November 3, 2020

Waldo, Christine and Phyllis. I am in my anchor place.

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

-John Muir


And we have a new walker, Phyllis, a 73-year old woman, recently met, who said she wanted to join us when our journey was mentioned (we are kinda proud of it).  She is very fit, likes to go on long walks, has bicycled far in Europe and loves to explore.  Have we ever got a trek for her!  Even though she didn’t start with us at the New York border, lo these seven months ago, she says she’s interested in walking with us to the end, and then, who knows?  We have spent some time discussing what we will call the end of this trek and decided it will be Race Point, a beach at the northernmost tip of the cape.  After that, we’re talking about walking back down the Cape on its Atlantic beaches to the elbow at Chatham.  But that is TBD.

Our walk starts where we left off at Centerville.  Centerville is one of seven villages making up the town of Barnstable.  The other six villages are the village of Barnstable, Cotuit, Marston Mills, Osterville, West Barnstable and Hyannis.  Barnstable was named after Barnstaple, Devon, England.  It was incorporated in 1639 and was originally a farming community.  Salt works and fishing soon added to the town’s industries and by the end of the 19th century, some 804 ships called it home.  By that time, it became the tourist destination it is today – the Kennedys still use their compound in Hyannis.  Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut have also called it home.  The population is 44,477.

The first part of our track takes us down a wide sidewalk separated a short distance from a highway.  On the road, the traffic is heavy and moving fast; it makes Waldo nervous.  The route is complex and I have to stop periodically to make sure we take the appropriate turns to get us to the beginning of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, about 8 miles from where we started.  Always open to making new friends, Christine, Waldo and I are really enjoying getting to know Phyllis as we plod along.  She is an engaging conversationalist, we talk about all manner of things, and we get so wrapped up in it that we miss a turn and end up adding a good two miles to the route.  We pass by the east side of the Barnstable Municipal Airport and, shortly thereafter, come to the rail trail.  For the rest of this leg, it will be much easier to walk and talk at the same time without getting lost.

The CCRT (Cape Cod Rail Trail) is a total of 22.0 miles long, running from near the Barnstable Airport to Wellfleet.  It’s paved from one end to the other and the going is smooth, with only a couple of places where we have to leave it, for short distances, for city streets and roads.  Bordered by many of the same kinds of trees we’ve encountered on our walk so far, our way is shaded by our old friends, white pine, pitch pine, white oak, red oak, black oak, sumac, maples of various kinds, Chinese Arborvitae and others.  The weather is partly cloudy with only a slight breeze and there is a constant, but not overpowering smell of the sea.  The Atlantic Ocean is only a couple of miles from us to our right and the Cape Cod Bay lies just about the same distance from us to our left.  We pass by a few salt marshes and they have their own salty odor that belies their presence before we get to them.  The walk is, thankfully, bugless.

We pass through Yarmouth and end up at a parking lot just off the trail in South Dennis.  Yarmouth was incorporated in 1639.  The Indian name of the area was Mattacheese, which means “old land by the borders of water.”  The town was named after Yarmouth, England and, today, brewery and tourism play the biggest part in its economy.  Its population is 23,381.  Dennis was originally part of Yarmouth and was incorporated in 1793.  The town was named after resident minister Josiah Dennis.  Seafaring was the major industry in its early history and the place is now a popular seaside resort town.  The actress Bette Davis was “discovered” at the Cape Playhouse, one of the oldest summer theaters in the US, while working as an usher.  Author Mary Higgins Clark is from Dennis as well.

It takes us a little over five hours to complete our walk, the pace being set by my slow plod.  Christine, Phyllis and Waldo are up front and I’m in my usual position, dragging anchor.  I can walk faster, but why should I?  I’m enjoying myself out here.  This isn’t a race.

After all, the real value is in the walk, not in attaining the goal.


Flooded cranberry bog getting ready for harvest.

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