2011 Vacation: Day Five: Cape Cod

Park Headquarters for the Cape Cod National Seashore
Park Headquarters for the Cape Cod National Seashore

I began the day with a six-mile run along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a converted railroad right of way for bicycles and runners.  After cleaning up, we headed to The Last Stop, a local deli, for tremendous breakfast sandwiches and sandwiches to take in the cooler for lunch.  Our first stop was the park headquarters for the Cape Cod National Seashore, where we took a couple of hikes nearby.

Salt pond near park headquarters
Salt pond near park headquarters

One of the hikes took us near this salt pond.  When glaciers receded from this area, they left blocks of ice that created depressions that filled with fresh water bubbling up from the water table.  These are called “kettle ponds.”  Over time, due to erosion and other factors, some of these kettle ponds became connected to the ocean.  The tide at this salt pond can change the water level by several feet during the day.  A lot of sea-water wildlife is left in little ponds as the tides go out each day, making it easy to see some of it up-close.  Incidentally, this was the only nature trail I’ve ever seen that was set up to enable blind people to enjoy it.  There were ropes to hold while walking the trail that had cork stops in front of plaques, written in Braille.

Plaque commemorating the site of the first trans-atlantic wireless station
Plaque commemorating the site of the first trans-atlantic wireless station
View of the beach from the site of Marconi's towers
View of the beach from the site of Marconi's towers

We stopped near Wellfleet, where Marconi set up the first trans-Atlantic wireless tower.  The ground has eroded around the area, so the original towers have fallen or been taken down, but the site is marked by a nice plaque and a scale model of the tower setup under glass.

Mayo Beach in Wellfleet
Mayo Beach in Wellfleet

You really couldn’t get to the beach near the Marconi site, so we drove to one of the public beaches, Mayo Beach, in Wellfleet.  We arrived about 1230.  By 1400, most of the beach was gone due to rising tides.  The water was VERY warm.  Apparently on this bay side of Cape Cod, the water is much more shallow, and therefore much warmer.  In this picture you see the kids fighting in vain to preserve the foundation of their sand castle from the encroaching tide.  They lost their epic battle against nature.

View from "Pilgrim Heights"
View from "Pilgrim Heights"

Later we stopped at an area, named “Pilgrim Heights.”  The pilgrims first landed at Cape Code and spent five weeks exploring various parts of the cape looking for a suitable site to build their colony.  This area is part of their second expedition, where they found their first fresh water since leaving England.  They didn’t think the area was suitable for a colony and eventually moved to Plymouth.  The view from here was really nice, because you could see salt pond, lower and upper marsh, and the ocean.  By the way, we made a bunch of mosquitos’ days walking along the marsh trail.

Race Point Beach
Race Point Beach

Working our way further up the cape we stopped at Race Point Beach to visit the old lifesaving station.  This is a nicely restored lifesaving station.  From here, members of the Lifesaving Service would watch for wrecked boats and launch into the stormy weather to rescue seamen.  The Lifesaving Service eventually was combined with the Coast Guard.  Near the lifesaving station is Race Point Beach, where we spent a little time on the white, sandy beach.  The Mayo Beach on the bay side was covered in broken shells and dead crustaceans.  Race Point Beach was white, clean sand, more like Panama City, FL.

Pilgrim Memorial
Pilgrim Memorial

In Provincetown, we saw the Pilgrim Memorial, the tallest granite structure in North America.  This commemorates where the pilgrims first landed.

Outside the Waydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown
Outside the Waydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown

Also in Provincetown was a nice little museum dedicated to showing off some of the relics and telling the salvage story of the pirate ship Whydah.  Whydah was commanded by Sam Bellamy, who was the most successful pirate ever — until his ship ran aground near Provincetown, cracked open, and went down.  There were only ten survivors, two of whom were sold into slavery and six of whom were executed.  The museum had interesting displays about how they found the wreck and how they bring up parts of the treasure.  At this point they’ve brought up only 6% of the treasure.

The rest of Provincetown was crowded and touristy.  While some of the shops and restaurants looked interesting, the crowds were so heavy we didn’t really want to go in any of them.  The crowds were thick, the drivers nuts (made worse by skateboarders weaving in and out of traffic apparently oblivious to the cars), and many of the locals of deviant proclivities.  Suffice to say other than the beach and the pirate museum, we didn’t enjoy Provincetown.  We were also getting hungry.  The pool at our hotel closed at 2000, so we drove back to Orleans so the kids could play in the pool while I picked up a couple of pizzas for dinner.

Tomorrow we’re off to Plymouth and then on to Boston.

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