Rich and I began our inn keeping careers in North Conway, NH in the heart of the White Mountains before moving to West Barnstable, MA. Living in the shadow of Mt. Washington, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, and surrounded by five major ski slopes, was a bit daunting for couch potatoes such as ourselves. The area was a haven for skiers, rock climbers, mountain bikers, and other daredevil outdoor types. We stuck out as flatlanders, which was what the locals called folks from away.
Determined to take advantage of this outdoor wonderland, and needing to drop a few pounds after our first summer of inn keeping, I cajoled Rich into trying a few of the hikes in the area. We had done Diana’s Baths, a gentle hike through the woods to a gorgeous waterfall with rock pools, several times with Casey, our yellow lab pup, but it was time to try something a little more challenging. So we set our sites on Black Cap, an easy hike with a paltry 900 foot vertical rise.
We parked at the trail head on a beautiful autumn morning, grabbed our water bottles and hiking poles and started off on the trail. At first we meandered through tall pine woods on a wide, clearly marked trail, but a few hundred feet further the terrain became distinctly more rocky and decidedly uphill. We pressed on, novices that we were, stopping frequently to take long gulps of water and air. Eventually we emerged onto the rock face of Black Cap for a scramble to the summit. We were huffing and puffing for sure, but the view from the top was magnificent. It had taken us just over an hour to make it to the top, and we were hooked on hiking.
We continued hiking the White Mountains every chance we got in the five years we lived up north, branching out to snowshoe in the winter months, and taking on more and more difficult hikes. Just before we left North Conway for our adventure on Cape Cod, we took a final hike up Black Cap where our hiking journey had begun and where we thought it appropriate to say goodbye to the Mt. Washington Valley that had been our home for five years.
Again it was a beautiful fall morning, crisp with an achingly blue sky. We unleashed the dog at the trail head and set off behind her for our final hike in the mountains. When we reached the top, we stood and looked out at the magnificent landscape surrounding us, the foliage bathed in the reds and brilliant oranges of autumn. It was like being in a White Mountain School painting. It had taken us a mere 30 minutes to reach the top this time, but the event spawned a million memories.
We hung up our hiking poles when we moved to the Cape, not so much from lack of desire as from changing tastes. Here when time allows, we bike or kayak, but there are plenty of hiking trails to challenge us when the spirit moves. Here in no particular order are some to consider tackling on your next visit to Cape Cod.
Beebe Woods is a 383-acre conservation area with extensive hiking trails just off the main streets in downtown Falmouth. Take Depot Avenue to the top of the hill. The trails lead out to two different ponds with signs marking the way. Maps and trail guides are available at the 300 Committee Office, 157 Locust St., Falmouth.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History has a network of walking trails through the marsh behind the Museum that lead out to Cape Cod Bay, with additional trails across the street. The Wing Trail goes through upland woodland, salt marsh, dune and tidal flats on a mile-long round-trip walk. Tides can limit access, so check for times of low tide, unless you’re willing to wade through ankle-deep water for a while. For two quick strolls, the “Loop” and South trails at the museum provide a quarter-mile and three-quarter-mile trail, respectively. 869 Route 6A, Brewster, MA.
Nickerson State Park also in Brewster, offers miles of trails that wind though acres of undisturbed woodland and around eight ponds. 3488 Route 6A, Brewster, MA.
Punkhorn Parklands provides miles of trails that can be accessed from Run Hill Road, off Setucket Road in Brewster. The Punkhorn also offers opportunities for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, birding and picnicking. It’s wise to take a map of the parklands with you before you set out to hike, because the network of trails can be confusing. Nearby is the herring run, located at the intersection of Satucket and Stony Brook roads, just down from Run Hill Road.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary provides five miles of trails that wind through varied habitats, including woodlands, salt marsh and heath restoration. 291 Route 6, Wellfleet, MA.
Cape Cod Canal is bordered on either side by paved service roads perfect for walking, bike riding, and in-line skating. Access the Cape-side trail at the end of Freezer Road in Sandwich.
The Murkwood Conservation Area covers 79 acres in East Sandwich, and a short trail meanders through a lovely woodland just off Route 6A near Scorton Creek.
Happy trails to you!