurants.  But Ocean City, Maryland is what I’m really familiar to.


For those of you who turn your nose up at Ocean City, I’d like to share what I think is fun about the place.  Maybe there are too many rowdy teenagers on the boardwalk at times, but Ocean City is a big place, with lots to do!

Enjoy the view from an ocean front balcony!  Share a couple drinks with friends and soak up the sun.  If you don’t mind the sand, then go set up camp on the beach instead.  There’s something about sitting at the seaside, watching the waves.  

Go fishing on the bay with friends.  It’s pretty inexpensive to go out on a head boat on the bay or ocean, you just have to wake up early!  However, it’s never too early for beer.  Whether you catch a fish, a stingray, or nothing but seaweed, the boat ride is a blast all on it’s own.  

Wasn’t allowed to keep this one…

Seeking some faster paced thrills?  Check out the rides on the boardwalk.  They have a mutli-loop roller coaster and a bunch of other rides that swirl you around and get you dizzy.  Day time has shorter lines, but at night you get to see all the lights.  Both times of day you can get a good view from some of the rides.  

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Drop into one of the corny hotel bars and dance the electric slide!  If you don’t feel like waiting in line at Seacrets, there’s nothing wrong with checking out one of these bars.  They usually have live music or a DJ.

But if you don’t mind waiting in line, Seacrets is a good time!  Grab a seat at one of the many beach bars or bay side tables to watch the sunset.  You can also take your drinks out to their tables or floats in the water.  This place is fun no matter what time of day.  They have multiple stages and different music in the different areas.  I would say the crowd is younger at night, but in general everyone loves Seacrets!

 

Robbed By Crabs

After sleeping through Hurricane Irene, I decided it was perfect timing to hit the beach before the next hurricane. I was lucky where I live in Maryland, we were barely affected. Didn’t even lose power! But my heart goes out to Vermont with all the flooding caused by Irene.
After the storm cleared, my dad and I packed up the car and headed to Ocean City, MD. I had been wanting to visit my parent’s beach condo for a while, but it had been booked solid for the busy season. So I was excited, but also nervous to assess any damage caused by Irene. Upon arrival we saw that water had seeped through the sliding glass doors on both balconies and gotten the carpet wet. Nothing major, time to party!
My dad invited his friend to come down with his boat. His friend had a daughter working at a bar in Ocean City for the summer also, so plans were set for us all to go out on the boat. I love boats, especially private boats so you can go where ever you want and do whatever.
So next day we dropped the 20 foot motor boat into the water and headed out into the Assawoman Bay to go fishing. The goal was Flounder. I asked the guy in charge of the boat ramp where the best spot to get big Flounder was. He told me to go to Super Fresh, the grocery store up the street. Not too encouraging… but I laughed it off and we shoved off on our 3 hour tour.
We came prepared with 3 cases of beer, inflatable floats, chicken wings, and bait. We cut the engine in the middle of the bay, with not another boat in site most of the time. I think a lot of people had their boats safely tucked away for the hurricane, so traffic was minimal.
We dropped the chicken on crab lines into the water and took our positions all around the boat with our poles. It was a beautful day with perfect blue skies and the temperature was mild for summer. For the most part, little Maryland blue crabs feasted on our fishing pole bait, as well as our crab line bait. Unfortunately, the crabs were all under the legal size. That didn’t stop us from taunting them a little before letting them go.
All of a sudden my dad announces he’s got something. I look over and his pole is bending at a sharp angle and his line is moving fast through the water. This is no ordinary fish. At first, we couldn’t see what it was at all. We yelled for him to reel it in closer. I think he was having trouble simply holding onto his pole, but finally the creature came near the surface.
At first glimpse, it looked like a little shark! But we soon recognized that it was a sting ray. It was quite a big sting ray for the bay, probably two feet across. So we took a couple pictures, but eventually realized there was no way we were going to be able to reel in the ray and get the hook out of his mouth. So we cut the line eventually and watched the poor creature swim off into the abyss. 

After that, my dad proceeded to catch 2 blue fish, both under the legal size, so we quickly released them. I convinced my dad to let me try his pole, since it seemed to be so lucky. I sat around with the pole, sipping on my beer, and felt some nibbles on my line. I assumed they were crabs stealing my bait, since there was never a strong tug, but when I finally pulled up my line, I saw that I had caught a flounder! My flounder was only a third the legal size, but I was very proud to be the one to catch the first and only flounder on our flounder fishing trip.
After the flounder, I retired from fishing, blew up my float, attached my float to the boat with a rope and jumped in. The water was perfect, so I drank a couple beers in my tube and had a blast.
We topped off the perfect Ocean City day with dinner on the bay-side deck at Fager’s Island. A couple beers and some good food tided us over while the sun set across the bay. Hard to believe a hurricane had threatened all this only a few days prior.