Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Cape at its Best--With Friends

June 11-12
Cape Cod
This is where we ate breakfast this morning with our Landings friends Nancy and David, our English muffins spread thick with beach plum jelly from one of the 48 jars Nancy made with fruit harvested from bushes on the hillside below us. A seagull flies by the window, over the creek that meanders by the house and out to the ocean, where we can see white caps breaking beneath a stormy grey sky. Egrets wade in the shallows of the creek, and a song sparrow sings from a treetop next to the window. Now we understand why Nancy and David spend more time here than they do at the Landings.

After we arrived yesterday, we all hopped in Nancy's Saab convertible and wound our way around the hills and dales of their charming corner of the Cape, stopping at some of their favorite beaches and overlooks and learning about their life here over the past 38 years or so. We stopped for cocktails on the porch of their Country Club, high on a hill with panoramic views of a scenic inlet beyond the rolling greens of their links course. (They had to work their way up the waiting list for seventeen years before a golf membership finally became available!) We continued on to the historic Chatham Bar Inn to look over the ocean from its high cliff vantage point, watching the waves break over the famous sandbar from which the Inn takes its name. Inside, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner together.

Summarizing our tour du jour David said, "This is the Cape at its best," and we couldn't agree more.

Today, Dick and I hiked around an area David recommended to us called Fort Hill. Our path took us through oak and pine woods, on a boardwalk over a swamp, across wildflower covered meadows, and along a dune ridge overlooking the ocean. There was a large rock along the trail where Native Americans sharpened their knives and tools—the deep grooves and smooth sections of the rock clearly showing how they used its surface.

Then we went to the Salt Pond Visitor's Center, which serves as an orientation area for visitors to Cape Cod National Seashore. We hopped on our bicycles there and rode along a small section of the 48 mile long paved rail trail that covers a broad swath of the Cape. We stopped for lunch at a trailside restaurant, and just as we started back the grey skies turned to rain, soaking us as we rode.

We changed into dry clothes, and chanced upon a ranger-led walk just beginning as we returned to the Visitor Center and the rain stopped. We learned about the Cape's kettle ponds (left by glaciers receding during the last Ice Age) and cranberry bogs, and we tasted salt pickles (a small plant growing at the tidal margin that tastes like salty grass and is the size of a pickle a Barbie doll might eat). One of the more interesting tidbits we picked up from the tour was that Massachusetts and Maine are the only two states where tidal property lines extend to the low tide line, rather than high tide line. This is because salt grass was harvested for animal feed and bedding in the early years, and property owners wanted to protect their rights to the "crop." Since land titles continue to convey that way here, if someone in Maine or Massachusetts tells you to get off their beach, they might actually have the right. It is always good to know stuff like this to avoid acting like a jerk.

We could enjoy spending longer here, and Nancy and David couldn't be more welcoming hosts, but our list of sights to see is long, and our time to get to our appointment with the puffins in Maine is short, so we are heading north to Boston tomorrow.

Goodbye Nancy and David--thank you for inviting us here and for giving us such a wonderful introduction to Cape Cod!

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