Friday, October 23, 2009

Walking From Atwood Higgins to Cape Cod Bay

Today Sven and I picked a hike out of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Discover Cape Cod, published in June, which I always recommend to guests. We wanted something different, a part of Wellfleet still unknown to us both. Actually, Sven chose, and it turned out I had already hiked part of this trail: Atwood Higgins House/Bound Brook Island/Ryder Beach. Bound Brook, called Sapokonish by Native Americans, is one of the earliest colonial settlement sites of Cape Cod, now part of the National Seashore. We began by admiring the Atwood Higgins House, built in 1730. Sven especially enjoyed the color and could tell, by peering through the windowpanes, how similar the interior is to our old Cape Codder. A flock of wild turkeys scrambled through the yard, red wattles swinging wildly in their haste to reach leaf-strewn low land where brown feathers provide perfect camouflage. Then we walked west, per guidebook instructions. I began to wonder if we were going in the right direction when the “dirt road” transformed itself into a path. I had hiked out this way with Patricia while mushrooming. We reached the funny boulder and realized it’s a marker, with a bronze plaque on the far side. Sven read the words stating we were on the site of a former schoolhouse. With dense pine trees all around, strange to think real dwellings were once in these woods, housing enough children for a school! Their mothers kept goats and a cow, churned their own butter, made their own clothes. We continued on and came to a sand road. TURN LEFT advised the guidebook. Tracks indicated the recent passage of a horse. Patches of lichen covered the forest floor. Here and there grew wild asters. The further we walked, the more I tried to imagine what it must have been like to live out here before cars, television, supermarkets. The early settlers were dependent on their gardens, livestock, and fish/shellfish. The road twisted and turned, passing the homes of several very lucky present-day Americans, artists it seemed, from the art studios we observed. Home ownership this deep into the National Seashore requires a 4X4, surely. In my mind, I saw Bound Brook Island in an ice storm and felt grateful to live closer to town. Yellow foliage predominated in the valleys, with white pines clinging to ridges. How did the Native Americans feel when this precious land was invaded by foreigners? History books do not say. In the distance, we could hear the surf at Cape Cod Bay. Finally, we reached the Wellfleet side of Ryder Beach dune and paused to rest on a memorial bench, placed there in honor of Zachary Miller, who passed away in 1999 at 38 and must have loved the vista below. On the way back to the car, we discussed the influence of a landscape's physical beauty on the inhabitants of a region. The people who colonized Bound Brook in the 1700s would have found apartment-dwelling a challenge. I certainly did! The whole route was supposed to take two hours. We finished in one ... Our blast-from-the-past hike over, we went for ice cream.