Monday, January 25, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 9: Yarmouth Port, Mass.

In My Footsteps

Christopher Setterlund

Trip 9: Yarmouth Port, Mass.

January 23, 2010

Being the most historic roadway on Cape Cod Route 6A is chock full of places to see. So many in fact that all of the places in this article sit within a mile or so of one another, on a warmer day they would make up a tremendous walk.

Our trip begins at Gray’s Beach, known to most locals as Bass Hole. Located off of 6A on Center Street, Bass Hole is a free public beach nestled up against a narrow cove overlooking Cape Cod Bay Bass Hole. Any trip here would have to start with the 800-foot long boardwalk(right) that stretches its way out into the neighboring marsh and gives a wonderful view of the bay as well as Chapin Beach which acts as a barrier for Bass Hole from the harsh ocean waves. The beach area is great for swimming as it is calm; there are visible sandbars at low tide. There is a large open filed and a newly revamped playground area in addition to a covered picnic area which can be reserved for large parties if so desired.

Across the field and playground there are trails to be walked that take you through the woods surrounding Bass Hole and across a marsh which, thanks to a recently built walking bridge, gives a great panoramic view of the area. The trails lead through the woods and across Center Street where they come out on the other side of the marsh.

Center Street can be taken back out to Route 6A; a right turn will take you to the next spot. About a half a mile down the road sits two historic spots in the same parking lot. Getting in is a tricky proposition as the road immediately follows the Post Office on the left. In summer this one is easy to miss. Park in the small lot and decide which way to go first.

Going straight back behind the Tufts Gatehouse along a rocky path you will find the Kelly Chapel(left). Built in 1873 by David Kelly this small church is secluded from the road, although it can be accessed via a path from the Old Yarmouth Inn restaurant next door. It is not routinely open but many weddings take place there; it is still a big part of life in this small village.

Located off to the left of the chapel are a set of trails which cover the nearly fifty acres of land the chapel stands watch over. More than a hundred years ago this area was Cape Cod’s first golf course built by the Thacher family in the 1890’s for private use. The trails lead through the natural beauty of the Cape and eventually will lead you to Miller’s Pond and Dennis Pond. Dennis Pond is located on Summer Street and is a recreation area; it is a very short drive from the chapel grounds.

From the small parking lot near the Tufts Gatehouse a left turn will take you up a sloping driveway to another piece of Cape Cod history. The Captain Bangs Hallet House(left) gives you a great view of life on the Cape more than 200 years ago. Built in 1840, and named for an illustrious 19th century fisherman, it is the only historic house that is regularly open to visitors. Tours of the house take place often during the summer and fall but the grounds are always able to be walked. Located behind the Bangs Hallet House is a natural wonder, a century-plus old English Weeping Beech tree. In the warmer months this giant’s limbs, covered in broad, flat leaves, reach to the ground. You may step inside this awesome piece of nature; it feels like being under an umbrella.

The last stop on the trip around Route 6A in Yarmouth Port starts with a left turn out of the Kelly Chapel parking lot. Less than a mile away, following a trip through the historic ‘center’ of Yarmouth Port on 6A you will come to Mill Lane on the right. It sits on a curve so approach slowly. The Keveney Lane Bridge crosses over Hallets Mill Pond(right) and the subsequent river that empties out into Cape Cod Bay. This bridge is unique in the fact that is a narrow one-lane bridge. There are very few spots to park on Mill Lane leading up to the bridge so a stop to walk might be out of the question in the warmer months. Still, taking a slow drive across the bridge might be enough to soak in the scenery.

When not stopping to take in these sights a trip through Yarmouth Port may take a few minutes, but you could easily spend all day visiting the places mentioned above. There are other spots nearby that have not been mentioned including the 140-year old First Congregational Church which stands up on a hill looking over the village. This is just a guide as there are many places maybe I have missed, but any of these places are well worth the drive or walk. Along 6A it seems that all you have to do is turn around and you are face to face with another piece of Cape Cod and American history. Have fun and happy traveling!

Directions: Bass Hole: From Mid-Cape Highway take Exit 8. Follow Union Street north until you reach Rt. 6A. Cross Rt. 6A to Old Church Street. Bear right onto Center Street and follow it to the beach.

Kelly Chapel & Captain Bangs Hallet House: Follow Center Street to Rt. 6A, turn right. Travel about ½ mi., the turn for the chapel is left immediately following the Post Office.

Dennis Pond: Leaving the chapel turn left on Rt. 6A; bear left onto Summer Street at curve. Dennis Pond is on right.

Keveney Lane Bridge: Exiting Summer Street turn left onto Rt. 6A. Mill Lane is a right turn on a curve diagonally across from Willow Street. Follow Mill Lane until you reach the bridge, there is a spot for one car on the right as you approach the bridge.

References: Yarmouth Historical Society

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