Exploring the North East Corner of Wellfleet on the 11th Annual Guided Walk

It was a perfect day for exploring the most northeasterly corner of Wellfleet, and that is exactly what 100 stalwart walkers set out to do on September 9th for the Eleventh Annual Guided Walk by the Wellfleet Conservation Trust. At 9 o’clock, WCT President Dennis O’Connell welcomed the crowd gathered at Gull Pond Landing, and Bill Iacuessa introduced the route which would include two antique homes, a mid-century modern house and studio, viewing of four ponds, the site of the first schoolhouse in Wellfleet and a number of uphill climbs on the sand roads.

Engineer Chet Lay, newly retired from his long career at Slade Engineering, presented information on William Rawlins, former owner of much of the land we were about to see. Early in the twentieth century, Rawlins bought up old woodlots in the area with a goal of preserving the woods and ponds.  Had he lived to see the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, he would have seen his vision fulfilled.  He also was responsible for installing the marker at the site of the first schoolhouse.  His initials “W.R.” appear on that plaque.

We set off, surging or trudging up Old School House Hill Road towards the sluiceway between Gull and Higgins Ponds. The route veered onto Steele Road.  Just before the sluiceway we were met by Pat and Randy Bartlett at their home on Gull Pond.  Pat gave the history of the lovely home built by the Higgins family in 1770.  She displayed an old photo of the full Cape cottage, situated on a knoll facing the pond.  She inherited the house through her mother’s line of ancestors.  In response to a question about the location of the outhouse, Pat explained that her family had installed works of art in it and called it the “Art House.”  Today’s house with all modern amenities serves as the Gull Cottage Bed & Breakfast as well as the Bartlett’s year-round home.  Pat says she continues a family tradition of a morning swim every day as much as possible.

While still gathered around for more background information, we heard geologist John Portnoy’s lucid explanation of the Cape’s  pond and land formation by the glaciers.  We then returned to School House Hill Rd., stopping at Patience Brook that connects Higgins Pond to Herring Pond.  There Herring Warden, Dr. Ethan Estey, discussed the herring count and some of the other denizens of the Herring River such as the snapping turtles who lurk in the culverts and the eel population.

The group stopped again to visit the outside of Nora and Sideo Fromboluti’s modern style home designed by Charlie Zehnder. We walked through the courtyard and looked into the house interior through the glass wall on the Gull Pond side. A second free standing art studio for this family of artists lay beyond their residence.

We proceeded to a small parking area at the intersection of Old School House Hill Rd. and Black Pond Rd. and walked to an approximate borderline to get a better look at Slough Pond in Truro. Bill Iacuessa gave an explanation of the terrible name for such a beautiful pond and Horseleech Pond beyond it.  The folks in Truro renamed the ponds, formerly Newcomb’s and Long, to dissuade tourists from disturbing their pristine state.   The locations for the Breuer, Chermayeff and Phillips mid-century modern homes were noted, but they are all on private grounds and not a part of the tour.

The walk turned back westerly along Black Pond Road, providing another full view of Herring Pond and a roof top look at the Saarinen modern home. Designed by Olav Hammarstom, the structure is nestled into the banking below the road at pond level.  At the junction of Old King’s Highway, walkers headed up the hill towards Truro on that road to the site of Wellfleet’s first schoolhouse.  There Dwight Estey, former WCT trustee and current president of the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, enlightened us on the early days of schooling when Wellfleet was still a part of Eastham.  Teachers boarded in revolving homes which also served as schools.  The fishermen’s schools met only during times when the boys were not called to sea.  Curriculum at the first schoolhouse was New Testament Bible and psalter only.

Chet Lay spoke again on the route of the Old King’s Highway when it was the main road traversing the town. It still exists disappearing and reemerging in its original location.  In Colonial times, the Old King’s Highway along the ocean side of East Harbor/Pilgrim Lake was also the only land route to Provincetown.  Chet reminded everyone that to see the original Wellfleet layout of the road, one would have to look in Eastham maps because Wellfleet was not incorporated as a separate town until 1763.

Everyone went back towards Wellfleet on the Old King’s Highway, crossing the intersection with Black Pond Rd. and passing over the Herring River stream. Just after the stream was the driveway into Peter Matson’s 1800’s house.  He and his friendly black Lab welcomed us in the front yard of his three-quarter Cape house, which his father had purchased in derelict state in the 1930’s for $400. By that time, it was one of the few remaining homesteads from the settlement that bordered the Herring River.  After the mouth of the river had been diked in 1909, the area had become undesirable with too many mosquitoes and the low water level.  He did recall that the Peters family’s cattle still came to graze in the fields that still existed before the trees took over the abandoned neighborhood.

The walk resumed going uphill on Old King’s Highway to the intersection of Old Hay Road. There we turned east back towards Gull Pond and eventually took a path that completed the loop and brought us right back to Gull Pond Landing where we began our trek three hours earlier.

 

Tenth Annual Walk, Lieutenant’s Island

WCT 10th Annual Guided Walk; map by Wellfleet Conservation Trust
WCT 10th Annual Guided Walk; map by Wellfleet Conservation Trust

“I stayed just for the walk.” For frequent summer visitor Deb Firtha, this was her fifth Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) annual walk, so she knew that it would be worth it to delay her return to Ohio, and stay for another.

She was not disappointed. Along with 101 others, she enjoyed one of the best walks yet. The weather was perfect: sunny skies, low 70’s, and gentle sea breezes.Walk leader Bill Iacuessa pointed out that there were few ticks in this habitat, the mosquitoes were diminished by the drought, the green heads were past, and there was little poison ivy to worry about.

The walk (open to the public and free as always) began at 9 a.m. at the Lieutenant’s Island causeway in South Wellfleet. It continued a tradition dating to 2007 for the public to experience the beauty of Wellfleet’s open space and conservation lands.

Along the way, we paused at key locations to hear from naturalists and other local experts who could share their knowledge of the history, geology, and ecology of the area. For example, Fire Chief Rick Pauley related several anecdotes about the challenge of providing emergency services to an island, whose road is often impassable at high tide.

Pam Tice, who writes the South Wellfleet history blog, explained why the island’s name is spelled two different ways. She also told us about early settlers, how Lt. Island was once an area for raising horses, and how it later developed as a residential area.

Bob Prescott from Mass Audubon spoke about that organization’s role in preserving habitat in the area, and especially about the terrapin gardens. Bill Huss spoke for the Lt. Island Association, sharing what it’s like to live there. Ginie Page talked about the problem of erosion and the revetments used to counter that. She also talked about how the shoreline had changed over the years. Dwight Estey filled in more of the history, especially about shellfishing and blackfish. Bill Iacuessa helped to connect many ideas throughout and to keep the balance between walking, exploring, and discussing.

Other topics included the causeway and bridge, whale try works, salt haying, and aquaculture. We also talked about specific conservation lands, and how town and private organizations coordinate both to preserve these beautiful habitats and to make them accessible to the public. We discussed potential acquisitions on Lt. Island, which would further connect conservation lands and expand opportunities for enjoying nature. Several of the participants were Lt. Island residents, who were learning new things about their own neighborhood.

The walk was about 2.7 miles, with some soft sand and a few stairs. Walkers were offered the opportunity to leave the walk earlier if necessary. Much of the route was exposed to the wind, especially on the shore of Blackfish Creek, but the mild weather kept the walking pleasant.

Deb Firtha wasn’t the only repeat walker to experience the unique combination of outdoor fitness with learning about nature, history, and the community. But for many of the walkers, this was their first WCT guided walk. They were already asking where next year’s walk would be.

Wellfleet has so much natural beauty that we’ve been able to conduct ten of these walks so far, each to a different area. Wellfleet is full of hidden gems and breathtaking vistas. We hope it always stays that way. That’s what we’re working for.

[Thanks to Susie Quigley and Dwight Estey for many of the photos, to Mark Gabriele, Mary Rogers, and Susan Bruce for suggestions on the text.]

Ninth Annual Walk, LeCount’s Hollow

From the Fall 2015 WCT Newsletter:

Ten thousand steps – that’s what one participant’s pedometer recorded on September 12 at the end of the Trust’s 9th Annual Guided Walk that began and ended at the LeCount’s Hollow Beach parking lot. The 4 mile walk included talks at the start and at five points along the route by South Wellfleet historian Pam Tice, and by Trustees Dennis O’Connell, Bill Iacuessa, Dwight Estey, Don Palladino, and Mary Rogers.

Around seventy-five enthusiastic walkers gathered at 9 a.m. on a perfect day in the parking lot where President Dennis O’Connell and Walk Director Bill Iacuessa welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers. Mary Rogers discussed the original Maguire co”ages which were located at the beach. Pam Tice gave history of the brief-lived German glider school and Cook’s Camp to the south of the area.

The group headed up Ocean View Drive and into the woods along a trail that comes out onto the old Buffum Road, the way into Wellfleet-by-the-Sea before Ocean View Drive was built. The first stop was at a Modernist house, designed by Olaf Hammerstrom around a preexisting dwelling. There the group learned about the old road, about the creation of Ocean View Drive, and about the Surf Side Colony which they had passed on the way into the woods.

From there, the walkers went deep into the wood on a trail known as the “Gauntlet,” which runs roughly parallel to Ocean View Drive. Dwight Estey expanded upon the various colorful names given to different sections of the Gauntlet according to their terrain. The group proceeded west to the outskirts of the WCT Clover Trail. The walkers followed the railroad bed to LeCount Hollow Road, passed through the Rail Trail parking area and crossed Blackfish Creek, walking along the bike trail. From a vantage point high above the east side of Blackfish Creek, Pam Tice gave background on the early South Wellfleet General Store and Post Office, and Don Palladino discussed Blackfish Creek.

The group followed an old section of the Old King’s Highway to Marconi Wireless Road. In front of the newly rebuilt home of Bill Carlson and Lonni Briggs on Marconi Wireless Road, Dennis O’Connell explained their conservation restriction (CR), and Bill Iacuessa discussed the Marconi Station, which was located on top of the dune at the end of the sand road. This was the last stop before returning to the starting point, LeCount’s Hollow Beach parking lot. The total walk took about two and a half hours at a leisurely pace.

Participants were delighted with the walk which opened up new territory to many from Wellfleet and from far away. Come back again next year. We’re already making plans for our 10th Annual Guided Walk in Wellfleet on the Saturday after Labor Day.

 

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Seventh Annual Walk, Old Wharf

From the Fall 2013 WCT Newsletter:

“It was seven talks and walks all in one!” “I learned more about my own neighborhood than I ever knew before.” WCT’s Seventh Annual Guided Walk in Wellfleet on September 7th delighted participants with rich information and beautiful views of Blackfish Creek, Drummer Cove, Cannon Hill, Pleasant Point, Lieutenant’s Island and the main attraction, Old Wharf.

South Wellfleet historian Pam Tice introduced the more than 100 participants to Prospect Hill, where the walk began. Don Palladino oriented the walkers after they emerged from the Indian Trail and headed east along Blackfish Creek. Reversing direction, the crowd followed the shoreline to a causeway where Eric Eastman explained the former layout and force of the inlet.

At Old Wharf North, a few stubs of the pilings were visible before the rising tide lapped over them. Bill Iacuessa distributed pictures of the old wharf and of the blackfish stranding of 1884. Dwight Estey discussed strandings in the vicinity.

At Old Wharf landing Brad Kaplan expounded on shellfishing in the Loagy Bay/Old Wharf area. Pam Tice related tales of rum runners and modern day marijuana smugglers. Herb Elio! explained the advantages of the kayak racks provided by the Trust.

After a little trek down the road, Bruce Hurter revealed an intact turtle garden he and others had been monitoring all summer. The diamondback terrapins were soon due to emerge.

Finally Bob Gross, his wife Susan, and Heidi the Labrador retriever greeted the walkers shortly before noon at their historic South Wellfleet train depot home. Moved from its original location along the tracks on the east side of Blackfish Creek, the building retains some of the original character even with its additions.

“Best walk yet!” “Where are we going next year?” “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” echoed over Prospect Hill as the walkers dispersed.

The Annual Guided Walk is WCT’s signature event. Be sure to join us next time!

Sixth Annual Walk, Indian Neck

From the Fall 2012 WCT Newsletter:

On Saturday September 8th, 73 walkers joined the Trust on  the  Sixth  Annual Walk  in  Wellfleet  around  the northern part of Indian Neck. It was an absolutely perfect September  day  to  visit  an  area many  walk  participants knew little about.   So the combination of exploring new places  coupled  with  talks  once  again  proved  to  be  a successful formula.

The walk started with an orientation to conserved lands by  the  Trust  and  Town  by  Trust  President  Dennis OIConnell at Indian Neck Beach, and then, after a stop by the newly installed Durand Echeverria memorial plaque and  rock  by  the  breakwater  in  Wellfleet  Harbor,  we heard a talk by Trustee Ned Hitchcock on past and future dredging in the harbor.  David Wright, from the Wellfleet Historical Society added comments on the history of the Indian Neck area, including learning that the area got its name by the relocation of the local Native Americans in 1713.  Then,  the  group  moved  around  Chipman’s  Cove and over toward Fox Island to hear about the history of Fox Island Marsh and the cooperation between the State, Town and Trust to preserve this large area.

On Saturday September 8th, 73 walkers joined the Trust on  the  Sixth  Annual  >Walk  in  Wellfleet>  around  the northern part of Indian Neck. It was an absolutely perfect September  day  to  visit  an  area many  walk  participants knew little about.   So the combination of exploring new places  coupled  with  talks  once  again  proved  to  be  a successful formula. The walk started with an orientation to conserved lands by  the  Trust  and  Town  by  Trust  President  Dennis OIConnell at Indian Neck Beach, and then, after a stop by the newly installed Durand Echeverria memorial plaque and  rock  by  the  breakwater  in  Wellfleet  Harbor,  we heard a talk by Trustee Ned Hitchcock on past and future dredging in the harbor.  David Wright, from the Wellfleet Historical Society added comments on the history of the Indian Neck area, including learning that the area got its name by the relocation of the local Native Americans in 1713.  Then,  the  group  moved  around  ChipmanIs  Cove and over toward Fox Island to hear about the history of Fox Island Marsh and the cooperation between the State, Town and Trust to preserve this large area. Wellfleet&Conservation&Trust&Online&Newsletter&•&Fall&2012&•&&Page&1& S

Fifth Annual Walk, Duck Creek tidal marsh

On a beautiful Saturday morning, seventy local residents and visitors gathered for the fifth anniversary walk of the Trust’s popular and now traditional annual event.

Walk-2011canonhStarting from the Congregational Church, where Trust President Denny O’Connell noted the steeple clock strikes the hours in eight bells–the only church in the country that continues this early American coastal town tradition–we proceeded to Dr. Clarence J. Bell Square at the corner of Main street and Whit’s Lane. There Trustee Marcia Seeler spoke about the early century significance of the site, dedicated in 1982 to the memory of Dr. Bell, a family physician whose home and office were at that location.

At Uncle Tim’s Bridge we heard an informative talk on the ecology of the Duck Creek tidal marsh by Bob Prescott, Director of Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Janet Erickson then spoke about the history and reconstruction of Uncle Tim’s Bridge, a local historic landmark named after Timothy A. Daniels who died in 1893. Trustee Frank Corbin then led the walkers around Hamblen Park, also known as Cannon Hill where he described plans to rectify serious erosion on the south slope facing the marina, clear underbrush and improve the vistas from this popular walking area.

Walk-2011UncleT.jpgDenny O’Connell then led the group along the shore of Duck Creek to the Trust’s most recent acquisition, a one acre former residential property behind the Mobil Station on Route 6. He spoke about how the Trust is dedicated to preserving land such as this for generations to come. There’s a story elsewhere in this newsletter about the property. We then circled back along the railroad dike to where the former bridge crossed Duck Creek. There local historian and author David Wright talked about the history of the town along Commercial Street and the role the early railroad played in tourism and the commercial shellfish industry of Wellfleet.

Over the past five years we have visited a different area of our town in places that you may not normally visit and always with individuals who could speak with knowledge about the history and significance of the area. The first walk, in 2007, covered Griffin Island, followed in 2008 by an exploration of Bound Brook Island. In 2009 we walked through the National Seashore where Henry David Thoreau walked over 150 years ago with a stop by the Oysterman’s home where he stayed. In 2010, starting at the Fox Island Marsh and Pilgrim Spring Woodlands Conservation Area we walked along the shoreline of Blackfish Creek and Drummer Cove ending at the Pond Hill School in South Wellfleet.

We’re already thinking about the 2012 walk–any suggestions? And please plan to join us next September.