I am titling this post “winter hikes” not winter walks, because the place on Cape Cod we’ve most recently explored has offered a much more rigorous workout than our previous walks. This walk was yet another one we found in The Nature of Cape Cod by Beth Schwarzman; I am honestly not sure how we’ve missed it to date – since we’ve been using this book as a guide for Cape Cod walks for several years now. But anyway, the site is called the West Barnstable Conservation Area. It doesn’t look like much from the road, but once you get on you really feel like you are in “the woods” as it goes for miles. Schwarzman mentioned you could “get lost”, and at points our first time there we sort of did. Schwarzman failed to emphasize how hilly and rocky it was; every other short path was up (and then down) a steep hill, making the hike feel like a marathon. I would not recommend this hike for anyone who has issues with their knees or walking; I also could see how it might be treacherous if it is icy. Most Cape Cod walks we’ve been on and written about really don’t have that issue. The pain was worth it though, one really felt that you had left civilization on a cold March day. The path we took, starting at Route 149, did not have a lot of signs, so we walked and walked until we decided to call it a day and turn around – eager to check the map and plan our return. We did return, a week later, with a better idea of our surroundings and ended up walking most of the way back directly under the powerlines. The lack of hills made the walk back that much shorter. Forget crossfit, do this walk a few times and you’ll be in shape!
Today we returned to this area for our third time. It was a very warm April day, and we entered the path from a different area than we had previously, finding it less hilly but even more remote feeling. There were lots of road signs, and I tried to remember landmarks (fallen trees, stuff like that) so we found it easier to navigate the paths and remember where we had been. The first few times we walked in this 1,100 acre site, we encountered bikers and dog walkers, but today – perhaps because of the out of the way place we entered the path – we were alone. (For the most part, the difficulty of the terrain here keeps casual walkers away, but from what I’ve heard from locals it is a popular mountain biking area so I would expect to see more as tourist season arrives on Cape Cod.) Schwarzman mentions that although it might not be the forest primeval, this “large area of unbroken woods can give you a sense of what this country looked like before Europeans arrived”. The huge very old pine trees you’ll encounter here are truly striking, add to that a few hundred holly trees and together it creates a pretty lush green atmosphere – making me forget for a while where I was – Cape Cod in April – which offers pretty much a barren winter landscape this time of year. We plan to return soon, as there are still many areas to explore and find on these paths.