The Island of Wild Horses

We, literally, arrived at Assateague in a storm that set the Atlantic waves rolling and the gods blowing fierce gusts of wind against our nylon tent walls, which we endeavored to set up amidst falling temperatures. Despite already wearing three layers, I donned an additional one to trudge through the damp sand and try to preserve what little body heat I had left. The fire we’d set up by the picnic table was welcome, though there was a constant fear that it would go out, especially as the gods continued to rain cold wrath upon us. I don’t know how some of my fellow Adventure-Club members were still maintaining high spirits in shorts and thin sweatshirts.

Eventually, the smoke emitting from the fire took the place of oxygen, and I had to abandon the fire for shelter in a tent. The clock approaching eleven, which is considered a late night for me considering I’m usually up at six in the morning, I removed my soaked and sandy sneakers. Enveloping myself in a blanket, I transformed into a blue burrito, tucking in for the night and regaining some warmth.

Thankfully, I had a flashlight and a book to keep me occupied before enduring a night of cold, damp, misery. I felt like a true camper, the ones you see in the movies who aren’t freezing, but comfortable and picturesque as they read whatever novel they have by flashlight as the world revolves around them outside. Naively, I reveled in the cliché feeling. At least I was remaining positive in the experience.

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I woke up the next morning to a half-collapsed tent, a damp sleeping-bag, and an equally as frigid wind as we experienced last night—except this time, I was directly sweeping in and around my blue burrito.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

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After changing in the cloudy, grey morning, I knew that I couldn’t just stand around. Yet, no one else was awake yet. What follows might be seen as not a “truly great thought,” but that’s okay because it wasn’t conceived while walking.

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On our way to Assateauge Island last night, we passed a quaint beach-town coffee shop that I said I would walk to if I had to. So, with nothing to do but stand around and wait hours for people to wake up that morning, which I knew I would be unable to do—I would freeze to death—I consumed a granola bar and set off down the road, in the damp morning drizzle, to find this coffee shop.

I had no idea where it was or how long it would take me to get there, but I had an iPhone from which I could listen to podcasts, and I had my feet.

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“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” ― Cheryl Strayed

Each step away from the sand achieved enough warmth and exertion in my muscles to keep me going the eight miles to the coffee shop. At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be eight miles, but I didn’t care, at least I was doing something that was mildly enjoyable to me considering my miserable initial impression of the island.

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Originally, I had wanted to take this trip to spend time with my friends, get away from campus for a couple days, and explore a new place. At least I can say I accomplished two of these things. I made it to the coffee shop in a little under two-and-a-half hours, seeing wild horses and picturesque landscapes along the way.

Being alone for the walk, and most of the trip, didn’t bother me. As an introvert, being surrounded by people can be draining. I think that’s why I’m glad I took the time to be by myself and do something for myself on this trip; it kept me from lamenting too much over the weather and kept me occupied. The only downside was that it did take me away from my friends. But, there will be other adventures; hopefully they won’t be as uncomfortable as suffering through the wrath of the gods on the beach of a Maryland national park.

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