When most people think about hiking, they envision mountains and forests. But a recent hike of the Great Island Trail on Cape Cod National Seashore turned out to be one of my most memorable.
Cape Cod Welcome Mat
Last spring we had a short vacation on Cape Cod with our now-deceased dog, Stella. Since dogs are not allow on national park trails, we didn’t visit many scenic spots.
This May, I took advantage of our temporary dog-free status to return to the area and hike the Great Island Trail in the outer cape town of Wellfleet. Considered one of the best hikes in the area, the trail is an eight mile round trip over beaches and through woodlands to Great Beach Hill to Jeremy Point.
May had been a cold and rainy month, and the forecast for the weekend called for more of the same. But the outer cape decided to roll out the welcome mat for me, and the afternoon of my arrival was sunny and pleasantly cool. I stopped at the Salt Pond Visitor Center to stretch my legs on the easy, peaceful Nauset Marsh Trail.
Sand and Solitude
The next morning was overcast and chilly, perfect for a long hike. I arrived at the Great Island trail head around 9:30 and had the place to myself.
The sandy trail began by skirting a cove. Hiking on the loose sand was slow going, and my shoes immediately filled with sand. On the plus side, the sand provides great shock absorption, so it’s easy on the joints. I was in a great mood.
The trail soon abutted protected Tern and Piping Plover nesting grounds. I heard the birds, but couldn’t see them. I did, however, begin to see Hermit crabs. Their holes blanketed the packed sand, and they ducked away as they sensed me coming.
After a bend, the trail took a right into a woodland of gentle hills. I had been walking for over half an hour and hadn’t seen another soul. Aside from chirping birds, it was quiet and peaceful.
I left the woods and came to another cove. I finally saw some of those endangered shorebirds – two Terns on a dune above me. They paid me no mind and, in fact, seemed to pose for the camera.
Just past the Terns, an opening in the dunes led to Great Hill Beach. Beyond the hill, the trail ducked back into the woods before leading to another beach and Jeremy Point Overlook.
The trail continued along the beach onto the thin Jeremy Point peninsula. Hungry and thirsty, I cut the hike a bit short. I made my way back to the beach to sit for a spell.
A Good Ending
As I returned to the coves, I saw a seagull eating a lunch of brown, bloody bird. The seagull barely gave me a glance. Minutes later, a peregrine falcon swooped down from the pine trees and flew up and away. I didn’t have a chance to snap a photo, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
It wasn’t until I was almost back to the trail head that I saw other hikers. By then, the day was warm. The sun had come out, and with it, more hikers. Although I enjoyed my solitary hike, I would later be grateful for the newcomers. A couple heading onto the trail just as I was leaving found my wallet in the port-a-potty and made a significant effort to track me down and return the wallet. Thank you Mary Ann and Tom!