finally winter

Province Lands Bike Trail on 3 January 2022.

Lauren and I walked around town yesterday morning, and Cole and I hit the Province Lands Bike Trail in the afternoon. Altogether, I logged a little more than 13 miles traipsing around Provincetown. Not a bad way to start 2022!

When I was a kid, Cape Cod shuttered by mid-October. The shoulder season has grown each year over the decade I’ve been here. The day after New Years is now the moment you hear the door slam. From arriving in town in the morning until leaving at sunset, businesses seemingly disappeared. By dark, there was a real sense that we’ve finally hunkered down. 

Cole and I planed our walk to correspond with the predicted snowfall. But it seems to have tracked to the south of Cape Cod, so while the sky was foreboding we navigated the landscape without getting frosty. While I’m not a huge fan of winter, per se, I do like the occasional walk in the snow!

I might be unusual in this, but I much prefer walking the bike trail to riding a bike on it. Dedicated in 1967, along with the Head of the Meadow and Nauset trails, it’s the first to be built in a National Park. That explains its wonky engineering. With steep slopes, sharp curves and ‘sand traps,’ it’s a challenging ride for even experienced and cautious riders. I’ve been told by paramedics that — along with calls from the breakwater — it’s the most frequent site of serious summer injury. This might explain my preference for walking. 

Your author adding some rosy cheeks to the beautiful gray landscape, 3 January 2022.

One of the joys of the bike trail is that it offers hikes of various lengths. Adding some extra miles by walking from the center of town, Cole and I walked 9 miles. But there’s a loop that’s 3 miles, another that’s 6 miles and yet another I frequent — from my studio on Commercial Street, up to Herring Cove, and over to Race Point — that’s closer to 13. You can also use the bike trail to get to other trails. A favorite — that we attempted but were stymied by flooding due to an extremely high tide — is to pick up the fire road that goes to the back of Hatches Harbor, walk across the salt march to Race Point Light, and around Race Point on the Atlantic beach to the parking lot at the Race Point Coast Guard Station. We think of Race Point as the beach at the old Coast Guard Station, but it’s actually the expanse between the two landmarks that bear the name.

Regarding place names, in early in 2021, the Wampanoag Advisory Committee asked the Provincetown Select Board and the Cape Cod National Seashore to rename Race Point beach “Meeshaun Point.” Meeshaun was the name of the original tribal village in the region. In June, The Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission unanimously supported the Wampanoag Advisory Committee’s request. The matter is pending. For what it’s worth, I think the area should be renamed. ‘Race Point’ — and its connection to the maritime history of the Outer Cape — needn’t be lost in the change. The lighthouse or the station could keep that designation, while the land can reflect a history that’s been purposely obscured over the last several centuries. Making place names more complete helps us better understand the complexity of history.

Although it was dedicated when I was one-year old, I never rode the Province Lands Bike Trail until I came to Provincetown for vacation with a boyfriend in 1996. I started to walk it in winter shortly after I arrived in town on New Years Day 2012. While it’s stunning in high summer — offering vistas with dazzling light and a landscape dotted with subtle flowers, I prefer its austerity in winter. The wind can be overwhelming places, but overall the trail’s undulations offer a fair amount of shelter. Of course, spring and autumn offer their own delights as well.

I generally start my walks on this trail from my studio on Commercial Street and add a couple miles walking through town, but you can create your own variations on these hikes by parking at Herring Cove, Race Point, the Province Lands Visitor’s Center, or at the small lot at the Hatches Harbor fire road. 

Field Guide: Walking & Painting on Cape Cod 
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