Well, another Cape Cod vacation almost has reached its conclusion, as my wife Sandy and I will be back home just as this story hits the presses. We have had a wonderful time. We’ve done a lot and seen a lot on the 65-mile-long peninsula that we think of as our second home, and which we have visited almost annually since the late 1990s.
In some important respects, Cape Cod (which is part of Massachusetts) far surpasses the suburban jungle, in Pennsylvania, where we reside most of the year. You can find genuine peace and quiet on Cape Cod, for instance, and gorgeous waters, sands and marshlands too. In our overpopulated and overdeveloped home base? Fuhgeddaboudit! If health care were better than it is on the Cape, we would consider moving there permanently.
We pursue all sorts of activities on Cape Cod. We stroll through charming villages, play mini golf, fly our kite at beaches, watch sunsets, eat and drink well at taverns and restaurants, go to movies, concerts and plays . . . holy shit, I nearly feel guilty about how good I have it on the Cape!
If I had to place one activity above the others, though, it would be immersing myself, via hikes, in the natural world, which exists abundantly on Cape Cod. These explorations usually set my mind at ease and my heart aflutter. That being the case, I try to make a walk part of my game plan for nearly every day that I spend Cape-side. Now and then I trek alone. In most instances, however, Sandy is my companion.
We’ve been on a number of especially good walks these past two weeks. Magic, or who knows what, was in the air, elevating the experiences to special heights. We oohed and aahed in unison and fed off one another’s energy. And we each made a few pretty sharp observations about Nature that wouldn’t have occurred to the other party.
One of those excellent hikes took place on the eastern coast of Cape Cod, where the Atlantic Ocean, sands and sky make beautiful music together (except when raging storms are doing their thing). They are in harmony because most of the Atlantic coastline is government-protected territory, meaning that hotels, boardwalks, amusement rides and concession stands ain’t to be found. That’s just the way I like it. Another bonus is that not too many humans are on the beaches in the off-season, which is when Sandy and I visit the Cape. I’m down with that too.
There we were, then, on the stretch of coastline known as Nauset Light Beach, located in the town of Eastham. This particular beach is one of my favorites on Cape Cod, partly because of the mighty sand cliffs that back it. The cliffs, ranging from about 30 to 80 feet in height, are part of a chain of cliffs that covers at least half of the approximately 40-miles-long Atlantic coast. They never cease to amaze me. And that day, at Nauset Light Beach, I was struck especially hard by the deep grooves and primordial shapes that storms have sculpted in them. Those storms have pummeled all the cliffs on the Cape’s Atlantic coastline for time immemorial. It’s estimated that they strip away an average of several feet of sand from the cliff-faces every year. As a result, houses and other structures at cliff-top level keep growing closer to the edges of the cliffs. Over the years, some structures have had to be relocated farther inland, and some currently are in worrisome situations. Nature, in no uncertain terms, rules. (Erosion is an ongoing process and concern on many sections of the Cape’s sandy coastlines, not just its Atlantic Ocean side.)
The skies were cloudy as Sandy and I made our way along the beach, sometimes stopping to gaze at the uneasy waters. A strong wind blew, but it didn’t bother us. On the contrary, it energized us, boosting our awareness of the surroundings. As pompous as it sounds, we came pretty damn close to becoming one with Nature, as close as suburbanites have any right to be. We absorbed the unceasing roars, gurgles and hisses of the ocean, the imposing grey skies, and the haphazard array of stones, shells and driftwood on the beach. Everything seemed perfect, exactly as it was meant to be.
Our mini-adventure at Nauset Light Beach went by in a flash. We’d have stayed longer, probably should have stayed longer. But we had other places to go, other things to do. Till we meet again, NLB!