Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Lighthouses Galore!

The day was overcast and windy, and we overslept until 8:30. Unsure what to do with the day, we dressed and went for breakfast at Grumpy's, where I had an oatmeal waffle and Dan had eggs and cornmeal pancakes. The service at Grumpy's always lives up to its name, but the food is too good to pass up.

We had been thinking of going to Nantucket for the day, but we called the ferry in Harwich Port and found they had already left. So instead, we decided on a day of general Cape sightseeing, and went first to the New England Fire Museum in Brewster. Their collection of old hand and horse drawn fire pumps was fascinating, and they even had an old fire station switching board from the 1920s.

Next we considered the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, but the fleet of school buses outside made us reconsider. Instead we went to Chatham, where we found to our chagrin that both of the museums we wanted to see had not yet opened for the season. We went into town to regroup, stopping at our favorite candy store so Dan could pick up some white chocolate-covered pretzels. Then we got some postcards across the street and picked up some coffee to go. By this point we had decided that the Nauset Light should be our next stop, so we headed toward Eastham for some lighthouse-viewing.

We reached the Nauset Light via one of the entrances to the Cape Cod National Seashore. It's a cute little lighthouse, much smaller than one would expect. I had hoped there would be a lighthouse keeper and we could go up inside, but no such luck. We looked around the beach for a bit, but the strong winds that day made it unpleasant to be outside for very long.

Continuing up the Cape, we stopped next at the Marconi Station. Here, we ran into a tour bus of elderly people. They were very nice, but also very slow on the narrow windy trails around the remains of the station and the various observation points.

Next we went to the Highland Light, the day suddenly having turned into a tour of Cape Cod lighthouses. This time, we could actually go up into the lighthouse, so we climbed the winding stairs to the top, where we had a great view of the surrounding beaches and marshes. There was an annoying woman up there who insisted on reading every wall plaque in a very loud voice to her son, as if her 10 year old boy were both deaf and illiterate. To his credit, the kid seemed as annoyed as we were. On our way out, we stopped at the gift shop, which was actually one of the better ones I found on the Cape. They had a lot of nice gifts there, not kitschy, but still the kinds of things one might take home to friends and family as mementoes. The old man behind the counter seemed easily confused and had to mutter to himself as he worked, but he managed to give out correct change and bag the correct items in spite of himself, so it was okay.

We headed back out into the cool, blustery weather and debated continuing up to Provincetown to see the lighthouses there. Dan was ready for a few beaches though, so we turned back toward the Mid-Cape. After trying unsuccessfully to find a road to the defunct Stage Harbor Light (we later found that there wasn't one), we decided to try to find some of the beaches I remembered from childhood. First we located Cold Storage beach, only to find that it had become a private beach. We spent a few minutes checking out the boats at dock, and then headed on. Next we went to Chapin, which I remembered as being always windy and full of biting green flies, but with stunning dunes. The road to Chapin was (unbelievably) exactly as I remembered it, down to the very restaurants and apartments along the way. If someone had replaced all the late-model vehicles with early '70s vintage, I would've thought I was six years old again and wondered where Grandpa was. Fortunately though, one thing had changed-- no nasty biting flies at the beach. The dunes were still high and deep though, and the wind blew constantly. I walked a good way down the beach, picking up a few odds and ends, including a dried out baby crab, bleached white by the sun. I found and claimed a grassy tidal peninsula, climbed a few dunes and examined some beached horseshoe crabs.

By now, Dan was ready to catch a sunset at his favorite Corporation Beach, so we headed over there for a cloudy, rather undramatic sunset. Dan's calf was hurting from the race a few days earlier, so while he sat on the rocks and watched the clouds turn pink, I went for a walk along the beach, marveling at how much more seaweed there seemed to be than when I was a child. The seaweed was as much as three and four feet deep in some places, and while I remembered Corporation as always being rather slimy with seaweed, I didn't remember there ever being quite so much of it.

When I got back to where Dan was, it was 8:15 and the tide was nearly in. We watched the tide for awhile, until I reminded him that restaurants close early on the Cape. We headed over to Oliver's for dinner. I had some haddock, rice and vegetables, topped off with key lime pie and coffee. Then we went home, took showers, and settled in to enjoy our new books. We turned in early so we could get up early and go to Nantucket. It was still windy out, and as we turned out the light, we could hear the tree branches scraping against our windows. I was tired though, and it didn't prevent me from sleeping at all.

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