He was an old man who fished alone in a lobster boat off the Maine coast and he had gone 117 days without taking a crustacean. His luck was not bad, rather his judgment was good (don’t fish the Atlantic in winter). Then he met us and for all I know his luck changed. El Campion is due for a change of luck. Eleven months ago Champ purchased a new 40’ RV which has since made six trips back to the dealer for repairs. After that he gave up on warranty work (like Van Gogh on his ear) and took his rig to Camping World. Thus we met our buddy from Maine in Foley, Alabama.
The lobster man had some stories and in the best one he turned us on to Assateague Island National Seashore. It’s hard to get to and hard to get out of, and don’t come here in warm weather lest the black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks feast on you like a Hanukkah brisket.
It’s late April and still cold at night in Maryland, not to mention quite windy on the seashore. But the campground is beautiful, and don’t let the faulty campsite descriptions on Recreation.gov deter you. There are no electrical hookups, but it has dump stations and potable water spigots on both the Bayside and Oceanside campgrounds. When you visit, pick Oceanside. You can hear the surf, it’s only a hundred yards to the beach, and the paved sites are much longer and wider than billed.
Assateague is known for its little wild horses. Legend has it that a Spanish galleon wrecked just offshore and the horses on board swam to safety on the island. Another horse tale attributes their origin to a livestock tax exacted upon mainland equines; their owners chartered ships and brought them to this 37 mile long island pasture to escape the tax. I would question whether such a tax would represent more dinero than the cost of chartering ships plus that of rounding them up once they were wanted back home. To me the shipwreck scenario sounds plausible. But I cannot tell a lie: DNA testing has made a strong case for the existence of ancient tax dodgers.
Horses tax the island by eating slow-growing vegetation and beating paths through it that become hurricane gullies. The Park Service therefore limits the herd’s population in Maryland to 100 beasts. On the Virginia side of Assateague National Seashore, the local volunteer fire department owns those horses and sells most of the foals annually. On the Maryland side the horses run wild and free, getting almost no veterinary care. Their population is controlled largely in the way I expected: high-powered rifles. But instead of lead the rifles fire birth control hormone darts into the younger and older mares. Each mare is allowed one foal, and then at the age of 5 or 6.
The title refers to the nearest town, Berlin, Maryland. It lacks techno music, but has a Wal-Mart and a Food Lion. What else do you need?