A Cape Cod Notebook

by Robert Finch

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of seven collections of essays, most recently a collection of his radio scripts, published by On Cape Publications. He is co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing."

A Cape Cod Notebook won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

For archives of A Cape Cod Notebook, including programs dating from before November 2012, go to the Cape Cod Notebook Archives

Wikimedia Commons

One of my regrets is that I came to the Cape too late to ride the passenger train along the Lower Cape to Provincetown. I missed it by many years, since passenger service to P-Town ceased in 1938. In 1964, when I first lived in Orleans, the freight train still ran as far as the old cement plant off Nauset Road in North Eastham. The train delivered coal at the old Snow’s hardware store, and my wife and I, living on a very short budget, used to go down and glean pieces of coal that had fallen off into the tracks for our stove.

Allison Richards / flikr

 One never knows what one is going to find on the outer beach. One day last month I drove out to Newcomb Hollow. When I arrived at the parking lot, there were about a half dozen cars there from all over the Northeast: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey – as well as one from Illinois - an unusual diversity of visitors, I thought, for this time of year.

When I arrived at Le Count Hollow, the slope had been cut several feet up from the bottom by recent storm waves. It was an hour past high tide, and the waves, all foam and milk for several hundred yards out, had the hollow, grinding roar of a receding storm surf.

Along the upper beach there was a nearly continuous ribbon, or river, of rockweed and kelp, from a few feet to several yards wide. Rockweed, as its name implies, grows on submerged rocks. Where does so much rockweed grow off our sandy shore? Where was it all ripped from?

Harvesting Bog Eggs

Apr 28, 2015
Pete and Noe Woods / flickr

In late March the shallow, tea-colored waters in the bog behind our house become full of small, round, gelatinous clumps of frog and salamander eggs stuck to submerged or floating objects. One spring I thought of collecting some of these egg masses and watching how they might develop. At the time I knew little about what I was doing and next to nothing about the different types of eggs I found there or what they might develop into. Whatever I learned, I learned afterward. I suppose that is the motto of the amateur naturalist: Collect now, identify later.

Raam Dev / flickr

Last week, on my way home from visiting friends in Vermont, I stopped in southern New Hampshire to climb Mt. Monadnock. It is one of those mountains that is not very impressive from a distance, but magnificent from close up. There was still a light covering of snow on its flanks, and a veil of cloud lifted briefly from the summit, tempting me on.


Yesterday morning I drove out to Newcomb Hollow and walked south a few hundred yards to the large outcrop of eroding clay bluffs there. They had clearly changed since I was last here, and had become, if possible, even more dramatic. Large chunks of light and dark blue clay lay strewn across the lower beach. On the face of the bluffs it was as if the ocean had fashioned a gallery of mini-sculptures, small animal-like sculptures that protruded out of the clay.

detroitstylz / flickr

One evening a little before seven o’clock I pulled into the vast empty parking lot at Marconi Beach in South Wellfleet. I had just come from Russ’s Marconi Beach Restaurant, a place I like to go two or three times a year for ribs. I always enjoy Russ’s Shakespearian innkeeper banter, the way he seems to know every customer personally, his hearty and infectious good humor that seems to rub off on everyone there. I had ordered my usual: the half-slab barbecued ribs dinner with coleslaw, baked beans, and smashed potatoes with gravy.

CPinoB / pixabay.com

This is the waiting time, the in-between time, when the advancing sun tells us that the back of this endless winter is broken, but the concrete signs of spring are still far and wee: a few ghost-like calls of clustered peepers in the bogs; the sole cardinal or a Carolina wren’s strident song, the first scattered flashes of daffodil sprouts on a still-sere hillside.

captpaulge / http://captpaulge.wix.com/paul-donovan-photography / wunderground.com

Many of you have no doubt seen the dramatic photos, recently posted online, of large chunks of ice that washed up on the shores if Cape Cod Bay in Wellfleet a couple of weeks ago.


By now, the idea of the Cape’s glacial origins has pretty much fixed itself in the minds of most residents and visitors alike. But before Louis Agassiz put forward his revolutionary glacial theories in the mid-1800s, the idea of a continental ice sheet seemed as improbable to the general public as the continental drift theory did to their mid-20th century counterparts.