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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

The beautiful green-hued light that comes from the boggy bits of Punkhorn Parklands drew me in like a siren's song.

The beautiful green-hued light that comes from the boggy bits of Punkhorn Parklands drew me in like a siren's song.

You know those visualization exercises where you’re supposed to conjure up a safe and happy place? Well, mine goes something like this: I’m walking through some obscure patch of woods on Cape Cod. No one is around. It’s quiet. It’s beautiful. I’m filled with peace. Then I see a small, unmarked trail and, after deciding to follow it, I stumble upon a perfect, people-free, undiscovered pond where I have a leisurely swim in waters as sweet as honeysuckle and as gentle and inviting as an old cotton t-shirt. So, that’s the pinnacle. That’s what I’m searching for when I incompetently bumble around these conservation lands, and national parks, and random patches of shaggy scrub pines. But, that happy place is pure fiction. What I tend to experience instead is a bit dirtier, more comical, and a lot less placid. It always involves mosquitoes, getting lost, getting found, and getting lost again, yet, sometimes, just sometimes, I get a brief encounter with the happy place I’ve settled on in my mind. And so it was yesterday, as I battled my way through the endless maze of trails in Punkhorn Parklands in Brewster. With my sneakers blackened by bog gunk, my dog about to collapse from dehydration (and resentment) and only the GPS on my iPhone to guide me, I found my way to that perfect pond, took a serene swim, and snatched a moment from time where my real matched my ideal. (more…)

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Woods

My dog, following her bliss, at the dog-friendly Kent's Point Conservation Area. This clearing is the former location of the house of Charlotte Kent, who was the original owner of the property. She sold the land to the town of Orleans in 1988.

Most beaches become dog-free zones in the summer months, making Cape Cod dogs some of the few creatures living amongst us that cannot wait for October to roll around so that they may, once again, experience the simple pleasures of fetching a stick in the ocean without restriction or impunity. Because our usual walking spots are now the breeding grounds for piping plovers and (extremely noisy) least terns, as well as the playground of families from all over the country, my dog and I have taken to the woods, but, alas, the mosquitoes and ticks have simultaneously taken to feasting on our flesh. And there’s nothing like a pesky mosquito fanatically buzzing around your head to make you ache for the strong ocean breeze that is, as of now, strictly off-limits to my dog and me. But, while I was canoeing around Pleasant Bay in Orleans a couple weeks ago, I spotted something that excited me more than any of the other wonders I encountered that day; I saw four dogs (with three humans in tow), off leash, swimming in the ocean and running on the beach. Any dog owner will understand that a sight such as this is something worth investigating. I quickly found out that this puppy Valhalla is Kent’s Point, a 24 acre conservation land in Orleans, and, after my faithful companion and I visited, I am happy to declare it the best place for dogs on Cape Cod. (more…)

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blueberries 2

The large number of unripened blueberries at the Taylor-Bray Farm's blueberry patch means that they'll be be berries to pick for the next couple of weeks - at least!

We are thick into blueberry-picking season and I don’t know of any pick-your-own spot more beautiful than the one to be found at Taylor-Bray Farm – a gorgeous, 22-acre working farm in Yarmouth Port that dates back to 1639. I arrived at the farm early in the morning – tupperware in hand – ready to do some serious picking. As I walked the verdant fields toward the blueberry patch, with views of the Black Flat marsh stretched out ahead of me, I saw two cottontail bunnies hopping about and a multitude of swallows flitting and flying low along the grass. And then I saw the glorious blueberry bushes, standing at about 7 feet tall and heavy with both ripened and unrippened berries. Ah, yes, I thought. This is a perfect summer moment.

I got right into the patch, greedily picking all that my quickly working fingers could grab. My mind emptied and quieted. Much like a ninja (if a ninja picked his own fruit, which I’m sure he does), I was focused; I was quick; I was agile. As soon as my tupperware was full, I climbed into my car, my hands wrapped around my bounty. Then I looked at the time – an hour and a half had passed since I had arrived at Taylor-Bray Farm. Had it been that long? It only felt like a few minutes.

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A shot of Meetinghouse Pond

Meetinghouse Pond as seen from the middle of a canoe.

I ask you to picture this: A Connecticut couple drive their shiny new white convertible Corvette to Cape Cod for a romantic week-long getaway. They are young, healthy, and beautiful. They are on vacation. Life is good. The woman, a bit on the outdoorsy side, suggests taking part in a lovely canoe ride along the bay and estuaries of Orleans. It’s something she’s read about in one of her guidebooks. “It’s organized by the National Seashore, led by a couple of rangers and everything,” she says. The man, slightly less interested, eventually gives in and agrees to go. “It’ll be fun – a new adventure,” she says, trying to be light and encouraging. But once they arrive, and find themselves surrounded by other anxious-faced tourists, then forced to wear musty life vests, and sign a consent form ensuring some (forever unknown and invisible) entity that, yes, they have listened to all the safety precautions recited by the ranger, it becomes clear to the woman that this is not exactly what she imagined. She looks worriedly over at the man, hoping he won’t hold this misstep against her. He looks back, stone-faced and unsmiling. And then, as if to further aggravate what seems to be an already unfortunate situation, the ranger informs the couple that, due to the size of the group (17 people) and the number of canoes (6), they must take someone else in their boat. “Oh, great,” they both say to themselves, silently. The ranger then points to a strange creature – dressed in all black, visible white streaks of poorly applied sunscreen (of some mercilessly high SPF, they are sure) covering her pale arms, a baseball cap obscuring her face. “You take her,” the ranger says to the couple. The creature lifts her head and wanly smiles at them. And so, dear reader, I must admit the sad truth to you. The strange creature in this tale is me. Cast in this romantic love scene as the unwanted outsider. The third wheel in a canoe. The odd man out. (more…)

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Where am I? Provence? My eyes could not believe the color of these golden fields of heath at the Welfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Where am I? In a Van Gough painting? My eyes could not believe the color of these golden fields of heath at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Once I was out walking around the salt marsh, heath, and ponds of the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, surrounded by the happiest birds on Cape Cod and some of the most profound beauty I’ve ever seen, it seemed impossible to me that I’d spent a lifetime on the Cape without ever coming here, but somehow (dumbly) I managed. But now that I’ve been here once, it will be difficult to keep me away from this incredible place. The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, located off Route 6 in Wellfleet (close to the Wellfleet Drive-in) and part of Mass Audubon, a Massachusetts organization that fights for wildlife and habitat protection, is a hands down, must-visit destination on Cape Cod.  (more…)

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The ponds on the Beach Forest Trail are like a live-action Monet painting!

The ponds on the Beach Forest Trail are like a live-action Monet painting!

I was so excited to see the Cape Cod National Seashore‘s beautiful Province Lands featured on the cover of the travel section of last Sunday’s New York Times. And, even better, the wonderfully written article was not about the known treasures of that 3,500 acre thick slice of heaven curling around the tippity-top of the Cape, but was about a place that I had never visited – namely, the many glorious ponds found amongst the Province Land’s Beech Forest Trail. I vowed to check it out for myself the very next day. So, yesterday I set out on my journey with little preparation and only a copy of the Times article as my guide. And what I found was, as per usual, not exactly what I had expected. (more…)

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Beautiful Sampson's Island

Beautiful Sampson's Island

Touring the Cape by kayak is one of the most profoundly pleasurable and peaceful ways to travel the bays, rivers, and ocean that surround us. Or so I imagine. Alas, I don’t have a kayak of my very own – leaving me to suffer through bouts of envy as I watch the lucky ones paddle around me. But, I was fortunate enough to be invited to kayak out to Sampson’s Island this morning to soak in some sun and, if only momentarily, feel like one of the lucky ones. Sampson’s Island is a wild barrier beach in Barnstable County that is a quick 15-20 minute kayak ride away from the Cotuit Town Landing or Loop Beach on Ocean View Avenue. The island has tidal flats, salt marshes, and miles of perfect sandy beaches. And also, to my mind, the warmest ocean water on the Cape. It’s also a popular nesting area and hangout spot for many of our charming shorebirds. (more…)

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