Sunday, April 12, 1987

1987 Cape Cod (4/10-12/1987)

Friday, April 10, 1987
After a week of rain it finally cleared and warmed up today. After Kent came home from work, we packed the car and headed to “the Cape,” or Cape Cod. We were in a rental car from Mattie VW, which smelled terribly of cigarette smoke. We stopped in Fall River at Mattie’s to pick up Kent’s car, and continued along I-195, past the burned out mill factory that was a twisted mess. When we stopped for gas in Wareham off MA-25, we had to get super unleaded since they had run out of regular gas. We continued on MA-25, the Cranberry Highway, with cranberry bogs along the way. There were also cranberry bogs on the Cape.
We took US-6 at Buzzard’s Bay and suddenly we hit bumper to bumper traffic. I was a bit dismayed that I had gotten Kent caught in the despised Cape traffic, but after passing a couple police cars and dented passenger cars, the traffic eased. We drove along the north side of the Cape Cod Canal that looks like it can handle ocean liners. There were lookout points along the way, and at one was a group of fellows all in similar brown jackets. Visitors from across the Iron Curtain?
We crossed the Sagamore Bridge into sandy hills with pitch pines. Sooner than expected we were onto the two-lane US-6 heading up the forearm of the Cape. We stopped at the Town Crier Motel in Eastham, and Kent went in to get the last queen bed room for $44. We settled into Room 5, then left to eat, using a hand-sketched map from the motel clerk. We got on US-6A back towards Orleans, turned right on Main Street, then an immediate left to Captain Elmer’s. We arrived at 20:00 and the sign said they closed at 20:00, but the let us in, as well as several parties after us. We had a back booth in a place of maple veneer furniture. There were amateurish paintings on the wall, painted lobster claws with stocking caps to look like parrots, oars and other pieces of boats/ships. Kent examined the trussed ceiling and felt the building inspector should not have let them pass inspection. I had a cup of clam chowder that was basic, but creamy, although not piping hot by any means. The dinners were also lukewarm, but good. Thin crispy fries and not tangy coleslaw. I had fish ‘n’ chips with cornmeal type breading that I associate with catfish. Kent had similar breading on his clam strips. With small Diet Cokes, the bill came to $15. We went to the Super Stop ‘n’ Shop to buy breakfast items, and dessert, too! Back to the motel for the mint chocolate chip muffin for me, and a Cadbury chocolate bar for Kent.

Saturday, April 11, 1987
By 8:00 we had breakfasted, checked out, and headed out US-6 in search of the windmill in Eastham. It was a glorious sunny and warm (jacket weather) day. We found the windmill in a large lot across from the town hall. The windmill is the oldest on Cape Cod. They still occasionally grind corn there.
Eastham Windmill
Next we went to the Salt Pond Visitors Center of the Cape Cod National Seashore, where I hoped to find a trail to a White Cedar Swamp. We found the beginning of the Buttonwood Trail, which was made for blind people. On the other side of the amphitheater we found the start of another trail to the Nauset Marsh. No other human life around. A pamphlet explained the geology, and the trees were labeled.
Nauset Marsh Trail guide
We skirted Salt Pond, which is a kettle pond now connected to the ocean by a narrow channel.

Salt Pond
That means this pond is now full of marine life, and not dying of acid rain like so many other kettle ponds. Kettle ponds are in massive holes left when blocks of ice melted after glaciers retreated. Saw what looked like the negative of a loon/surf scoter out on the water. Clamming was allowed at certain times on Sundays. Saw another enchanting grove of leafless trees with wavy trunks.
Black locust tree grove
Found out they are black locusts, a southern native brought to replenish the trees here. We walked along a marsh, climbing a mound covered by red cedars or junipers, intermingled with pitch pines and other trees.
Kent with the red cedars
Looked out over the marsh at the Atlantic Ocean, then headed inland.
Marshy area
Nauset Marsh
Crossed the bicycle path into what was once farmland, but is now full of black locust trees. We stopped for several minutes to watch birds and hear their song. Heard at least two distinct songs, and the clucking of some ground bird. Lots of warbler types, and lots of female cardinals. To return to the car, we followed the last half of the Buttonwood Trail, sometimes pretending to be blind and following the thick rope. Stopped at the rubber floats to feel for information plaques in English and Braille. Most of the plaques were to have you feel the difference between the cedar/juniper and pitch pine, and to feel the various plants.
We drove down a road to the Coast Guard Beach, and then along Nauset Light Beach.
Nauset Light Beach
Nauset Light Beach
Saw the Nauset Lighthouse with its distinctive daymark/the external painted design of red on the top half and white on the bottom.
Nauset Lighthouse
Like most lighthouses, it was round to more easily withstand winds. Although the alternating red and white lanterns are kept revolving, today radio beacons are more readily used. We “climbed” the long flight of stairs down to the beach and stopped in awe partway down to watch a “head” bobbing in the ocean. It was followed by a sleek body as it dove; either a huge seal or a small whale! After admiring the sand cliffs behind us, we walked to the water to search for other creatures, but no luck, Kent tested the water and thought it was already at summer temperatures. The beach was fairly wide and fairly empty today. Lots of sand and no shells.
We climbed back up to the parking lot level, and found information informing us that this was the site of the end of the first transatlantic cable laid from here to St Pierre, Newfoundland and across to France. Apparently pieces of cable can still be seen at low tide. A cable was later extended farther south to Orleans.
As it got warmer, it was time to remove the jackets; perfect weather! We drove farther up US-6 and turned towards Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, now an Audubon Society sanctuary that charges an entrance fee. Since it was off season, we decided to go on to the Marconi Station Area. We passed park headquarters at a former military Camp Wellfleet, and parked at the beach to see the site of the first US-transatlantic wireless station. A model was protected by canvas, and I took a peek to see it was a model of the station as depicted in a picture on an information easel. This was the brain child of Guglielmo Marconi, who had studied the works of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. He was originally from Italy, but worked in London, and ended up in the US. We wandered among the ruins of the station foundation and one of the bases of four towers.
Kent at former base of one of four towers
Kent perusing Marconi Station ruins
We went to an overlook to bask in the sun as we looked east over the ocean, then west over the Cape.
Scrubby sand dunes
There was a house here and there, but basically little civilization was in sight. Most of what we could see was marshland and forest of the 28,000 acre National Seashore.
Across the parking lot we found the White Cedar Trail for which I was looking earlier.
Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail guide
The Atlantic white cedars are unusual on the Cape now, but once were abundant. It was the favored wood for building and nearly all the trees were cut down by early settlers. We followed the trail more or less downhill, with pitch pines on the sandy ground with undergrowth beginning to flower.
Flowering undergrowth
There was some very green moss.
Moss
Suddenly we were at the swamp, and walked along a very well-made boardwalk with smooth edges despite curving this way and that around the swamp, using thousands of planks. There was no railing, but it was low over a shallow swamp. This was a pocket of white cedars, also originally from a warmer climate.
White cedar swamp
White cedar swamp
Boardwalk
Curved tree trunk
It was really neat. There were mounds of moss here and there, plus an air plant or two and stuff like Spanish moss. I was enchanted by the Cape now in early spring, but apparently it is more wonderful when the flowers are in bloom and green leaves are out. Because there were no leaves, we couldn’t tell the difference between bayberry and cranberry bushes, and the poison ivy they had marked hadn’t come up yet. We followed a sandy road back to the car.
Back on US-6 to head to North Truro, and the Highland or Cape Cod Lighthouse.
Highland Lighthouse
To the right in the distance we saw the two giant golf balls of the N Truro Air Force radar station. All around us was a golf course. Unfortunately for Kent, we did not think to bring the golf clubs, and it was such a nice day.
We were making good time as we headed north to the Pilgrim Heights Area of the National Seashore. There we saw a hawk fly in front of us, and tried to get closer, although he flew away before we could take a picture. Found a covered brick thing (another model?) and the start of what I thought was a loop trail. An information easel explained that the Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown (or in the area that became Provincetown!) and made explorations, what they called discoveries, at this end of the Cape. The first “discovery” on the east side found a fresh water spring, which was said to be below us. The third discovery led to an encounter with the Native Americans on what is now First Encounter Beach back near Eastham. We started out on the trail to the left, and as I read the brochure, it didn’t seem to match the trail. Came to outlooks on a bluff to see the marsh below and tremendous sand dunes beyond.
Small's Swamp and sand dunes
We were actually following Small’s Swamp Trail, and were cautioned about poison ivy!
Small's Swamp Trail brochure 
There was a lot of wild rose bramble. The trail took us down and around the marsh, and we climbed through fallen trees to find the path beyond was covered with water. We turned back and I decided to check the trail to the right, which turned out to be another trail, the one to Pilgrim Spring.
Pilgrim Spring Trail guide
Kent was not eager to go, so he sat in the car as I loped along the flat trail through pinewoods to save time. Along earlier trails we had seen large curly droppings encased like sausages. Kent though the only mammalian life out there was deer.
As this trail began winding down to the marsh, I noted a distinct cloven hoof prints, probably of deer if not wild boars! But then I saw large paw prints. Bear? Mountain lion? Or a dog in the no pets allowed area. I trotted warily down the trail, and at the bottom came upon a spring, water flowing from the ground with swamp azaleas behind it. An information easel stated that according to surveying and landmarks, this was most likely The Spring!
The Spring
I trudged back uphill, then trotted along through the woods, across a strange parking lot, and arrived at the car from completely the opposite direction!
We continued along US-6 towards Provincetown, passing placid Pilgrim Lake with tall dunes on the other side. Then the dunes came up to the road, and at one point two guys were shoveling sand into their truck from the side of the road. Kent took the first Provincetown exit, and at the water turned right on a narrow lane between old and small houses with a scattering of larger condo-type buildings, Noted several lavender buildings, or at least one door or shutters of that color. To the left had been summer cottages and homes, but this side looked more like a quaint old town.
Provincetown
Kent parked, thinking we would walk the rest of the way, not realizing the town was 4 miles long! We were in the 700 block, and every number was in use! We returned to the car to keep driving, past the library and commercial establishments, and the town hall. Beaches and boats at docks on the water side. Noted a tall stone tower, which is the Pilgrim Monument to the Pilgrim landing. We kept going until we found the Red Inn, which was recommended for its food.
The Red Inn
It was just after noon, so we parked and went in to get a table by the window in the arboretum. We couldn’t see out the windows because of all the plants! But we could hear the lapping of water. As well as the Air Force golf balls, we could see the Long Point Lighthouse on the very tip of Cape Cod as it curved around in the distance. We had a bit of a wait for the food and Kent pointed out the fishing boat bringing in my Provincetown scallops. Also while we were waiting, we saw a single group of waves coming in, like a wake of a giant ship or a tidal bore.
I had the clam chowder which was herbed and good, although lukewarm. We thought maybe this was the way the chowder was served on the Cape, but the waiter later apologized since others had complained. Kent had the seafood chowder, which was the soup du jour. On the table was a fresh loaf of bread with real butter. My meal was a small dish of good meaty scallops in a lemon butter sauce topped with bread crumbs. I also had rice pilaf with one mushroom slice, and grated carrots and onions. As well as steamed broccoli and cauliflower with a caper lemon sauce. Kent got the Red Inn Omelette with three eggs, crabmeat, avocado, and bleu cheese. It was accompanied by a mound of roasted red potatoes. I had Diet Coke and Kent had coffee, a whole pot. We skipped dessert, and the bill came to over $23.
We drove back around town, looking for the Pilgrim landing, then circled back to the parking lot below the Pilgrim Monument tower.
Pilgrim Monument reliefs
We walked by the bronze relief of Pilgrims and down past the town with its variety of loungers on benches. Followed Commercial Street as we window shopped at some very elegant stores, and some very tacky ones. Lots of candy shops. We bought a ¼ pound tub of fudge and postcards. Found a marine junk store to browse through the German military hats and coats, old canteens, etc. We saw more women couples than men, plus lots of tourists. It was rather crowded for off-season. Returned to the car and drove to the end of US-6A to see the sand dunes and flats of Herring Cove Beach.
Province Lands
Pitch pines
Herring Cove Beach
We took US-6 and turned down Race Point Road to the Provincelands Visitors Center. Climbed a dune at Race Point Beach and walked down to the expanse of sand to the ocean. Some people were sunbathing in swimsuits, but it was cooler on this side compared to the bay side. At about 14:30, we headed back along the Cape, taking a small detour to see the Provincetown airport. Followed US-6 back to Eastham and turned at the windmill to find Bridge Road. We took that to its end to find the Whalewalk Inn where we had reservations for the night and had sent an $80 check.
Whalewalk Inn sign
Whalewalk Inn
We were greeted by the hostess, Ginny de la Chapelle, and taken to the front of the house. There was a “China Export” living room with a WC under the stairs. Next was a nautical/whale themed den, and a “bar” with an ice machine, and small refrigerator with a supply of mixers and soft drinks for 50 cents each. Upstairs we had the pick of two back rooms; we just stayed in the first room shown to us, with its Marimekko bedspread with matching drapes and wallpaper in a dusty blue and white. An old spindle bed, a wooden bench, and a table with country inn and house magazines, and a fresh daffodil bouquet. The nightstand had mints and a good clock radio on it. The spacious bathroom had a stall shower as well as the usual accommodations. A shelf on the wall behind the door was lined with stuffed calico cats. The bathroom had a large bay window, with vases and a large basket on the sill. The four windows along one wall in the bedroom had wooden Venetian blinds. We were made to feel at home, and we got our things and unpacked. Kent wanted to relax, so we went down to the den to have Diet Cokes and eat our fudge. Kent looked at the newspaper, and Ginny brought in a photo album of the inn’s past and renovations. The owners were from Ohio, and had a winter home in Naples, FL, so Kent could find common ground for conversation. We were also shown menus form local eateries and given ideas as to where to walk in the area. After finishing our drinks, we drove out US-6 to the Fort Hill Area. Parked and walked across the street to a rather gaudy Victorian house with a whalebone over the entrance way.
Kent at whalebone gate
Captain Penniman House
This was the Captain Penniman House; he earned his fortune from whaling. We went behind the house to walk the quarter mile to Fort Hill, through a low wet area of scraggly bushes, with a tiny patch of bright yellow daffodils in the middle.
Fort Hill Trail guide
Out in the open we came to a mound covered with grass, which was Fort Hill! It was plateaued with a parking lot, and down the road we could see our car. Looked over the marsh to see the ocean, and followed the road back to the car.
Nauset Marsh
We returned to US-6 and went east to the windmill where we turned north to First Encounter Beach.
First Encounter Beach
The tide was out and a wide swath of sand was exposed, more of a sand bar in the water. When the tide is all the way out, you can hike quite a ways. Out in the bay was a stranded oil tanker, a huge ship once used for naval target-practice.
Stranded oil tanker
Saw lots of razor clam shells on the beach, along with seaweed, and mussel-like clams digging their way into the sand.
Fucus vesiculosus/Bladder Wrack
We drove back along Bridge Road to the inn, passing some patches of marsh with ditches of water in such a pattern to suggest ancient irrigated farmland.
Whale weathervane
Our host, Norman, was in the den when we got back. He was an experienced conversationalist, and he and Kent talked while they had half an eye on the golf tournament on TV. It was the inn’s cocktail hour with hors doeuvres. We passed on any drinks, while Ginny went through five glasses of wine and Norman nursed two martinis. Both smoked incessantly. But the hors d’oeuvres were great! Tiny pretzels with a mustard, honey, and horseradish dipping sauce, and Duchess of Windsors/small squares of toast with a mixture of bacon and green onion in mayonnaise. Later came crackers and Swiss cheese. We were joined by a couple from New Jersey, Kate and Ned with their friend, Joanne, who were going to Cap’n Cass for a lobster dinner. We were thinking of something different, and left about 20:00 to go to the Binnacle of Orleans, for gourmet pizza. When we arrived, it was closed for renovations! We drove up US-6A to Land Ho, but it was crowded, so we tried to find the Jailhouse. It looked fancy, with clientele in ties and dresses, so we continued to Rock Harbor, and ended up at Cap’n Cass! We were invited to join the New Jerseyites, at a real linoleum table type of place. They had two orders of onion rings before getting their steamers , then lobsters. Kent and I had the clam chowder (seemingly made of seawater with bits of clam shell in it!), also lukewarm. We shared an appetizer order of fried clams and fried scallops. We left shortly after 21:00 to see if we could catch the Leonard-Hagler boxing match on HBO, but it was over. Went to the room to shower and read. We didn’t want to go to bed too early, since breakfast was served relatively late at 8:30 the next morning.

Sunday, April 12, 1987
We dragged out the getting ready and packing, and arrived downstairs at 8:25. Kent was able to serve himself coffee, and we still had a bit of a wait for breakfast. The sideboard with the coffee pot also had an ornate German pewter “fruit-tree” dish. An old German pewter trophy was on the windowsill. We counted all the ducks and fowl in various forms in the dining room. Finally breakfast was served: scrambled eggs cut into a square with real bacon bits and melted cheese on top, with a twisted orange slice and wedge of watermelon. There was a basket of mini-muffins. We had orange or tomato juice. We were joined by Linda and Bob, and the New Jerseyites arrived later. We excused ourselves and checked out, paying an additional $8 in taxes. The hosts were eager to pass along travel hints, and we were sent off with a sketch of a map. We went out to the rotary and took US-6A into Orleans, then took MA-28. Saw a Victorian water pump along the road! Through forests into Chatham, then straight through to the water’s edge where there was a lighthouse. Looking out across the Chatham Harbor to the natural breakwater, we saw where storms had broken through.
Chatham Harbor
Couldn’t find Shattuck Place and the gristmill. Took Main Street through Chatham back to MA-28, and took that to MA-137 past the airport. Crossed US-6 and ended up at US-6A in Brewster. Took a left fork and found a gristmill, the site of the country’s first gristmill.
Brewster Gristmill
It had a new wheel, but was not back in operation yet. Walked around the upper pond and stream, and saw plenty of fish, about a foot long with silver bellies. Found an information board that on one side told of the gristmill, and on the other side explained the herring run, with the fish ladders to assist the fish in running upstream to spawning pools. This type of herring was known as the alewife. We crossed the road to the lower streams to realize that the crowds of people were here for the herring run! A sign prohibited fishing on Sundays, so we wondered why people were poised to reach in and grab a fish. Then we saw that they were taking the fish and throwing them farther up the ladder to give them an extra boost!
Herring run
However, the info sign indicated that human handling of the fish was harmful to the oiliness of the scales. One guy had his dog sniff a seemingly terrified fish.
Herring run
We trudged up the hill to the car, and made our way back to US-6A. Continued through Dennis to Yarmouth Port, which is supposed to be an unblemished town of typical Cape Cod architecture. I wasn’t that impressed. The houses were varied and spread apart, and most were new.
Kent with a spooky old tree
We found Strawberry Lane with the simple house of Captain Bangs Hallet, a restored 18th century house. It was closed and actually looked lived in as we approached it from the back parking lot. Admired a large weeping beech tree and Kent went partway up the nature trail to take a leak as I photographed the dried out herb garden called Wheel of Thyme.
Wheel of Thyme Garden at Captain Bangs Hallet House
We continued up Strawberry Lane a ways, then turned around to find a road heading towards the water to look across at the Sandy Neck Lighthouse. We continued through newer neighborhoods towards and across US-6 to Hyannis.
View towards Sandy Neck
We drove down Ocean Street to stop a moment at the docks to see the fishing boats.
Hyannis fishing boats
Lobster traps
We continued until we found Veteran’s Memorial Park, but no Kennedy Memorial. We turned back and saw the JFK Memorial next door, with an empty pool and non-functioning fountain. There was a semi-circular wall bearing the Presidential Seal on the back, and a JFK bas relief on the front.
John F Kennedy Memorial
We turned on Gosnold Street and ended up on Sea Street to the Main Street of restaurants and boutiques. Worked our way along back roads past riding stables to finally find Centre Street in West Barnstable. Just past US-6 we found the West Parish Meetinghouse.
West Parish Meetinghouse
Meetinghouse weathervane
A service was in session, but you could see the plain white Congregational Church, the oldest in the country. It had a Paul Revere bell cast in 1806 and a huge 1723 English weathercock. We continued on to US-6A into Sandwich. Passed the Green Briar Nature Center with a nature trail promoting the interests of Thornton W Burgess, a naturalist and author of Old Mother West Wind, where one of the characters is Peter Rabbit. We headed to MA-130 and glimpsed the Dexter Gristmill at the head of a large pond. Further along the pond was the restored Eldred House, now a museum of Burgess memorabilia. Farther along we stopped to photograph the Hoxie House, a restored salt box style house.
Hoxie Saltbox House
Hoxie House
This photo shows the typical saltbox shape;
saltboxes were made of wood with a lid
Sandwich Millpond behind the Hoxie House
Everything was closed for the season. So we got on US-6 and headed homeward. Along the strip in Buzzard’s Bay we stopped for a three-way special at Papa Gino’s, getting a large pizza with a choice of three toppings; we chose LinguiƧa, black olives, and anchovies. With medium Diet Cokes it came to under $10. Took half the pizza home.

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