There are all kinds of ways to see the wild ponies of Assateague. We’ve seen them close enough to feed (but didn’t of course) on the beaches on the Maryland side. And we’ve seen them crowded in the shade of a tree. We’ve seen them by boat and by car. Once we even saw them during the pony swim (set for July 29, 2015, at 7 a.m.) This time, we hoofed it along a lovely woodland trail on the Virginia side of Assateague far from the sand and surf.
The Woodland Trail is a 1 1/2 mile circular trail in the tall woods in the center of the island. It’s flat and paved, dotted with lots of rustic benches for those who want to pause among the trees. The mosquitoes seem to be as big as the ponies and they are starving so be prepared with long sleeves or bug spray. (In our case, neither the bug spray nor the protective clothing kept us from being some skeeter’s lunch.)
If we had walked the Woodland Trail twice, we would have walked 10,000 steps. But our group included people who weren’t really interested in all those steps so we compromised and stopped at 5,000.
What a lovely way to get our steps in. The air was filled with birdsong early in the trail. Butterflies crossed our path. Marsh mallows bloomed at the edges of the trail and pine trees reached for the sky high above us. As we neared the end of our walk, the song of birds became the song of locusts (or is it cicadas? I never remember which it is.)
And midway, we walked out on a deck and searched for the elusive ponies. There they were in the distance, browsing beyond a grove of trees, flicking the flies with their tails and tossing their long white manes.
The whole tour was easy and enjoyable, even under the summer sun. Easy to do twice. Maybe next time I will.
Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman