ALONG THE CAPE COD NATIONAL SEASHORE
ALONG THE CAPE COD NATIONAL SEASHORE
For a while, when I lived on Cape Cod, I lived in the small town of Eastham, at the southern end of the Cape Cod National Seashore. We had scored a year-round rental, which wasn’t easy. Being the tourist destination that it is, most rentals had one price for the winter off season, and another price for the tourists of summer.
It was a nice, old, two-story home, near the town center historic windmill, and near one of the many ponds throughout the Cape. Hwy. 6 was a couple hundred yards east of us, through sandy woods of coastal pines and past a few houses. It was only about three miles distance from the ocean to the bay.
First Encounter Beach, on the bayside, where the Pilgrims first met Indians before arriving at Plymouth, was a short distance away. It was out in the bay from this beach that an old ship was sunk in the shallows, and used for target practice by the military. Planes would fly in and dive bomb the ship. Usually at night, it was a fine light show.
Just across the street was a cranberry bog. Our dogs loved it. There was a leash law in effect, but often, they got out for a run, usually including the bog. They would come home, wet, and covered with ticks. With little time to really attach themselves, the ticks were easy to remove, and dozens at a time made their way to the kerosene can where they met their demise.
My dog, Kink, and I, once hiked twelve miles of the outer beach of the National Seashore, camping overnight. It was slow going in the sand, most of which I did barefoot, as did Kink, of course. In the morning, our feet and toes were so cramped and strained from hiking on the sand, we could barely walk. We made it to a not so nearby phone, and called home for rescue.
The previous summer, I had tried out for a position of lifeguard at the beach. Two jobs were available, and there were about twenty-five of us. We had to run a quarter mile on the beach, then continue, swimming a quarter mile out into the ocean, and return to the finish at the beach. I came in second on the run, and fourth on the swim, placing third overall. I just missed the job.
THE NIGHT HIKE
I was often up at all hours of the night, and often, if it wasn’t “take your breath away cold” (even in summer it was cold enough for a jacket), I’d take the dogs for a night walk, across Hwy. 6, onto an asphalt bike trail, where I’d let the dogs off-leash. The park trail led to Coast Guard Beach on the Atlantic shore. It was about a two-mile hike from the house and is part of the National Seashore with acres and acres of undeveloped land through pines and meadows.
We saw no one at night, and only a few folks, sometimes, in the early morning. The dogs covered many times my own distance as they followed their noses to and fro after critters and whatever else caught their fancy. They would circle back to check up on me regularly.
Into astronomy at the time, I was familiar with the stars and planets as they traversed the sky. The little artificial light cast by the whole of the Cape, and the clear air, lent itself to stargazing, as well as seeing jets, sky high, making their way to Europe, or returning.
The bike path that winded its way to the beach was about six feet wide and flush to the ground. Much to my delight, I found that I could close my eyes, and without fear of running into anything, or of twisting an ankle, I could negotiate surprising distances by feel, or something extra-sensory, without stepping off the path. It didn’t seem possible. I looked forward to the exercise, trying to increase the distance I could go.
There was only one place of concern. The trail crossed a road, and a post was set in the path to keep cars from turning onto the trail. At that point, my game was over, and it was but a short distance to the beach.
If it was near enough to dawn, we’d stay for the sunrise, knowing we were of the few who saw the sunrise on the United States. Oftentimes, great banks of fog rolled onto the cliffs and Coast Guard buildings above the beach.
Soon enough, we’d backtrack home for a tick-check, breakfast, and the rest of the day.
Image by visittheusa.com
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