Assateague Island - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
Drew C. Blitz
Tingles Island is the first of several back-country destination on Assateague Island. Obtain back country permit at Ranger Station for 5$. Assateague Island National Seashore is almost always booked months in advance, but the back-country sites are not as pressured. I arrived to the park in a 15-20 mile per hour NE wind and was skeptical about taking this trip. After watching conditions on the bay I decided to go ahead and launch from canoe rental area. Back country pass in hand and the wind at my back, the 2.5 mile paddle to Tingles Island was a breeze. While the open water was choppy with a few white caps, the smaller inlets were almost calm enough to rest and sight see. The ponies are dotted all over the islands. You can see them from quite a distance away because their dark forms stand out against the lighter marsh grasses. The water is surprisingly shallow through most of the bay allowing the ponies to wander out to very small islands and browse. It's comical to see five or six ponies on a half acre island that is over a hundred yards from shore and realize they just walked there casually. The short paddle took no time at all. There are a few signs to help guide you to the landing site so navigation is not much of an issue. There is a 150 yard walk to the camping area that accommodates 15 or so tents. There are a few fire rings and picnic tables, as well as a chemical toilet. The ground was soft sand with pine needles, so my bulky sleeping pad wasn't all that essential. The bugs were either nonexistent, or couldn't muster a flight in the contestant winds, so it was by far the least buggy trip I've ever had on Maryland's coast. The mosquitos and flies are absolutely maddening during the high season, so most people prefer to camp on the ocean side where constant winds keep the bugs to a bearable level. I opted to haul my boat to the camp, which wasn't too bad once I realized it was easy to pull it through the soft dry sand, even with my gear onboard. After dinner, I followed the hiking trail from the far side of the camp that leads out to the ocean side. The high winds made for a very dramatic surf by Atlantic standards.
I knew the trip back was going to be much more of a challenge so I waited for what was supposed to be high tide, and braved the steady 15-20 mph winds. The first leg back I tried to shelter a bit by tracing the shoreline. Eventually it was time to hit the open water and make a long hard break for a larger island offshore. This was the hardest 3/4 mile or so that I have ever paddled. If I rested for even a moment, I was being pushed directly backwards by both winds and waves. Taking a rest at the large island while having a staring contest with a nesting Canada goose from the boat, I was ready for the last push to the parking lot. Although it was a short paddle, the wind made it interesting, challenging, and remarkably bug free.
Cheapest gas seemed to be in Chambridge. Great place to fill up before heading back to $DC$. Good side fishing for rockfish at the Choptank Fishing Pier, Chambridge.
Park Entrance fee in April 5$
Bakccounty Permit $10
Take Rt. 50 to Berlin or Ocean City, MD. The routes to Assateague Island are well marked.
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