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A guide to 8 nature trails in Harwich

Woodlands, Wetlands & Wildlife, August 2017 Cape Cod LIFE |

The Herring River runs along Sand Pond Woodlands (1) in West Harwich. Photo by Gus Romano

The Herring River also passes by another attractive area, Sand Pond Woodlands (1). Just north of Bell’s Neck—and bounded by Great Western Road and Main Street—Sand Pond Woodlands is a 50-acre property with a half-mile loop that winds through forest and along Sand Pond, a popular swimming spot in summer. With mostly flat wooded terrain, the trail makes for leisurely walking, and there’s a bench with a nice view of the river. It’s a great spot to stop for a snack and to spy ducks, swans, red-winged blackbirds and the secretive green heron.

Harwich resident Robert Freeman, a retired letter carrier from New Jersey, has lived on the Cape since 2000. He and his walking stick are regulars at Sand Pond. “I like the mix here, the ponds—and the views of the marsh and the bogs,” Freeman says. “I completely forget about the rest of the world.” An avid hiker who used to hit the trails with the Appalachian Mountain Club, Freeman says he enjoys Harwich’s variety of trails and terrain. “Harwich isn’t known for hiking,” he says, “but there are so many places to hike here.”

A short distance east, walkers can enjoy another half-mile trail at Coy’s Brook Woodlands (4). The trail winds through upland pine and oak forest interspersed with tupelos, before looping along a marsh nearby an Atlantic White Cedar wetland. The lucky visitor might see a great blue heron taking flight. “Here, you can see reminders of the past, with the old overgrown cranberry growers’ borrow pits,” says Lach, who explains that about a century ago, local cranberry growers dug large pits of sand along the edge of the woods—using shovel and wheelbarrow—and brought the sand back to their bogs to help stimulate cranberry growth. Several of these pits can still be seen along the trail today.

In Harwichport, the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve (9) consists of 66 acres, with two miles of trails traveling through and along wetlands and crossing Cold Brook (via berms) in three different locations. Named after Smith, a founding trustee and a 27-year past president of the trust, the preserve is a draw for both botanists and birders. The land is home to no less than 200 species of trees and plants, from red maple and small pine to cattails. Also, the trust and the Cape Cod Bird Club together maintain 45 nest boxes along the trails, and visitors might catch glimpses of bluebirds and colorful tree swallows. Walkers can set out on a number of loop trails, or walk the entire trail system in approximately 90 minutes.

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