Yesterday, we left Providence early in the afternoon, not long after noon, bound for Cape Cod. I needed to see Orleans and Nauset Beach, which appear in "Build Your Houses With Their Backs to the Sea." I needed to be there, because I'm tired of cribbing. If I crib, let it be only from my own direct experience.
We followed 195 through southeastern Massachusetts and crossed the Bourne Bridge (1933-1935) over the canal and onto the Cape, then followed US 6 to Orleans and then Eastham. We left the highway, then turned east and took Nauset Road to Doane Road to Ocean View Drive to the edge of the continent. Land's end here is what remains of an ancient glacial terminal moraine, marking the southernmost edge of the Pleistocene glaciation in New England (the line of the moraine can be traced from Long Island through Block Island to Cape Cod), and at Nauset Beach, a thick section of orange-brown sands and gravels has been exposed by the sea. Geologists call these outwash plain deposits, sediments deposited by braided streams and deep, cold kettle lakes at the foot of retreating glaciers, in this instance the Laurentide ice sheet. Fifteen thousand years ago, this is where the ice ended, and mammoths roamed what would someday be Massachusetts.
There are great white sharks in the waters here, a lot of them. They come for the plentiful grey seals.
We parked at the lighthouse and took the wooden stairs down to the beach, then followed the line of cliffs southward. I'm not sure how far we walked. The day was bright and cold, but not frigid, clouds moving in from the southwest. The wind could have been much worse. The air was filled with many hundreds, probably thousands of gulls. White birds beyond counting, feeding on shoals of fish just offshore. The waves were high, and they thundered to shore in great sprays that traced rainbows in their wake. On the sand, there were broken surf clams and the ghostly husks of spider crabs.
Later, before heading home, we stopped at the old Coast Guard house, about a mile below the Nauset Light. The cliff end here, and there's a breathtaking view of Nauset Bay and the expanse of salt marshes stretching down to the sea. If was tempting to stay for the sunset, from the wind was getting bitter. We made it home about 7 p.m., I think. On the way, we listened to Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins; on the way back, we listened to R.E.M. It was a very good day out, the first time we'd visited the Cape since December 2008. There are photos behind the cut, and there will be more photos tomorrow:
Champagne and peanut butter, the perfect beach picnic.
All photographs Copyright © 2015 by Kathryn A. Pollnac