Recently, I have developed a serious case of wanderlust. Maybe it was after my recent trip to California for Recharge workshop that really did it. But I came to the realization that I wanted to do more adventurous things and bring my children along. I should preface this post by letting you all know that I was raised to camp in hotels, with showers and actual beds. I do not camp in paper bags (tents). Also, you should know I don’t love vacations that require me to wear sneakers each day. This simply means I’d prefer a lovely spot on a beach chair or swim up pool bar in bare feet or do my sightseeing in flip flops with a low chance of breaking a sweat.

When in California I did lace up some sneakers and take a hike through part of Big Sur. It was beautiful and epic however, I was sweaty and far from my hotel room where there is air conditioning and chilled wine. I realize my aversion to sneaker vacations is holding me back from some amazing places in the world. So I decided to toss that logic and dust off my sense of adventure and expose my kids to some in-your-face adventure!

When it was time to plan our summer vacation my DH suggested a camping trip to Assateague Island MD. When hearing the suggestion I quickly ran through a list of Pros and Cons in my head:

  1. Its on a beach so no need to put on my sneakers- PRO!
  2. Wild horses call Assateague their home, and how cool would it be to photograph them- PRO!
  3. I can lay in the sun right next to the ocean- PRO!
  4. I’d have to sleep in a tent/paper bag- CON!
  5. I wouldn’t need to shop for fun new vacation clothes- CON!(for me) PRO! (for the hubs)
  6. There are bath houses at every camping loop- CON! (because shower shoes are for college dorms)
  7. Kids would love the experience- PRO!

Half heartedly I agreed to the first leg of our vacation in the wilderness. To compromise we picked a hotel in Baltimore for the second half of the week and the hubs purchased the cadillac of all blow up beds so I could slumber safely 18″ off the ground.

As the weeks inched closer I became excited for my campfire meals. My littlest was excited to see the horses. She is a pure sweet soul who loves every living thing. The first time we watched the Goonies and she laid eyes on Sloth, in the scene when he rips off the chains and comes out of the shadows to reveal himself to Chunk, she screamed “AWEEEE HE’S SO CUTE MOMMY!” that is our Emily.

Lauren Schwarz Photography-Beach Portrait-Camping Trip

The Oldest was also looking forward to it. He’s been feeling extra manly lately and recently declared to us that he thinks he’s starting puberty now, at the age of Ten. I am sure he will want his own iPhone and apartment soon. In the meantime, the hubs said he could have his own pocket knife so he felt prepared to defend and protect the camp.

We arrived to our site and began set up; Mosquito bite count: 19

Assateague Island Camping Trip- Cabelas Getaway Six Person tent

Assateague Island Maryland-Lauren Schwarz Photography


As the sun began to set three wild horses roamed up to our site. Right into the fire practically. Standing there and staring as horses do, and while the little one squealed with delight the big one began to worry. “Mom will they go away?” “Mom will they eat our food?” “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom.” We banged pots and pans, did our best ‘SHOO SHOO’-ing and still they stood. A woman from next door came out to help with the ‘GET GET’-ing and told us that earlier that morning a horse had walked through someones tent while they were still in it. “They have been extra aggressive this summer” she said. That was all my son needed to hear to launch into extra panic mode. “Mom, what if they walk through OUR tent?” which then sent me into mom panic mode with an extra side of dramatics. After some time they moved on from our site, not before trying to snatch some picnic table dinner leftovers, and mount each other for some summer lovin’ “Mommy! what are they doing?”

We secured our coolers with bungee cords and got ready to sleep. We were all snug in our tent. Sweating from the heat but making memories nonetheless. After I finally dozed off We heard the whimper and snort of a horse clip clopping closer to our tent.

Assateague Island Maryland-Lauren Schwarz Photography

The hubs and I both woke up to find, right outside the tent door, the three horses from earlier. Standing ever so majestically up close and personal in the camp. The fire ring still slightly smoldered as one horse had his head directly over it. They began trying to scratch their mosquito bite itches on the side of the fire ring, our grill, the picnic table, anything they could find. They gnawed the grass right at the base of the tent and I could feel their breath through the mesh that protected us from the mosquitos. The kids slept soundly as we watched them. The hubs not sure what to do, we didn’t want to spook them so they trampled the tent, but couldn’t sleep either knowing their hoofs were inches from two tiny little heads sleeping. So we watched and watched, an hour or more passing.

Storm clouds rolled in the distance with lighting and thunder. “Its not coming this way” assured the hubs, “My camera is in the car!” was all I could say. I mean, I was up anyway and I thought of how I could make a run for it to grab it. It was too late for that, the rain drops started to come down, we scrambled to get our rain fly on while not spooking the three amigos still watching from the outside. Luckily they clip-clopped off when the storm got closer, however not too far away as we could still hear them behind us. At this point the thunder was LOUD. The kids were up now not able to sleep.

The storm rolled in closer and if you’ve never slept outside in a Biblical grade thunderstorm let me quickly describe it for you:

Picture an aggressive summer thunderstorm, the kind that drops torrential rains with bright lightening flashes, that seems to be striking on your roof. The loud booms of thunder shaking your walls. Sometimes the lights go out and you get flashlights and watch the storm from the window. WOW! you say…look at that storm! Crazy!

Now picture yourself… OUTSIDE. IN. A. PAPER. BAG.

The storm lasted about an hour. All of us awake the whole time. It was now 3 am.

Finally we drifted off to sleep and caught a few minutes. The Golden Girls arrived back, poking their heads in the back of the tent. The hubs shot up so fast, flustered, ran outside yelling at them. At this point we figured the night lasted 9ish hours and we were asleep for a collective 1.2 hours. I was ready to pack it in. Head to a place with walls and air conditioning. But we made it through a second night, kept all of our things in the car for extra horse insurance. We enjoyed a beautiful day on the beach and an uneventful second night.

The third day was unbearably hot with a west wind that brought in the bugs. Mosquito bite count: 654

Our plan was to stay on the beach to keep cool, but the bugs had different plans. They were so bad on the beach that we decided to head back to camp, shower and go out to dinner. I had just one more night to survive and I would have done it. Camped like a champ. OWNED it. As we strolled up the lane we came to find our site was ransacked. Our friends had been back and this time they showed us that they were magicians. They undid our bungee cords and ate all of our dry food, bent our canopy tent that we had borrowed from friends, and stepped on our tent putting a gaping hole in the bottom. I already saw the mosquitos setting up shop for the night. THAT WAS IT! The hubs declared we were going home and we packed it in and drove all the way back to West Chester for the night. I was never more happy than to shower and sleep in my life.

So with that my camping experience ended. Not sure I will go back again for more right now, and currently I have decided wild horses are jerks. Its not their fault but they are just big jerks. I am happy to report the second half of our trip was spent in the AC in Baltimore and DC and it was wildlife free. One thing is certain, it was a trip we will never forget. -LS

Assateague Island Maryland. Sunrise Camping Trip

LaurenSchwarzPhotography_WestChesterPA_AssateagueIsland-113 LaurenSchwarzPhotography_WestChesterPA_AssateagueIsland-114