I first started traveling with my son, Jon, when he was nine years old. We didn’t start off with many trips a year but gradually that’s what it turned into. We’ve been to many places in the United States. Jon has a fear of flying which caused me to get creative with some of our vacation trips. I will tell you that I have never been camping before, so when I was invited by a friend to go camping for the first time, I jumped at the opportunity. Three years later, I loved everything about camping. My son enjoyed it as well. We got to learn cool things like how to put up a tent, build a fire, and my son’s favorite, how to cook apples on an open fire. I must admit I really enjoyed the camping life. This type of vacation and adventure was something different for me. After going camping about four or five times with my professional camping friends, I thought I was pro. The best was yet to come.
In March of 2019, I began planning all my summer vacations. Every month starting in April or May, we pick places, book Air BNBs, and begin to map out our trips. We decided that in May we would go to Charleston, South Carolina. June, we decided on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. August is a special month, not only because Leo’s rule, but because it my birth month. Cape May, New Jersey had stolen my heart years before. This fact made Cape May my destination for August. The problem was that I did not have a trip planned for July.
I went to work and began asking my coworkers the places they had been to for vacations. Lots of people said Ocean City, Maryland, but the beach didn’t sound interesting to me for this trip in July. Now, don’t get me wrong I love the beach, but I wanted something different, something cool. Then I remembered… I jumped on google and began searching camping sites. My coworker, Naomi, walked by and glanced at my computer screen. She stopped and said, “Are you going camping?”
“I want to go. Why? Do you know any good camping sites that are cool?”
Again, please let me remind you that I wanted the coolest place of the coolest places. My professional camping friends have taken me to some neat places. They’ve taken us to “Thousand Islands” and “Bowman Lake” just to name two. Breath taking views with nothing but wilderness with crackling fires around us. The air filled with laughter and love as we shared food and good stories. I wanted to show my camping friends how much I had learned from them.
Naomi said to me, “Have you ever been to Assateague Island?”
I was intrigued, “No, where is that?”
Naomi proceeded to tell me it’s located in Maryland and wild horses go back and forth from Assateague to Chincoteague Island. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. Wild horses! This is great, who wouldn’t want to be in the wild with wild horses. I loved everything about that idea and immediately my mind swirled with pictures of me sitting with the untamed animals all around me. A huge smile plastered on my face at the beauty of what was before me. Naomi regained my attention when she said one word, camping.
“Wait, what?” I asked.
“You can go camping there. It’s considered a national park.”
WHOOWEE! I hit the jack pot. This was truly going to be the best camping place to go to ever, and it was going to be my idea. I couldn’t wait to tell all my camping friends, but I was going to set a date first. The date was just as important as picking the place because it would seal the deal for me. There was no way I could find a cool camping place, set a date, tell my friends, and then back out. So, I had to seal the deal. I pulled out my planner and settled on July 14-17, 2019.
Ironically shortly after setting the date and sealing the deal, my professional camping friend, Peggy Sue, called me. We talked about our children, and she began to talk about planning a camping trip for the year. I was so proud and excited when I told her I had reserved a spot at “Assateague Island.” I could tell she was surprised. She said she knew about the place and its history. I excitedly expressed to her that we should all go. She said she would reach out to her other professional camping friends including her brother and his wife. We hung up the phones with anticipation. That night campfires with wild horses danced around in my head.
Peggy Sue called back a few days later with sad news. She had spoken to her brother, and he stated that he camped there before, and it was rough camping. He insisted that we should reconsider and camp at an easier camping location that wasn’t so rough. I told Peggy Sue I really wanted us to go and experience it for ourselves, even if it is rough, I was up to it. “Are you sure?” Peggy Sue asked again. I confirmed.
July 14th had arrived, and I was pumped. There was nothing no one could tell me to ruin my day. I was so excited to get to “Assateague” and see my friends. Sadly, the only people that were able to make it was Peggy Sue and her family. Her best friend and husband were not able to join us. Her brother flat out refused saying that it’s too rough for his small child. Peggie Sue had already previously made me aware of the details her brother shared. None the less, my heart and mind were set on going and here it was. The day had arrived. My heart leaped with joy the whole drive there.
We were the first ones to arrive, my friends were coming with a pop-up camper, so their camping site was about a ten-minute drive from where my son and I were camping. Peggy Sue knew our camping site number so I knew she would come looking for us. Most of the time when you go camping you don’t have cell phone service and when you do it isn’t good anyway. I was very grateful that Peggy Sue was a master at reading the maps from the campgrounds. I, on the other hand, had not mastered the art of map reading. If you put a map of a campground in my hands, I’m more likely to pretend I know how to read it and then get even more lost than if I didn’t have the map. Knowing this fact about myself, I still always take a map upon arrival, and still always get lost.
The first thing I had planned to do was put the tent up, but when we both stepped out of the car, we almost melted. At first, I thought it was because we spent our time driving in the air conditioner. I tried to ignore the heat as we began pulling out the tent and some other large totes that contained cooking items and bedding. I tried to make sure we were both hydrated and at one point I even poured water on our heads to help cool us down. This was a heat we had never experienced before.
By the time we had the tent up and the air mattress inflated, we were drenched in sweat. My feet hurt and I suddenly felt so sleepy. Jon was miserable and complaining that he was hungry. I explained that I wasn’t feeling well and that I could cook something after a small nap. He grew more frustrated and said he was going to pull food out and start our meal. I had already previously taught him how to cook so this statement did not alarm me. Instead, I tried to get comfortable in the sweltering tent. Sweat poured on my pillow.
I don’t remember how long I was laying there in my own pool of sweat when I heard Peggy Sue’s voice. Oh, thank God! I thought to myself, but I couldn’t summon myself up from the laying position fast enough before she poked her head in the tent.
“Dear God, it’s hot in here!” Peggy Sue exclaimed.
“I know.” I mumbled back.
“Come on you have to get out of here before you have a heat stroke, let’s go to the beach.”
“Okay,” I managed back, “but I’m not putting on my swimsuit.” I didn’t have the energy for that.
“I don’t have one on either. Come on.”
I left the tent and saw Jon talking to NeNe and Zobe, Peggy Sue’s two children. I told my son we were going to the beach. Quickly we gathered a few beach items and off we were. I chugged down lots of water and as we got closer to the beach the wind picked up carrying with it the salt from the sea. Automatically I began to cool down and relax.
The only thing that wasn’t relaxing was the pain in my feet. As soon as we found our spot on the beach, we set our chairs up, and I was finally able to sit. It felt good to get off my feet but now they felt like they were burning. I told Peggy Sue about it and lifted my foot to inspect what was going on. To our surprise I had huge blisters on my feet. My mouth dropped. Peggy Sue said those were bad burns probably from the sand. I wasn’t sure how I was going to walk off the beach when it was time to leave. The blisters were full of clear liquid.
Peggy Sue and I began talking about everything and everyone we could think of. We hadn’t seen each other since the year before and it was good to catch up. We watched our children run around the beach. Nick, her husband, got comfortable on a beach towel with his baseball cap pulled down over his eyes and eventually drifted off to sleep.
From the corners of our eyes, we see them, a group of three horses walk up on the scene. Peggy Sue tells the kids to come over closer to us. I was nervous at the sight of them. I watched as the muscle of the front left leg tightened and then relaxed as one of the wild majestic animals walked. Another one of the horses gestured his head up and down, his mane flowing in the wind while his tail swayed. The corners of my lips curled up at their awesomeness. The third horse kept his head down and crept up in a mischievous way behind a young woman sitting on her beach towel with a straw hat next to her on the sand. Her back was turned to the horse, and she had ear buds in her ears. With slow careful moves, the horse took the rim of the straw hat into its mouth. The woman shrieked and the horse galloped away with her hat. We couldn’t help but giggle. It was innocent playful behavior from the horse but to watch it unfold was priceless. The woman was able to get her hat back much later, someone returned it to her.
We each went back to our induvial camping sites to cook dinner before turning in to bed. We vowed to meet up in the morning. Jon helped me cook, we were hungry, and apparently so were the mosquitoes and horse flies. It was bad and some of them were huge and would leave nasty blood splats on my arm if I swatted it with my hand. We had bug spray, we had bug repellent sticks that smoke, and citronella candles galore. We had it all and tried everything to be able to eat outside. My son wanted to do a fire and roast marshmallows. We couldn’t enjoy ourselves at all. Jon mentioned we should eat in the tent, and I agreed. We tossed and turned all night. No one got any sleep, and I couldn’t figure out how the bugs kept coming into the tent.
Once morning came it seemed like the horse flies and mosquitoes had settled down. The sun had just risen, and this was perfect to sit back and enjoy the morning. I made a piping hot cup of coffee, sat back with a book on a camping chair and read. It was relaxing enough that I told myself this day was going to be better. I was so excited and pumped for the day I wanted nothing more than to take a walk on the beach, but my feet were still full of blisters. I tried to ignore the negativity and instead made breakfast. I could hear the horses in the distance, and I could hear people shouting at them. I bit my bottom lip and woke Jon up, it was late in the morning anyway, it was time for him to get up. Jon finished cooking breakfast while I rested my feet. After eating we both crawled back in the tent to sleep. The night before was hard on us both.
Eventually Peggy Sue came back looking for us again. I had forgotten to ask her for her camping site number so that I could try to find her on the map. It would have been an attempt, even if I got lost, to find my friend and her family. Instead, I neglected our friendship, and my friend came looking for me again. I’m so grateful to have a friend that understands my air headedness and not even mention it.
Off we were to her site where her family was waiting. She was going to start cooking and had invited us. I was so glad because I wasn’t going to have to cook, and I wasn’t going to be alone if I heard the horses again. Finally, we were going to have a good time and relax. I had hoped there wouldn’t be as many bugs in her area as in my area.
I sat at the picnic table while Peggy Sue hustled and bustled all around her camping site preparing dinner. I knew that if I offered help, she would refuse as she’s always done on every other camping vacation, I’ve been on with her. So instead, we talked about our night. We both had horror stories. And I couldn’t help but think, man this trip is a bust. Could this night make up for last night? I was hopeful.
Peggy Sue had reminded me about our previous conversation where her brother told her this was probably not a good place to go camping. He stated the climate was rough. It’s for expert campers. I had been the one that had chosen not to listen. Peggy Sue came with merely to keep me company but also because I was so inexperienced; I don’t think she wanted me to do it alone. Which, to this day I am very grateful.
Let’s get back to the picnic table, so I’m sitting, Peggy Sue is now cutting up vegetables while eyeing her pot cooking on the Colemans camping stove. With each new topic we talked about it seemed like the bugs increased. I was annoyed and so was Peggy Sue, still we both tried to enjoy ourselves. The kids came hustling over at the sight of horses coming our way.
Peggy Sue asked that everyone stay in view of her and that no one make any sudden movements. The horses came into our view from the road that splits the RV side campgrounds. They left no camp site unturned; they walked up, ate what they wanted, and left to the next one. I was dumbfounded and sat frozen in place. Meanwhile, Peggy Sue kept cutting vegetables as if these horses were not headed our way eating everyone’s food.
After a couple more minutes of this, the horses walked up on to our campsite. One came up behind me and sniffed, sending a cold chill down my spine. The other went directly to Peggy Sue. He sniffed around her and watched what she was doing. Peggy Sue continued cutting her vegetables. I asked Peggy Sue if she was going to stop. Her reply was “no” she was going to finish her vegetables for our dinner. Astonished I watched as one horse grabbed the carrot from her cutting board and ate it. My friend yelled at the horse and continued to cut vegetables without missing a beat. The horse stole another carrot. The one that had sniffed me came all the way around to the cooler and was lifting the lid with his nose. Peggy Sue raised the knife in the air and started yelling. So, then I started yelling at the one by the cooler. The horses got all excited making noises and stomping the ground. I breathed again when they started to back up. Peggy Sue kept yelling, and finally they left.
Nick returned to the camping site right after this event took place. He showed up with firewood for the campfire. Zobe and NeNe ran up to their dad and told him what happened. Shocked he asked if everyone was okay, and we all said yes. I told him how brave his wife was and fearless about her vegetables. He laughed saying, “that’s what made his baby the best cook” as he kissed her on the forehead. She smiled. I was proud of my loving friends.
We tried so hard to enjoy the campfire that night. It was impossible. The bugs were so bad. Nothing worked to keep them away. Peggie Sue gave the kids a snack before turning in for the night. Jon wanted to stay longer with the kids, but I told him we needed to go. We had already decided, as a group, that we had enough, and we were leaving early. We packed up the next morning and were on the road before lunch time.
Overall, this vacation was unique. The wild horses added mystery and wonder to the trip. The horse flies and mosquitoes were the worst ever. My professional camping friends are the best for hanging out and supporting my decision of breaking Rule #1 in the Policy Manual of Professional Camping. ALWAYS LISTEN TO THE ADVICE OF PROFESSIONAL MORE EXPERIENCED CAMPERS. Peggy Sue, please tell your brother I learned my lesson.
**A special editing thank you to Author Lazheek. Thanks for editing this on such short notice. Love Ya!**