When I was young, my friends and their families would head out to the commercial beaches for their vacations. By “commercial beaches,” I mean the ones with oceanfront hotels, boardwalks, and a dizzying array of lights. My vacations, however, were quite different, as they were spent at Assateague, a 37-mile-long island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. The island is owned by both states, and the state line divides it in two. Because it is a national seashore and wildlife refuge, buildings on this island are few and far between. Not a hotel, restaurant, or arcade can be found here. The beach offers a 360° view of the sea and sky, with nothing to mar the experience except for horseflies and kamikaze kites.
What do you mean there’s no boardwalk?
Assateague is a natural barrier island, so it is constantly battered by water and wind. Its topography changes often. Since 1866, it has “moved” a quarter of a mile inland. My vacations were spent on the Virginia side of Assateague, and as a child I remember wooden steps and walkways that would take you up and over the high sand dunes. After being away from Assateague for a few years and then coming back as an adult, I found the high dunes were gone, and smaller, less-protective dunes had taken their place. Water and sand are constantly moving on this island. Changes in landscape and scenery on Assateague are expected and accepted. [Article Continues…]