One place I haven't taken nearly enough advantage of is the Sandy Neck Barrier Beach. The north side is a fairly typical six mile stretch of stony Cape Cod sand. Folks are allowed to take their all-wheel drive vehicles out there, provided there are no Piping Plovers nesting along the shore. Because the beach only has one access point, a plover nest at the first mile shuts down the last five miles of beach to vehicles. This has caused a great deal of tension in the community, as environmentalists and beach use advocates go head to head. We've even had nests of Plover eggs smashed so that the rangers would have no excuse for keeping big stretches of it closed.
Personally, I'm more fascinated by the southern side of the barrier beach, which has a winding trail between the salt marsh and the beach. There's seven miles of constantly changing nature back there worthy of a zen garden. I did a lot of work out there with a biology teacher during high school. In addition to the plovers, they've also studied deer, coyotes, crows, diamondback terrapins, and honeybees all along this route.
There's also a scattering of cottages, most of which went up during the Great Depression and which pass to the builders' descendants through some kind of eminent domain arrangement. The way I understand it, the owners are very limited in the repairs the are allowed to make, and new construction is forbidden. No one is allowed to drive on these trails except for cottage owners and rangers. Although the biologists I worked with did have a pass to drive here--as well as a publicly held research station that's used for overnights with students. I spent a couple of nights there myself, in-between days tracking coyote trails and homing into the signals broadcast by radio-collared deer.
It's been years since I've been all the way out to the end, and then it was only once or twice. The stretches of loose sand alternating with packed dirt and gravel make for a vigorous workout whether one walks or runs. But it was a crystal clear day today, with a cool north wind, and recent rainfall has left the sand a little more firmly packed than it would be otherwise, so it seemed like a good day to take my new runner's legs out for a prolonged drive.
So many vistas, treasures, and surprises.
Like around mile five, I came across...hello what's this?
Let's go in for a closer look. Could it be...
Yep. It is. Just about the nicest writer's retreat someone could ask for. I'm tempted to strap the Olivetti Lettera to my back and spend a day out here tapping away on the porch. Or maybe my Remington student model, which has no bell and therefore would make for quieter jogging. Maybe if I left a politely worded note I could work out a rental arrangement. Me and the spirit of EB White, in a shed.
Not today, though. Today I had my heart set on jogging all the way to the end of the beach. (Plus, no typewriter.) Around mile six I passed a hiker going the other way. He took in my plodding gait and the half-empty water bottle in my hand and said, "I'm exhausted just looking at you." Strangely enough, I was still feeling pretty damn vigorous at the time.
The thing about getting to the end is, you're only halfway there. All that sand is a lot harder to run through on the way back.
Round trip was 14.3 miles according to my magic GPS phone. This is a record for me, more than a half-marathon, and in sand. And I have some pretty gnarly blisters on my toes to show for it.
The body is tired but the soul is restored.