Sat, Jun 16 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Pena
My East Coast hosts told me that a journey to their land is not complete without a visit to the beach. You, of course, tell them that you were practically raised on the Pacific and they tell you that the Pacific is not the Atlantic so a trip to those shores is necessary.
This time my guide and host were daughter Coni and her husband Frank. We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge but instead of going north, like we had before, we took more of a southeasterly route for some hundred miles and settled at a bed and breakfast, the Holland House, in the historic community of Berlin.
Berlin (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable) goes back to 1677 and is the quaintest and most attractive community in Worcester County. It was part of a plantation, a 300-acre land grant that was given to some folks who liked to hunt and fish. Originally it was a lumber center with buildings and houses constructed of wood. They tell us that in 1803 a fire destroyed the entire town. The hardy settlers rebuilt the town but this time they used red bricks. Most of those original buildings are not only still standing but in use for home or business. As a result the town gives off the aura of a well-cared for community and is a nice place to visit and vacation.
To get to the beach it is a short 10 mile drive to an area that is sustained by both the National Park Service and the State of Maryland. To get to the ocean side we crossed over to Assateague Island, a spit of land that runs parallel to the mainland. This is a land that is very similar to the Carolina’s Outer Bank. It is a part of the country that is constantly in fluctuation. The tides and the frequent storms that batter the coast cause a constant change in the shoreline, something that is closely watched by those responsible for the park.
Assateague is inhabited but not by people. Its native population is horses. Many romantic tales have been told about the origin of horses on the island. The most prominent one is about a load of horses that were on board a ship bound for one of the northern ports. A storm came up sinking the ship and many of the horses met their demise. Some of the hardier animals made it to shore and there started their own colony much like the people of Pitcairn Island.
The real story is much less romantic. It seems that the native farmers on the mainland were being taxed in accordance to the livestock they had on hand. So when the tax man came around the resourceful farmer would move his stock to Assateague.
When tax season was over he would go back to the island to retrieve his stock. Most of the stock, no doubt being homesick for their original home, were happy to come back. The horses, however, had other ideas. Here they were
in a land of plenty; adequate food and water so why leave? They knew a good thing when they saw it.
There are two colonies of horses, one in Virginia and the other in Maryland. Each colony is separated from the either by barriers. Each state cares for their herds and controls the population through humane means.
On our last night there we went into the port village of West Ocean City for dinner. Once more I was in the quest for that perfect crab cake but that is another story. After dinner we took a drive up the main drag of Ocean City. This is strictly a resort town with about 10 miles of hotels, motels and other forms of lodging. I call it a Las Vegas minus the slots. One of the brightest spots I saw on this drive was a larger than average hotel named Bonita Beach Hotel.
Now that I’ve returned to the real Bonita, I vow to stay put for some time. I wonder how the weather is in Jamul this time of year?
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