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 ten books of essays, the latest of which is "The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore," published by W.W. Norton.

A Cape Cod Notebook won the 2006 and 2013 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.


 A Cape Cod Notebook is made possible in part with support from Titcomb’s Bookshop on Route 6A in East Sandwich.

Joseph goo.gl/nTYjLJ / goo.gl/lrxVf4

 

Late one afternoon a few weeks ago, I took a walk along a Wellfleet beach facing Cape Cod Bay. At its start, this beach is backed by a low line of dunes, but after a few hundred feet, the dunes rise to become a low glacial bluff, a mix of sand and clay perhaps 20 feet high. 

Steve Heaslip / CapeCodTimes / https://goo.gl/TP2Wx5

Some of you may recall—or perhaps may have seen—the dramatic geological event that occurred last summer at the Cahoon Hollow parking lot in Wellfleet. On the morning of August 19, after receiving six to seven inches of rain the day before, a large portion of the parking lot collapsed, creating a steep gully or ravine about 25 feet wide and 40 feet long, opening down onto the beach.

Halloween Nostalgia

Oct 31, 2017

It’s become something of a cliché to hear members of my generation go on about how much Halloween has changed since we were kids. The main difference, we always seem to say, is how much freedom we were allowed on that one night of the year when mischief-making and self-disguise were not only approved but actually encouraged.

Kerri Schmidt www.kerrischmidt.com/ampersand/

I remember the first time Kathy and I spent a couple of days in Euphoria, one of the dune shacks in the Provincelands managed by the Peaked Hill Trust. It was the last weekend in October and we arrived just at sunset. All the way out the light grew more and more intense, igniting the dune crests. A gibbous moon hung in the southern sky. The wind was stiff out of the northwest and growing stiffer. We dug the key out of its hiding-place and went inside.

lighthouseantiques.net / goo.gl/VTEBxY

Last week, talking about the Clay Pounds, I mentioned that, despite their dramatic appearance and the significant part they played in the Cape’s maritime history, relatively few people visit the Clay Pounds today.  The problem is one of access. 

The Clay Pounds are one of the few geological features on Cape Cod’s Outer Beach that have endured long enough to have acquired a name. Located just north of Highland Light in north Truro, the Clay Pounds comprise a 40-foot thick band of nearly pure blue clay. Nowhere else on the Cape does anything approach these massive sedimentary deposits.

Wellfleet Historical Society / www.wellfleethistoricalsociety.org

Paradise Valley is a glacial hollow set on the Wellfleet-Truro line. During the late 19th century it was a thriving community of a dozen or more houses, but when Wellfleet’s Herring River dike was built around 1908, the valley was cut off from navigable waters. The community gradually atrophied and was eventually abandoned by the 1920s.

Robert Finch

Sixteen years ago this fall, a month after the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers, my wife Kathy and I bought an old house in Squid Tickle, Newfoundland – a tiny village on the northeast coast of that rocky island. Since then we’ve spent most summers there, far from the raucous noise, pressing crowds, and increasingly scary traffic of Cape Cod’s high season.

Brian "Hrefna" S. / http://bit.ly/2y0dVfG

The other day I stopped for a dip cone at P.J.’s on Route 6 in Wellfleet. As is my habit, I took the cone and walked across the road up into the Duck Creek Cemetery, the old Congregational graveyard where most of the headstones are from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Saved by the Bell

Sep 5, 2017
YouTube bit.ly/2gAdlgT

Memory can play funny tricks.          

This year, for instance, is the centennial of my high school in Parkersburg, West Virginia. There were celebrations over Labor Day weekend, featuring, among other events, a concert by past and present members of the Parkersburg High School marching band.

Alecia Orsini

March, 1981. A large blue dragger, The Little Infant, is moored nearby on my side of the Harbor, which is deepest just inside the curve of the spit. The entire crew of seven or eight are standing in a line on her port side, shucking sea scallops and throwing the gurry over the rail to the raucous delight of the gulls swarming below on the surface of the water.

One moist evening last April, as I was driving past Pilgrim Lake on my way home from Provincetown, I became unusually aware of the great flashes of Highland Light, moving in quick spaced arcs from east to west. Its glow was intensified, magnified, by the haze in the air.

goo.gl/JqobbW / goo.gl/KxOKu

August, 2000. The other evening, we drove out to White Crest Beach—well named with its high, bare, white shoulder of a dune cresting the hill, and several foot trails creased into its flanks leading down to the shore and the surf.

After the Storm

Aug 8, 2017
Cape Cod National Seashore Park Service

When, along with hundreds of others, I arrived at a barricaded Coast Guard Beach the morning after the storm, the air was full of metaphors of war. The beach, people said, looked as though it had been strafed and bombed.

http://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/kh04mv08n

On March 29, 1984, I went out to Coast Guard Beach with a Boston television crew from Channel 5 to videotape a program about barrier beaches and how they cope with storms and erosion – part of their series on “Survival.” It was a cool, dry day, and the crew had set up on the parking lot overlooking the Eastham barrier beach, still recovering after it was smashed flat six years earlier by the “Great Storm of ’78.” I was interviewed by a friendly man with a boyish face.

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