Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Sunrise at Assateague: the perfect and the pretty darn good campsites

Friday September 27, 2013
Frontier Town Site X-41
Ocean City, Maryland



We are so close to the ocean that I am up for sunrise although it doesn’t look promising.


The clouds are thick at the horizon so the sun will have to burn its way through.  But in the dawn the waves are huge and crashing.  I love the power of the sea.


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There isn’t much morning color before the sun breaks through the clouds and we can sing ‘morning is broken’ again.   How wonderful.  Another new day and pink clouds to go with it.


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I look back at the viewing platform in Loop 1.  It sits on top of the dune.
No one has come to see the sunrise.  I’m very surprised to be the only one.


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The early morning light casts a wonderful glow on the sand plants and dunes.


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I just love early morning light and its shadows.  I’d like to be taller but maybe not this long legged.


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Walking back to Winnona, I take this picture just to show how close the campground is to the sea.  It’s just on the other side of the dune.


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I look back from this lofty perch  and see Winnona there in the sand and scrub.  Boy do I love our ocean side site here at Assateague.


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The wild horses have come to visit!

And when I get back home look who I see wandering around in the campground.  It’s the Assateague wild ponies.  There are about 100 of them in different bands with different territories.  They are wild animals and do charge if they are frightened or feel threatened so it is suggested that you get no closer than 30 feet and NEVER feed them or attempt to pet them.  They are not pets, they are wild and this is their home not ours.   But they are beautiful.  They have adapted amazingly well over more than a century to this harsh and salty environment.


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After breakfast we go over to the Visitor Information Center.



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We are just in time for the ranger to give an excellent talk on the amazing horseshoe crab.  Did you know they have TEN eyes?   And that an extract of the horseshoe crab's blood is used by the pharmaceutical and medical device industries to ensure that their products, such as intravenous drugs, vaccines, and medical devices, are free of bacterial contamination. No other test works as easily or reliably for this purpose.

I couldn’t remember all the details of the information the ranger gave in his great talk so when we got back to Winnona I looked it up and the following was provided by PBS.

Horseshoe crabs live under the constant threat of infection in a habitat that can easily contain billions of bacteria per milliliter. To fight off infection, the horseshoe crab has a compound in its blood — LAL, or Limulus Amebocyte Lysate — which immediately binds and clots around fungi, viruses, and bacterial endotoxins.

LAL’s endotoxin binding and clotting ability is what makes it so invaluable to the pharmaceutical industry. Horseshoe crabs were abundant, their blood easy to harvest and the test took only one hour.


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Today, LAL has become the worldwide standard screening test for bacterial contamination. Every drug certified by the FDA must be tested using LAL, as do surgical implants such as pacemakers and prosthetic devices.



Horseshoe crab blood has not only become a key weapon in the medical arsenal, it has also, of course, become big business.

On the world market, a quart of horseshoe crab blood has a price tag of an estimated $15,000, leading to overall revenues from the LAL industry estimated at U.S. $50 million per year. But that pales in comparison to its value to the pharmaceutical industry.

Of course, to obtain LAL you need horseshoe crabs — and lots of them. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, that $50 million dollar industry requires the blood of approximately 250,000 horseshoe crabs.


While the blood of a horseshoe crab can be extracted without killing the animal, there is some question of how harmful bleeding is to the animals. The LAL industry says the bleeding causes no long-term injury.

Adult horseshoe crabs are collected by trawlers and transported to the LAL lab, where they are washed to remove sand and other marine debris from their exoskeletons. Those crabs without visible injuries are placed on a rack and bled with a large-gauge needle. Up to 30% of the crab’s blood is removed. Within 72 hours, the bled horseshoe crabs are returned to the water, where their blood volume rebounds in about a week.


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LAL manufacturers have measured mortality rates of less then 3%. Yet two recent studies estimate that between 10% and 15% of crabs do not survive the bleeding procedure, which accounts for the mortality of 20,000 to 37,500 horseshoe crabs per year. Another concern is that it takes the crab a few months to rebuild its blood cell count level back up after a bleeding. Horseshoe crabs could be bled up to three or four times a year, which would take a toll on the health of the animals. But LAL manufacturers claim they only bleed them once a year.



I’m not sure at all how I feel about this. 

I don’t trust the fox to be telling the truth about the detriment to the hens.  I have definitely learned not to trust American Corporations.  I understand there is an effort to discover a synthetic LAL and I hope that work is well funded and successful.

The horse shoe crab the ranger was using as the demonstration is in an open tank for visitors to touch or pick up.  Not sure how I feel about that either.

But the most important thing I learned from the ranger– NEVER pick up a horseshoe crab by its tail.


In looking in the other tanks, I find some wonderfully interesting other creatures.  I hope they are safer in this environment than being free.  I have such a hard time with zoos and aquariums.  Even as teaching tools.



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Our eleven o’clock move time approaches so we must leave.


On the way out I see the viewing area with ROCKING chairs over looking the marsh. 

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I’m not very happy about where we are going.


Of course I am not very happy to be going anywhere.  I want to stay here but it’s my own over sight.  The least expensive place that has spots for the week-end nights is Frontier Town.  They are a family campground that sounds like a Disneyworld knock off from their ads.  These are usually not my kind of places.

David and I split up.  I go to the grocery and he takes Winnona the 4 miles to Frontier Town and sets her up.

When I get there I have to laugh at how corny it all is.  A western theme everywhere.   Cowgirls and Cowpokes on the bathrooms.  A wild west show, a water park and all western decor.   They have 500 campsites.   Some in the woods, some on the water.  Full hook ups, W/E, boon docking, tents only.  Cabins.  Anything you want.


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Well I’ll be jiggered!!


When I pull into the site David has gotten for us I am smiling from ear to ear.   Look at this!   Right on the marsh.   How to make the blues go away.


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Look at that Duckie view as dark comes on.

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I think I’ll be able to handle this for a couple of days.  If the water park was open, I might even go for a splash but it’s closed after labor day.  But miniature golf is free. :-)


  1. I'm so glad you got a great site at this campground. Sort of takes the sting out of having mixed up the reservation dates. I am in complete agreement with you on having trust in corporations.

  2. When I was younger, my favorite book was Misty of Chincoteague. I have still never gotten to Assateague, and it is top on our list!

  3. You must have a very faithful Fairy Godmother looking after you. That scheduling mishap landed us in a great site here. Unfortunately even the best pictures don't do it justice,

  4. Looks like you lucked out with this new site in an overcrowded amusement RV Park. I too have problems with caged or glassed in animals of any kind and question the bleeding of crabs.

  5. Hahaa…. I do that too …. Morning has brooooken… like the first mooorning… great song.

    Beautiful beautiful pictures of the sea.. it is mighty ~ wow! the horses just wander about the campground? how cool is that…

    I didn't know crabs horseshoe or whatever had blood.. no kidding. Glad you got a great site… Duckies seem very pleased….

  6. Glad the mistake turn out to be not so bad;o)) We loved seeing the wild ponies!! What I want to know is whatever made someone think that Horseshoe Crabs should be used to test for bacteria?!?!?

  7. Very interesting about the horseshoe crabs. I like the fact that their blood is so useful, but like you, I'm not sure I like how it's collected. I hope science finds a way to re-create it without harming the crabs.

    You lucked out again with the campground. David did good on that site! How cool was that to come back from a sunrise to find wild horses at your campsite. Love it!

  8. Ocean City MD - check out Dumser's Dairyland for yummy milkshakes, Wockenfuss Candies for yummy sweets, Seacrets for a little bit of Jamaican atmosphere - love their Jerk Chicken. Look them up online for more info - just a few of our fav places there. Interesting about the horseshoe crabs. They wash up on our little beach at our cottage near Rehoboth Beach DE. Love all your photos - thanks for reminding us of one of our favorite places! Have fun and enjoy!

  9. That is a very nice consolation campground:)

  10. I love the power of the ocean, too. Except when I'm sailing on it, then it turns into the "Power Puke" for me... :cO

    When we lived on the Jersey shore, dead horseshoe crabs used to wash up on the beach by the hundreds. I guess they don't live that long. I turned many a crab that was laying on its back over and sent it scurrying back into the waves. I hope I helped a little bit. I did not know that they have a significant medical use.

    See, I'm always learning something new from my favorite naturalist teacher! :c)

  11. what a fabulous campground with the horses. . .just magnificent!

    I feel exactly the same as you about zoos and aquariums. . .just not my fave. . .love seeing things in the wild. . .absolutely!

    and what a lucky duck you are to have landed in an okay spot. . .enjoy!

  12. Oh my Assateague looks absolutely perfect! The beach, the horses, WOW!

    Even though Frontier Town looks ridiculous, it's not high season and you've got a great site. I always cringe when the only place that looks halfway decent where you want to be is something like a KOA!

  13. I think the best rule is: never pick up anything alive. Just look at it. That is a pretty good site at Frontier town!

  14. Wow, your site at Assateague was pretty incredible. Looking forward to your return. Glad to see your site at Frontier Town looks like a winner too.

  15. Beautiful ocean-what great site and it comes with the pretty ponies. How nice! Not sure how I feel about the horseshoe crab...I hate giving blood myself. Glad Pops found a marsh front site at the western playground ;)


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