“If you’re going to visit the Cape, make sure you go before the summer,” a friend, a lifelong New England resident, intoned solemnly over dinner several week ago.
With that advice ringing in my ears, on a beautiful Sunday morning I set out for Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a 65-mile long geographic cape that extends from the southeastern mainland of the state into the Atlantic. My destination would be Cape Cod National Seashore Park, which is maintained by the National Park Service. This 43,000 acre park seeks to preserve the unique environment of the Cape. Although in previous posts I have typically begun by writing a short synopsis of my trip, for today I thought I would allow my photographs to tell the story. So let’s begin…
Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Cape Cod was one of the first locations in North America explored by Europeans, but it has a far longer record of human activity before the Spaniards and English arrived: Cape Cod was inhabited by Native Americans for at least 10,000 years.
Setting off on a beautiful Sunday in April. Unlike in New Jersey, when you can reach shore towns by multiple roads, Cape Cod has only primary one roadway: Route 3, which turns into Route 6. At points, Route 6 becomes a two-lane road. Not exactly ideal for handling summer beach traffic.
In 1914, Cape Cod was physically separated from the rest of the state by the Cape Cod Canal, a 7-mile long manmade waterway which connects Cape Cod Bay with Buzzards Bay. Two bridges cross the canal: Sagamore Bridge and Bourne Bridge. This is Sagamore.
Arriving at the southern tip of Cape Cod National Seashore, I stopped at the Salt Pond Visitor Center at the southern end of Cape Cod National Seashore. The Visitor Center was full of information about the history and geography of the region. The park ranger on duty was highly knowledgable, and advised me of some great places to visit, given my limited time. I also learned that Cape Cod is actually quite young: it is only 16,000 – 20,000 years old and formed at the end of the last ice age.
Nauset Beach. The geography of the Cape Cod beaches is much different than those in New Jersey. Note the dunes on the left; at some beaches on the cape, the dunes rise as high as 150 feet.
The landscape of Cape Cod is constantly evolving. It is not uncommon for a dune to slide down into the sea. Warning signs abound.
DH, back in his natural environment. He only looks truly like himself with a coat of sea spray on his paint and sand in his floor mats.
Nauset Light. Built in 1923, Nauset Light was moved from its original location in 1995 after beach erosion caused the lighthouse to be dangerously close to falling into the ocean. By the time the move was completed, the ocean was only 50 feet away from the lighthouse’s front door. In the background is the lighthouse keeper’s home.
Six miles north of Nauset Beach is Marconi Beach. The beach is named for Marconi Station, a transmitting station that sent the first transatlantic radio communication in 1903. In 1912, it would play an important role in history. The station received a transmission from the sinking luxury liner RMS Titanic. Marconi Station would then send a signal to the nearby vessel Carpathia, which was able to assist, rescuing 705 of Titanic’s survivors.
Marconi Beach. Fences prevent you from venturing too far along the dunes. Continuous erosion means the landscape of the Cape is constantly in flux.
My next stop was to Provincetown, which is located at the northernmost tip of Cape Cod. Long a summer resort, Provincetown is home to artists, tourists, scenic beaches, and a vibrant LGBT community. This is Commercial Street, where most of the town’s businesses and restaurants can be found.
Quick stop for lunch at Vorelli’s Grill. I went with the delicious crab cake sandwich and fries. Bonus points for my waiter offering me a choice of malt vinegar or ketchup. I chose wisely.
When we were children, our history books taught us that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. This is only half true. Plymouth was the Pilgrims’ second landing place in America. The first location was in what would eventually become Provincetown. It was in Provincetown that the Pilgrims also drew up the rules for their community, which history now calls the Mayflower Compact. This monument honors the Pilgrims’ role in Provincetown, along with the Native Americans who kept them alive.
Whaler’s Wharf, a very cool three-level plaza of shops, eateries, and business offices. The original building burned to the ground in 1998. Its replacement was erected in the early 2000s.
The remains of a derelict pier behind Whaler’s Wharf. The sky had become dramatically more foreboding during lunch.
As I got back on the road, the skies continued to darken. Provincetown is straight ahead.
When I got out of my car to take this picture, I hadn’t realized how close I was parked to the edge of the road, which drops straight down into the Bay. Dear Readers, your humble scribe almost took an accidental bath.
Heading to the Province Lands Visitor Center to the north of Provincetown. Province Lands marks the northern end of Cape Cod National Seashore Park. Perhaps I have read too many tales by Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, but overcast days always gives New England an eerie quality, as if a new horror story is waiting just around the corner.
Standing at the Province Lands Visitor Center, looking north toward the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the gloomy skies, I was on a mission: the park ranger at Salt Pond told me that whales had been spotted near here. The park ranger at the Province Lands Visitor Center took me outside, handed me her binoculars, and helped me find the whales. I was able to see at least five whales by their spouts. It was too far away for me to take a photograph, but it was definitely one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed.
I arrived back at DH just as a downpour began. To quote Mark Twain: “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”
I finished my day by stopping back at the Visitors Center and getting another stamp in my National Park Services Passport!
I titled this post “Cape Cod: An Introduction,” as today’s trip was the first of what will be many explorations of this beautiful region. Future trips will include Race Point Beach, Highland Light (also known as Cape Cod Light), Head of the Meadow Beach, and the towns of Wellfleet, Sandwich, and Chatham. I am looking forward to sharing these adventures with you in the coming months Thanks for coming along on another Voyage of DH!
‘Til next time.