I am fortunate that I get to travel for business to lots of great locations like San Antonio, New Orleans and San Diego. When I initially found out I was going to Boston for a conference, I wasn’t that excited. Boston is a difficult town to navigate by car and the location of the conference meant that I would need to rent a car instead of rely on Uber or Lyft to get around. I also set the intention to try and take a vacation day while there in order to take in the sites. So the question was what sites to take in.
I called my trusty traveling companion: my daughter Natalie. We have been to many places together and I knew she would be a good person to bounce ideas off of. My first inclination was to go north to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire and return to beautiful Lake Winnipesauke, where I spent my summers as a child. My dad worked every summer at a boy’s camp near Alton Bay, New Hampshire. In the last five years, I have stopped by several times to visit. A trip down memory lane. Another option was Cape Cod. As a small kid, we would make a side trip to Cape Cod on our annual pilgrimage to New Hampshire from Wilmington, Delaware, usually because a relative was vacationing there. Natalie suggested, “So one trip is lake water and the other is ocean water. One is down memory lane and the other is an adventure.” I realized I hadn’t been to a beach in several years (even though I live 80 minutes from the North Carolina coast). I also hadn’t been on a solo adventure lately. So ocean it was.
My memory of Cape Cod is really fuzzy and based on photos of the trips we took there, I have to believe I was about 9 years old. I recall that my Uncle Jim and Aunt Naomi would rent a home somewhere on the Cape and we would stop by in our old blue Ford Country Squire Station Wagon. By we, I mean my parents and my two older brothers, Dave and Rick. I remember always claiming “the way back” in that station wagon, so I could sleep in a makeshift camp amongst the luggage and decks of cards. I remember thinking that renting a house for a week seemed crazy. Why not just stay there forever? I remember taking a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. I remember grabbing clams along the beach. I remember my two cousins Randy and Gordon. I also recall that everything seemed quite desolate.
Flash forward to 2017. Traveling solo to the tip of Cape Cod in a day. Starting from Hyannis, I headed up Route 6. Here are the stops that I made:
Salt Pond Visitor Center: I saw the sign for the Visitor Center at the Cape Cod National Seashore. I made a beeline to one of the rangers and asked for a map. I then asked the ranger if he could recommend a few hikes as I headed out to Provincetown. He was very helpful, highlighting the map and the exits off of Route 6. What’s a map, Cathy? Don’t you have your phone for that? Sure. Maps are old school but I have learned that when out in the hinterland along the coast, one of two things can happen. Your cell dies from taking too many photos and keeps trying to connect via roaming, or it can’t find a signal and you are left randomly roaming without a map and no chance of returning to home base.
Marconi Station Site: I think I would recommend this site the most. I took the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, which was nice but the coolest spot along the Atlantic Ocean is the Marconi Station Site itself. It has a nice overlook about halfway up the cape, where you can see the waves crashing. It’s a nice vantage point. But the amazing thing is that Marconi Station was the site of the first Transatlantic wireless telegram address to Edward VII King of England by Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. The station was built in 1901 and Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company was the predecessor to RCA. How cool is that? A little piece of history halfway up the arm of Cape Cod.
Race Point Beach: So here is where I finally stood on an Atlantic Ocean beach. The classic dunes and grass that lead to a bare strip of gravelly sand. This is the Cape Cod of my childhood. No boardwalk. No snow cones. No hot dog stands. Just perfection. The ocean waves crashing and no one in the water (bit chilly). There were some folks braving the wind and playing in the sand. There is the simplicity of the Cape Cod beach experience. Sweet peace as the boats roll by and the seagulls dive up and down. I highly recommend the drive to Race Point.
Provincetown: So by now I don’t have a cell signal (see, I told you), so I followed the map and drove until I saw some cute shops and restaurants. I parked on a pier jutting out into Provincetown Harbor. I asked the parking guy for a food recommendation. He asked what I wanted and I said “seafood.” He sent me on my way to the Lobster Pot. Little did I know that it is apparently a Provincetown institution. I had the best lobster roll I have ever had in my life. A table with a view of the harbor. Wonderful. With a full belly, I shopped a bit and took in the quaint, quirky village. Did I mention that after three solid days of cold rain, there were blue skies and temps in the upper 60’s? Simply marvelous.
Highland Light: This has a lovely view of marshlands and the Atlantic coast. The lighthouse was moved back in the 90’s as the coast line has eroded. Lovely Cape Cod buildings with the grasses swaying in the breeze and the Lupine in bloom.
Red Maple Swamp Trail: I have never associated Cape Code with marshes, but this recently finished trail takes you down into a Red Maple swamp along a boardwalk hovering over the marsh water. There was a cedar tree with branches so large you had to crawl under them to stay on the trail. I highly recommend the trail if just for the birds’ calling alone. I heard sounds I had never heard before.
Hyannis Port: I had dinner in Hyannis Port and realize now that this is the spot all the ferries leave for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. So I must have been here at some other point in my life. I had a bucket of steamers which are so much more authentic that the ones I used to get on the west coast. Unique little town with a ton of boats and a small army of people orchestrating cars, people and ferries. Quite the bustling village.
Overall, it was a wonderful day of hiking, shopping, eating and adventure. Cape Cod on a weekday before the summer heat is a wonderful treat.