Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Truro Adventures: From Great Hollow to Corn Hill

Last fall my friend Virginia took me to see the landscape painted by Edward Hopper, familiar scenes which included her grandparents’ house near Pamet Harbor. This week we went further north together to explore the old railroad bed between Great Hollow and Corn Hill, on an overcast day. I felt glad to have brought a windbreaker. No sooner had we parked the car than a black Chrysler whipped into view and a man, who seemed to be half naked, rolled down the window.

“What’s the best beach in Truro?” the fellow demanded.

“Best for what?” Virginia said, not at all rattled by this sudden intrusion into our space.

“Where’s Great Hollow Beach access?”

We both motioned towards Cape Cod Bay. The man eagerly swung the car into reverse and sped off down the hill. I wondered whether his wife, in the seat beside him, really intended to go in the water, which must be quite chilly by now.

We kept walking since Virginia wanted to show me the memorial plaque that marks the spot where Native Americans grew corn, behind Corn Hill, corn stolen by Pilgrims we reminded each other as we scanned the embankment. There were wonderful bright red bushes, full of berries, which made me think of Martha Stewart’s suggestion that autumn was the perfect time to collect branches for house decoration. I looked around for access. No way would I venture into the thicket separating me from the berries, even if I had thought to bring along pruning sheers, as ticks are still a risk at this time of the year. Unable to locate the plaque, hidden by underbrush, we resumed our walk.

“My dad used to ride the railroad,” Virginia said a bit wistfully. “He was aboard for the last trip, in the thirties.”

We had almost reached Pamet Harbor. Down the coast, Edward Hopper's house, preserved forever this week by its owners and the Truro Conservation Trust, overlooks Cape Cod Bay. What an amazing view from the train, with a sand dune on one side and Great Hollow on the other! We could not see water from the trail, only lichen growing beside a strip of sand, a wild landscape that deserves preservation, too. Neither of us knew how much of Truro is in the National Seashore, so I will have to find out.

Virginia told me that when she was a child, there were few houses on Corn Hill and the asphalt roads were dirt paths. Now it seemed as if the whole area was up for sale. We saw plenty of signs advertising buidable lots. Real estate prices have been rising steadily, especially after a certain celebrity, who will remain nameless, bought a second home here. Apparently the change in population can be felt more acutely in South Truro where a lot of old-timers live.

“On Depot Road, people who have been here forever are moving out,” Virginia said with a sigh.

On the way back, we passed a group of “luxury waterfront homes.” A recreational area was available, with tennis court, horseshoes, playground and a large No Trespassing sign. Each house probably costs several million. The whole complex seemed so incongruous. Gated communities. How un-Cape Cod! People move here attracted by the picturesque traditional cottages, then build homes more suitable to the suburbs.

The development reminded me of Steve Durkee’s quandary when a neighbor posted signs around the adjacent property on Wellfleet Harbor. Steve’s first wife Nancy had encouraged strangers to walk the coast by setting up a bench and leaving a book for comments on the spectacular view. In her opinion, nature’s beauty should be shared. It’s unfortunate new homeowners often have a different mind-set.

Several drivers in small trucks passed us on Old County Road, a carpenter, an appliance-repair man. Then a woman walked briskly by, with her dog. She was bundled up in a pink winter parka and gloves, busy talking on a cell phone …

Virginia and I concluded Truro is a town of many contrasts and Wellfleet has done a far better job at maintaining its “essence”.