Long Walks on Cape Cod
Copyright 1998 Cape Cod Trails Conference
The following guides to long walks on Cape Cod were compiled from actual experience in the field. All the guides are field checked periodically. When a guide is revised, the date of revision is noted next to the link on the home page. Some do not change.
If you find a situation on the ground that is at variance with the guide, use common sense to figure out another route that will enable you to continue. Typically, a path is blocked by some town action, or a landowner has decided to extend his boundaries by posting "no trespassing" beyond his deeded property.
Nevertheless, you must obey any signs that warn you not to go further on that route. Some landowners do permit walking across their property, and will usually have a sign indicating same. Please respect these good people by staying on the path.
Most important, you may not cut anything, build a fire, or camp anywhere on Cape Cod unless it is expressly permitted by signs or by an official brochure for the area you are in. Local people are always vigilant, and will call the police if you are violating these rules.
Now for your own safety, plan what you intend to do. Do not wander off into the woods in T-shirt and shorts and nothing else. The weather on Cape Cod can be hazardous any time of the year. You can get lost easily in a little patch of woods, and wander around without a clue as to how to get out.
If you are going for a hour long walk in a well-marked nature center, fine, but use of these guides presumes a long walk of three to six hours. Therefore you should wear sturdy shoes or boots, carry a small pack with water and perhaps a lunch, have extra clothing on you to take off, or available in the pack, and hang a compass around your neck.
The compass is an absolute necessity. The human brain does not respond to a magnetic field. On a cloudy day in the woods, you will have no idea which direction to go without your handy little friend. We recommend buying the inexpensive, plastic orienteering compass.
It is true that on Cape Cod, you are never far from a road or the water. That's no help, though, if you decide to bail out along the way, and want to walk the shortest way back to your starting point. Carrying the USGS maps will help you, even though the scale is too small to use them as a reliable guide to hiking. They will orient you to roads and natural features on the route of the walk. The sketch maps that we have provided with each guide will do the same.
We have listed the appropriate USGS topographical maps for each walk. They can be purchased on Cape Cod at Eastern Mountain Sports in Hyannis, at the two National Seashore Visitors Centers in Eastham and Provincetown, and by mail directly from USGS at "mapping.usgs.gov". You can also print sections of each map from linked web sites at that address. We are now compiling route maps with a mapping GPS receiver, by placing waypoints on a magnified topographical map.
Hazards of the weather are hypothermia, and heat exhaustion. Without getting clinical, hypothermia is caused by not being adequately dressed for cold, wet weather. Heat exhaustion results from too much exertion on a warm, humid day. Both are easily preventable. Someone should carry a small first aid kit for cuts and bruises. Anything else usually calls for getting professional help. Fortunately, hikers rarely get into serious trouble.
On a positive note, hiking the hidden areas of Cape Cod is a marvelous experience. You see things that most residents do not even know about. You are close to nature and become a volunteer in the worthy cause of protecting and preserving our fragile environment. And you get exercise and scenery for free!