I traveled to the National Seashore for my final walk, finishing at Fort Hill in Eastham, one of the more idyllic spots on Cape Cod. It is reached by turning off Route 6 onto Governor Prence Road. Park across from the Captain Penniman house, which was built in 1868 and looks down upon the sea from its lofty perch. Though less than two miles, the walk offers glorious views of Nauset Marsh and the Nauset Spit. The connecting Red Maple Swamp trail cuts through a salt marsh over a boardwalk. These walks inspired Henry Beston’s classic Outermost House. Unfortunately, the house from which he wrote has since been swept out to sea. Nearby is the popular quarter-mile Buttonbush Trail that features a guide rope and Braille map for the sight impaired.
There are many other walks worth exploring from the moment you cross the bridges until you reach Provincetown. The Cape Cod Rail Trail slices for 25 miles through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. At South Beach in Chatham, you can gaze back at Chatham Light and, to paraphrase the words of Thoreau, feel as though all America is behind you. A walk along Chequessett Neck Road toward Wellfleet Harbor and onto Great Island is spectacularly secluded.
Upon discovering these walks, it became apparent to me that Cape Cod’s appeal is hardly limited to summer. For those seeking a respite in these often frenzied times, a nature walk in the dead of winter is guaranteed to melt away the tension.