The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery

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FULL MOON STAMPEDE

Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

April 17-20, 2008

    

On Thursday, after about a 4 hour drive from the Jersey Shore, Tom K and I arrived in Ocean City, MD at about 3 pm and met up with Chuck & Joyce at the Flagship Hotel at the northern end of the boardwalk.  The weather was perfect so after checking into the hotel, we walked the entire length of the boardwalk and back. After walking about 4.5 miles, we worked up a thirst and appetite and decided it was time for happy hour so we walked on over to Mother's Cantina for some margaritas.  Shortly thereafter, upon the suggestion of the bartender, we walked over to another nearby joint called Coin's Pub & Restaurant for dinner and to discuss the details of our Assateague paddling and camping plan.
 
On Friday morning we awoke to sunny skies and warm temperature and after checking out of the hotel, we stopped at the market to pick up some booze and last minute provisions before heading over to Assateague National Seashore.  We arrived at the Assateague Ranger Station at about 9:30 am and were surprised to see that the park office was busier than the hotel we stayed at.  We had planned to stay at the Pope Bay backcountry campsite, unfortunately, there were no spaces available at that site, so we ended up staying at the closer, Green Run site.  Since the weather forecast for Sunday was questionable for thunderstorms and heavy winds, we decided we would reserve our last night at the Pine Tree site which would put us a bit closer to the takeout for Sunday. If it was going to storm on Sunday, we would only be about 5 miles from the takeout.
 
The parking lot at Ferry Landing was bustling with kayakers.  I had my Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association (JSSKA) T-shirt on and another paddler who was from Northern NJ came over, and introduced himself.  At the launch site, we also met Bob and Anna, who reported they were going to be camping at the same site as our group.  After some socializing, we began loading all of our camping gear and provisions into our kayak hatches.  We launched out of Ferry Landing into the Chincoteague Bay at about 10:45 am.  With our kayak hatches bulging with our "stuff" and our kayaks low into the water, we took a relaxing southward paddle along the marshy coastline, enjoying warm temperatures, a sunny sky, lots of grazing horses and pleasant chit-chat with fellow paddlers. After about 5 miles of paddling, we pulled into the Pine Tree site and had lunch.  The site was bustling with kayakers, canoeists and a few people who came in on a small sailboat.  After lunch, Chuck and Joyce relaxed while Tom and I explored the Pine Tree sites a bit.  In less than an hour, we shoved back off into the bay and paddled northward towards the Green Run backcountry campsite which would be our home for our first night on the island.

    

We arrived at Green Run at about 4:45 pm after about 11.6 miles of paddling. After emptying our hatches and hauling all our stuff up the small trail to the campsite, we set up camp.  Within the first hour at the site, we brushed a few ticks off ourselves.  Contrary to the reports of no mosquito activity, a few of the little buggers were biting down by the water, but were not too prevalent at the campsite. While Joyce took a nap, Chuck, Tom and I gathered some firewood and prepared for the evening campfire.  After enough wood was gathered and Joyce had a good nap, she graciously prepared a happy hour spread and we all relaxed at the picnic table with some wine, cheese, crackers and pepperoni.  At about 7 pm we began getting the fire ready for dinner.  We invited Bob and Anna over to our site and we all prepared our dinners.  Tom and I grilled some mesquite chicken breasts over the campfire and ate them with a hearty serving of wild rice.  We all ate dinner together and chatted and as the sun went down, so did the temperature.  After dinner, and to Joyce's delight, I broke out the telescoping forks and we toasted marshmallows for smores over the campfire.  We threw more logs on the fire, drank more wine and chatted some more as the ocean surf roared in the distance and the nearly full moon, illuminated the campsite through the forest of tall pine trees.

    

Most of the group retired to their tents rather early, at about 10 pm.  Tom and I took a hike through the wooded trail which lead to the beach.  The beach was well lit from the light of the full moon and it cast a shimmering luminescence on the dark shadowy water of the Atlantic Ocean as the large waves pounded the beach.  The sky was clear and filled with stars.  The beach was a bit chilly from the wind, so we decided to start hiking back to the warmth of the campfire.   After we arrived back at the site decided we'd hang out around the fire until it smoldered out. While we were relaxing by the fire, three wild horses startled us while they stampeded behind us, through the dark portion of our campsite. They made such a loud noise as they stampeded through the campsite that I was surprised none of the other campers awoke.  One of the horse tripped over a log, grunting loudly before running away. Good thing he didn't break his leg!  After the horses were all gone, Tom walked down to the porta-potty while I sat and enjoyed the hypnotic crackling and burning embers of the campfire.  As the flame of the fire dwindled, the campsite was largely silent with only the distant roar of the ocean surf.  A few minutes later, the silence was broken and I see Tom running back to the campsite with a look of fear on his face. Before I could even get a chance to ask him what the hell was going on, he's yelling " the horse is chasing me" and in an instant I see this huge wild horse charging behind him. I didn't know whether to laugh or to run, it all happened so fast.  As Tom reaches the campsite, he's all out of breath and the horse quickly stops in his tracks.  Frozen like a statue for about a minute, the large wild horse stares Tom down, then grunts loudly, shakes his head side to side and then runs off into the woods.  It was very strange, ..... like Stanley Kubrick strange.  
 
"What's going on out there?" Joyce squeaked from inside her tent.
 
"Tom's teasing the horses", I replied.

 

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