Sunday, February 28, 2016

National Seashore Walk Part 3

I realize that I call this a bi-weekly blog, and sadly, that has not really been the case. Last Sunday, instead of writing this, I decided that it would be fun to be violently ill instead. Basically, life gets in the way sometimes and mucks about with the best laid plans. Not that I'm one for well laid plans, honestly. My point, I think, is that I try my best to get this out twice a month, and I truly appreciate anyone who bothers to read it and finds it entertaining.

So, onward with our walk. It's a beautiful day today, but rather than go on this walk, I'll just write about it because unfortunately, the sickness that struck me last weekend is still hanging in and heavy physical exertion is not in my repertoire. We left off at the Love Tree (happy belated Valentines Day btw) and were headed up to the view of Nauset Outer Beach.

I only took one snow picture, apparently, though its all gone now. Snow doesn't tend to last on the Cape. We only had a handful of actual cold days before it was in the 50's again and a healthy dousing of rain melted it all away. But I digress...

These two benches overlook Nauset Beach, the inlet that separates ocean from the sheltered marsh, Orleans Cove, and Salt Pond. The wind is always blowing off the water, and you can just hear the waves on the distant beach. This is an amazing place to be during storms, though it is also a place you are NOT supposed to be during storms, for obvious reasons. Let's just pretend I've never been there when I shouldn't be...

I always stop here and just look for a while. It's at the top of a small hill, so it's a nice place to take a rest anyway. There is a large open field opposite the water (which I stood in to take the pictures) that is also beautiful, especially in the summer when it's full of wildflowers, but I forgot to take a picture of it. This time of year, when it's not covered in snow, its a wash of golden brown dead grass with little tufts of milkweed pods clinging in protected spots. When I was a child, I loved going on this walk when the milkweed was out and I could touch the soft cottony seed pods. We would gather the hard outer shells once they were empty and make Christmas ornaments and other artwork with them, My brother and I might have used them as weapons as well, but that's another story.

After taking a moment to enjoy the view of the ocean, the walk slopes downhill and past a little marsh. I saw a heron in it once and stood watching it for over half an hour. The trail curves back up into the woods and away from the water. Here's another little view of what the path looks like in the better places.
For the next ten or fifteen minutes, its just a quiet, winding trail through the woods. I rarely see anyone else on this part for some reason. I think it might be because most people get to the Nauset Beach view and turn back. And the people who start the walk on the other side tend to do the smaller circle within the larger one, cutting out the woodsy section that I enjoy. I probably love it so much because no one is ever there. Well, someone was, based on the footprints in the snow, but way less people than on the rest of the walk.
The walk bisects the bike path, which always strikes me as a little abrupt, After the quiet and complete woodiness of the past 15 minutes, the slab of pavement always makes me a sad. I cross over it and continue down toward the swamp, and the last little bit of the walk. The return to civilization becomes more evident as the trail crosses a paved service road. Just past the road, there is a choice to go left or right. If you were to follow instructions and read the trail map, it's not really a choice, it's just that I take the long way I'm looking at the middle of the smaller walk. The signs tell you to go left, but I always go right, down the hill into the marsh.

I honestly do not know it's real name, and rather than do the research and find out, I'll just tell you what I've always heard it called: the Blind Trail. The smaller trail goes from the visitor center building in a small loop that only takes about 15 or 20 minutes to do. The entire thing is lined by posts with a rope connecting them, When I was in school they would bring classes of children to this spot, blindfold them, and have them walk it holding onto the ropes, so we could experience what it's like to be blind. None of us took it seriously, we all tripped each other and giggled and peaked through the blindfolds, but I'm very glad my school tried to educate us like that. I doubt children are allowed to miss studying for MCAS long enough to walk in the woods, nowadays.

There are signs throughout the entire area giving the names of trees, but on the Blind Trail, there are informational plaques that talk about the history of the area. They are written in braille as well, seeing as it is the Blind Trail. They mention the Nauset Native Americans who used to live in the area, as well as the original settlers. I never read any of them as a child, but I've since started to take a moment to educate myself as I walk.
Sometimes, I'll close my eyes and hold the rope and see how far I can go without looking. Electrical tape is wrapped around the rope in places to mark where there are steps. Unfortunately, over time, some of the tape is gone, the rope has shifted, and erosion has caused the steps to move. It's a dangerous game to trust the tape.

The last little bit of the walk is a shallow pond that is completely filled with some kind of plant that I can no remember the name of. They are bright red in the summer then turn into sad brown sticks in the winter. Whatever they are, the plaques tell all about them and how there used to be a farm there. A bridge lets you walk out into it. During the summer, its so loud because of the gigantic bullfrogs that you can't even hear the highway, which is not very far away. There are always tons of red-wing black birds there as well, singing.

After the bridge, the trail climbs slowly up a hill back to the visitor center. And that is the walk. It took me 3 blog posts to get it all in there, and I could have gone on, honestly. I didn't even mention the side path that leads to Doane Rock. That's largely because I plan on doing a whole blog about Doane Rock, though I don't plan on walking to it from the National Seashore path. You can drive right up to it, which suits me just fine this time of year.

Thank you so much for walking with me.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

National Seashore Walk Part 2

It's been a while since I wrote Part 1, but if you want a refresher, just scroll down and read that one first. I recently went for a walk the other day after work and got some actual winter-looking pictures. I'm going to end up mixing the ones I took a few weeks ago in, but at least some are more accurate for right now. I'll start with a contrast. These are pictures of Salt Pond taken only about two weeks apart, from close to the same spot.

There is a group of swans and ducks that live in the pond for the winter, and you can easily see them from the highway.

Anyway, so I left off last time crossing over the little bridge, leaving Salt Pond behind. The trail curves and you head up into the woods on a path with questionable wooden stairs scattered throughout in various stages of decay and angle. The picture I have is of the good ones. Some of them have eroded away. Some of them were just built into the ground and are basically glorified jumps. I love it, but this is not a trail for a wheelchair or someone who walks with a cane. It is wonderful to bring 4 to 12 year olds, because they can't resist the running and jumping and it tires them out wonderfully. It also provides the opportunity for skinned knees and filthiness, but those are good things in my opinion.

The next section through the woods is really my favorite part of the walk. It's quiet, and far enough from the highway that you can't hear it anymore. The trees in that section are particularly interesting. Most of the woods in the area are scrub pine, locust trees, lots of cedars, with some oak and cherry. There are tons of vines throughout this part of the walk that have made extremely interesting designs as they weave through the trees.

 One tree gains particular attention. Probably due to the way it grew into a natural seat, people were drawn to it. And they drew on it. Who knows who was the first person to carve their initials and their lovers' with a heart through them into the bark. This was way back before facebook when people had to revert to a knife and tree to share their relationship status with the world. I've always loved this tree. I love to sit on it and run my fingers over the carvings. I've always thought of it as the Love Tree, though I don't think it has an official name. It sits to the right of the path, with a little mini-path leading to it. If you aren't paying attention (looking down at your feet and listening to Pandora on your phone), you might miss it. Even if you were only a little distracted, you might not notice it as anything more than a weirdly shaped tree. If you are going to go for a walk in nature, leave the devices and technology behind so that you don't miss the beauty of the natural world around you.

I'm going to end on this note today, though we are still just shy of halfway through the walk. Just past the Love Tree is an amazing view of Nauset Beach, but you'll just have to read the next blog to see it. Another option is to read Catching Bodel, because Bodel and Zach go for this exact walk on Valentines Day (shameless self-promotion). I promise I won't make you wait long for the next blog entry, and it will be the final part of this walk. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and my quirky little commentary.