Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Accident on a dike hike

Wednesday September 11, 2013
Cape Cod National Seashore



We have to walk over a dike at low tide to get to Wood End Lighthouse.


Well you don’t actually have to.  You can walk miles around from Herring Cove beach.  This route is about 3 miles to the closest lighthouse and about 6 to the farthest.

Low tide is at 1o:16am today so we are up and out and parked on the shore by 8:15.  We learn that this is one of the only ways to get a free parking spot in Provincetown – come early.



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It’s still pretty hazy and you can’t see very far down this mile long breakwater that connects the mainland to the long point spit where both Wood End and Long Point Lighthouses are located.





A delightful surprise greets me when I get out of the car.


When I step out of the car the mud flats are all around and as I look over them I see what appears to be an environmental sculpture.  If it weren’t for Andy Goldsworthy, I wouldn’t have had a clue what this is.   Sure wish I could have seen this being constructed and met the artist.  Hope I can be here again at high tide to see what is visible at that time.  I’m betting it just looks like some grasses in the water.   The structure is an intricately woven design holding the grasses in place.



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What a beautiful way to start the day!  
Many thanks to the anonymous artist for this gift!!

Provincetown is a very interesting town from the get go.
Dikes to Lighthouses.
Ephemeral sculptures in the harbor.
What next?




We’d better get going, it’s a mile over there.



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  It’s a mile over, a mile back and we want to have plenty of time while we are there. The dike is made of BIG stones, mostly flat, and two abreast, at the beginning.   I would love to have seen them putting this dike in place.  These are enormous stones on the top and sides.  Marsh grasses are all along one side and mud flats on the other as we cross.



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We are quite a ways out before we even begin to see the Wood End Light that is our goal.  Can you see it?  The little stick pointing up on the horizon?


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Looking back toward the town, we are less than half way across.  Notice the rocks are now not two abreast and no longer flat.  And, because of the time, and the haze, they are wet.


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Apparently we are walking across the breakfast table.


The seagulls are not very happy with us interrupting their breakfast which the many shell pieces on the rocks show they eat here all day long.  We watch them bring their catch up, fly up and drop it on the rocks, swoop down, pick it up, fly up and drop it again until the food is easily available.  Very clever.


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We’re headed out the long left curving tail of the dike to the light house on the right horizon.


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Oppps!  These rocks are wet and slippery.



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My foot slips right here as I’m coming in the opposite direction from this picture.  I wasn’t about to go back up there to take the memorial shot.  Down I go scraping my right knee, my right palm and  jamming my right middle finger.  Wet rocks are a hazard.   These almost look like steps but believe me they are not and they are wet.  The scrapes are bleeding but the finger seems to be the biggest problem.

No pictures, too much blood and I don’t particularly want to remember it anyway.






The end is in sight and am I glad.  And look at the views from various spots along the way.


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When I’m finally on the other side I look back and see how far we’ve come. The end back in Provincetown isn’t even visible here


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We’re almost at the very end of Cape Cod.


Next it’s walk through the sand to the water and around the shore to the lighthouse.  Long Point Light is at the very end but it is too far to go today we decide.  Wood End is only a mile or so from the point and for today that’s enough.



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and there it is, as amazing and interesting as always.



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The beaches on Cape Cod are rocky shore beaches not shell beaches.  The sand is heavier and coarse.  I check out the shore rocks and algae as I amble toward the lighthouse.   The waves make beautiful patterns in the sand.


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Wood End is a great little lighthouse standing there all alone behind the dune.   I wonder if it is lonely and longing for the good old days.



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When we get far enough along the shore, we turn up and walk back to the little Wood End Lighthouse.

It is the third lighthouse built on the tip of Cape Cod, the curving spit of land that protects the harbor.  The 38’ brick tower, originally painted brown, went into service November of 1872


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A fifth order Fresnel lens flashed a red flash every 15 seconds 45 feet above the sea.   A keeper’s dwelling was built north of the light.   A lifesaving station was added just east of the light in 1896 along with a new keeper’s house, a storage shed and a small brick oil house for storing kerosene.  Two years later in 1900 a 1000 pound fog bell and bell tower were added near the lighthouse. 

The lighthouse was automated in 1961 and all the buildings other than the oil house were sadly demolished.  Another one of those no foresight things I suppose.  Or it costs too much to restore.  The light was converted to solar power in 1981 and is now an unmanned light that sounds a horn to alert for fog.   We could hear the fog horn most of the way across the dike as we walked.


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We wander around the lighthouse area speculating about where the other buildings were.  Only the light and one other remain.  The area is thick with rosa rugosa so we are snacking as we look.  But it is also thick with poison ivy.  We have seen a lot of it out here since we got off the dike so we’re really on the look out.


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From the light we can see there is an easier way back than along the beach. 


There is a wide path walking along the inlet with large sand dunes on the other side so we take that back to the dike for our return walk.


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It is just wonderful being the only ones out here on the beach, at the lighthouse and on the way back to the dike.


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But it’s after the magic hour of 10:00 which seems to bring out whoever is coming and we do see people making their way over as we return.   There are again lovely views as we carefully make our way.  The rocks are drier now and the footing seems easier from this direction.



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I suspect the rising tide will lift that lifts all boats will pick this picturesque one up too.


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On the way back I see very clever people just walking on the mud flats out to the spit.  I have water shoes in the car and wish I’d thought of it.  So does my finger.   I’ll know better next time when I return to take the longer hike out to Long Point Light


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On the side of the dike nearest the lighthouse the cormorants and gulls are anxiously trying to eat all the fish trapped by the low tide.  The cormorants are winning the argument.   But on the other side a single great blue heron is skulking right along side the dike.  He surprises me by sticking his head up to look around.  I stop and watch as he slowly and stealthily gets up on the rocks to see better.   I’m not sure what he’s looking for but there are huge almost mounds of mussels all around the base of the stones.  I can’t tell if they are all open shells or not.   But I enjoy watching him and he doesn’t really seem to notice me.


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Enough for now, more to come.


By the time we are back in Provincetown it is time for lunch and I want to go to one of the many beaches, take our chairs and sit by the water.

I’ll post about that and our afternoon tomorrow escapade.  I know with that I’m only getting further and further behind but I think you’d prefer at least a somewhat shorter post.   So check back for the conclusion.


Here’s a teaser.  Any idea what this is??


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  1. Sorry to hear you had a boo boo and I know that takes a bit of the fun out of a day. Looks like a divers ballast vest to me. There are many similar vests in the Diving Museum in Key Largo Florida.

  2. Beautiful pictures again. I'm getting far behind blogging as well, we're battling a virus that Al managed to pick up in Nova Scotia :-(.

  3. OWW Sherry -- that "oopsie" sounds painful! Glad you didn't hurt yourself any worse than you did (i.e. no broken bones!). Hope your finger is better.

    I don't have a clue what that last picture is.

  4. Sure hope that finger is OK. What an incredible hike. So is that a life support of some kind?

  5. Sorry to hear about your accident...it must be the month for hands;o(( Great hike though!!! Could that be some kind of weight vest for a diver??

  6. Hmm, not sure about that picture either! Hope your mishap heals quickly :)

  7. Ouch! Glad the fall didn't halt your plans! Nice keepers cottage. Too bad they tore that down. Pretty lighthouse and water. Nice to see the birds 'doing their thing' so you can observe. What is on that vest? Some kind of fire starter? Hmm. Could add weight for some chore? I look forward to finding out :)

  8. Thanks for taking us along on that nice hike. Glad your fall didn't result in more serious injuries.

  9. Sorry you took a tumble but it looks like from the beautiful pics that the views were awesome!

  10. Another beautiful hike! Sure hope your finger is feeling better.


  11. I loved the pictures of the sand, rocks and moss. An ever present reminder of the joy in the little things.

    Oh, my gosh, all I could think of was a fall resulting in another broken ankle. I know how you fear that happening. I know that my head understands that I should not push as, there are plenty of things I can do....but my heart still demands that I push on trying not to miss out on anything. :( Take good care and be careful out there.

  12. I don't know when they put in this breakwater, but it must have cost a fortune. Besides being a mile long (at least), it is a good 12 feet high and at least 30 feet wide at the base, so it required an enormous amount of quarried stone not to mention the skillful placement to create a straight line with a flat broad top for walking. They seem to have saved the largest stones with flat surfaces for the top and carefully positioned each one to create the flat walkway. Unfortunately, rough seas over time have rearranged some of the foundation stones, tilting up some of the pavers on top. It was one of these pavers tilted up to a 30 or 40 degree angle that was slick from the morning dew that caused Sherry to lose her footing. I was so relieved to find she was not seriously injured. It could have been much worse.

  13. Glad you are well! Some sort of primitive life vest? That kind of looks like cork or something similar roped to a shirt/vest.

  14. So glad to see you were not too injured to carry on to visit yet another beautiful lighthouse! ;-) You are after my own heart.

    I am guessing that is a fisherman's vest, and the pieces of cork hold his hooks...


  15. Glad you didn't break anything in your fall. Views are pretty - reminds me a little of the long, uninhabited beaches in the Galapagos.

    The apron in the picture looks like it belongs to a suicide bomber. The bundles look like packs of dynamite sticks. Just saying - that's what it looks like. Guess I've seen too many action movies. I hope you're going to tell us tomorrow what it really is. I suspect a life vest like Amy said. But that was not the first thing that popped into my mind.

  16. I sure am happy that your accident turned out to be relatively minor. It doesn't sounds like it will slow you down any.

    My image of Cape Cod has always been crowded beaches and high end cottages. Thanks for showing me a more natural side along the shore. It all looks quite enchanting.

  17. That's a kapok life vest that the men of the Lifesaving Service wore.

    Sorry you crashed and burned but survived to enjoy your wonderful day! :c)

  18. Wow, title scared me. Hope your finger heals quickly, Sherry. Didn't stop you from giving a really good description of another fabulous hike. Enjoyed, as always.

  19. Looks like a great hike less the slip and slide!

  20. Oh, goodness, when I read the title of today's blog my first thought was that I hoped nobody had to carry somebody back! I'm sorry about your fall, Sherry. I bet you were sore the next day. Ugh. For some reason, I keep worrying that y'all are going to be stranded somewhere by a high tide. I have no idea why I keep worrying about that. I do know that you are both sensible, responsible adults. It must be some childhood fear or something I saw once in a movie. I'm crazy, but I know that y'all have better sense! Take care. Thanks for the lovely pictures of this amazing engineering feat!

  21. I love the environmental art - would love to see a picture of it at high tide.


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