Friday, January 29, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 13: Wellfleet, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 13: Wellfleet, Mass.
January 26, 2010

            Nestled deep in the heart of the Cape Cod National Seashore, Wellfleet is a picture perfect example of vintage Cape Cod.  Any turn off of Rt. 6 will lead you into the natural wonders of the Seashore, you can’t go wrong with any road you choose.  Wellfleet also houses one of the last remaining Drive-In theaters in the country; this is open during the warmer months and is a trip down memory lane.
            The first spot I found was actually a left turn off of Rt. 6.  In the hopes of finding a spot I had never before seen I took a turn onto Coles Neck Road.  The area I found was Bound Brook Island.  It consists of an amazing scenic beach(left) but getting to it is the hardest part.  Bound Brook Island Road is dirt and uneven, it might be better to park and walk or bike to it if you do not have a four-wheel drive vehicle.  The land along side the road comes up a few feet and makes it feel like you are driving down a chute; there are very few places to turn around until the small beach parking lot.
            Once you make it to the beach though it will all seem worth it.  There is a sandy pathway leading over the dunes to a beach with a tremendous view across Cape Cod Bay.  On a clear day it is possible to see straight across to Plymouth and other South Shore communities.  The view from the shore is amazing, but there is another spot that has the best view of all.  There is a sloping sandy hill at the beach at the end of Bound Brook Island Road with a path leading to its seventy-plus foot high peak.  From there you will feel like you can see from Provincetown to Maine.  This view in and of itself made the tough trek to the beach a mere footnote.
            The next place I visited is a lot like Bound Brook Island.  It is an island and is very difficult to get to, but the views are worth it.  Lieutenant Island is a little south of Bound Brook and is only accessible at low tide.  There is a bridge which passes over the marshy area(right) and although this bridge is slightly elevated the surrounding land is underwater at high tide.  If you plan to visit please check tide charts as it would be easy to become stranded.  The dirt roads can be treacherous so as with Bound Brook Island it is better to hike or take a bicycle if you do not have a sufficient vehicle.       
            Lieutenant Island is filled with summer homes and on this day was virtually deserted.  It is quiet and secluded in the colder months with beach views of Loagy Bay to the east and Cape Cod Bay to the west.  At times it can be an odd sort of clash between the wetlands and forest areas but that unpredictable scenery is what adds to the allure of this tiny island.
            The next area I visited is much easier to get to.  The Marconi Station Site is on the Atlantic Ocean side of Wellfleet and hovers precariously above a sharp cliff and pounding surf.  The site is a dedication to Guglielmo Marconi who in 1901 oversaw the building of the first transatlantic wireless telegraph station: The first radio station.  In 1903 the first wireless message was sent from a spot not too far from the dedication site across the Atlantic from President Theodore Roosevelt to King Edward VII of England.  The station that once stood here also was one of the first to receive distress calls from the Titanic after it struck the iceberg in 1912.
            There is a platform on a hill near the dedication site that offers a wide view of the Atlantic and the Seashore lands surrounding the Marconi site(right).  The site originally had four 210-foot tall wooden towers in a square around the transmitter building when built.  Due to heavy erosion of the cliffs however the site only remained operational for sixteen years and was closed and dismantled in 1917.  This is a great place for historians and nature lovers alike to visit.  Seeing the small scale model of the original Marconi site it is easy to close your eyes and imagine seeing those giant towers from all around Wellfleet.
            As awe-inspiring as the Marconi site and scale model are for historians there is a place that produces the same feeling for nature lovers just across the parking lot.  A mile long hike into the sandy pine forest will lead you to the White Cedar Swamp(left) which seems so out of place along the beaches and ocean.  The land leading up to the swamp is common for Cape Cod but the White Cedar Swamp seems to come up out of nowhere.  There is a boardwalk to lead you through the area.  The trees block out most of the sun allowing only trickles of light to splash through to the water.  It is a dusky feeling even in midday that is strange and beautiful.  It is one of the most recommended spots to visit on all of Cape Cod as words and images can only do so much to describe this wondrous setting.
            At the end of the day Wellfleet takes its places among the other Cape Cod towns with its share of nature and history that sums up what the Cape is all about.  Rt. 6 is barren and quiet at this time of year but during the summer months lodging and food are easy to find.  No matter the time of year though the sites of Wellfleet can be enjoyed by any visitor.  Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Bound Brook Island: From Rt. 6 head north past Wellfleet Center.  Turn left onto Coles Neck Rd.  This road becomes Bound Brook Island Rd.  Follow it for about a mile and turn left, this is still Bound Brook Island Rd.  Follow the road straight to the beach, go slow and be careful the road is dirt and narrow.
Lieutenant Island: From Rt. 6 head north about 1.5 miles past the Wellfleet Drive-In.  Turn left onto Lieutenant Island Rd.  Follow it over the bridge at the marsh.  Drive slowly and carefully as the island roads are dirt and fragile.
Marconi Site & White Cedar Swamp: From Rt. 6 turn right onto Marconi Beach Rd.  Bear left and follow road to parking lot.  Marconi Site is toward the beach.  White Cedar Swamp is located on far left of parking lot designated by a sign.
            Welcome to Wellfleet
            Hiking Lieutenant Island

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