ASSATEAGUE: A Bridge to Adventure


Gray clouds had gathered, as if to storm in the west, but now the sun shined brightly white through the gloom. Now was the moment for the Hildebrand family to make their move. The West Virginians were camping a week in Assateague Island, Md. Carrying bags, nets and extra fishing poles, the family with three girls arrived at the wooden pier in Sinepuxent Bay: they were going to try traditional, Eastern Shore crabbing.

And that’s what people should do on vacation: try something new that couldn’t possibly happen home. Hailing from a landlocked state, the Hildebrands are used to fishing in lakes and creeks. But crabbing was a new experiment, just for fun (not for dinner). It was just a matter of tying some bait to a string, giving it a smear of some kind of grease that promised to attract crabs and then waiting patiently, in hopes of attracting some of Maryland’s iconic bottom-feeding crustaceans.

Camping on the beach itself, just behind the dunes, has meant an endless supply of sand — on everything. “It’s more of a challenge, but it’s fun,” said wife Amber.

While camping, they also surf fished along the ocean itself. And at night, husband Jesse also believes he caught a record-sized butterfly stingray while bowfishing — yes, with a bow, arrow and string.

The family first visited Assateague in 2020 and loved it enough to return for another weeklong vacation, with the grandparents, too.

“It’s the first time we saw the beach,” remembered 10-year-old Lily. Meanwhile, at age 7, Kaylee has already tired of the sand, but she liked “the waves and how you get to ride them in.”

One night earlier, the family visited Ocean City Boardwalk for the first time, too. It was wildly different from their quieter moments at the state park. Even now, the bright carnival area was very faintly visible from this side of Assateague, far across the bay.
They all enjoyed the Assateague Island Visitor Center museum, where they learned an important rule about horseshoe crabs: “Although they look scary, they’re not,” Kaylee said.

All in all, “it’s a great island adventure,” said Amber, smiling at her daughters in the evening sunlight.

“Super fun and sandy,” said Emma.

“The horses are kind of jerks,” Jesse added. “They were trying to get into our cooler last night at 1 a.m.”

It’s true. The wild ponies aren’t domesticated, so they’re still likely to kick or bite anyone who gets too near — but they’ve also dealt with human guests for long enough to know where to find snacks, whether a campsite cooler or a beach bag in the sand.
Jesse turned away to reel in his regular fishing line and try the lure elsewhere.

“We caught something!” Emma called joyfully as the line came up. “Seaweed!”

Bay to the Beach: Byways is a regular column in which we explore interesting places and projects on the Delmarva Peninsula. Videos and more photos at Bay to the Beach Byways.

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