Cape Cod National Seashore is thirty-two times the size of New York City’s Central Park. That’s huge! Yet the National Seashore is considered subtle and low-key. Thoreau, who hiked these shores in 1865, described the landscape as "exceedingly desolate." Today it is generally bypassed by the crowds that visit the rest of the cape. Those who do visit are, like Thoreau, wanting to get away from it all and enjoy nature’s solitude.
I thought it would be cool to follow the same path that Thoreau took along the shoreline, but because the Cape is slowly vanishing into the ocean, that route is now under water several hundred feet offshore. Instead we walked the interconnecting Fort Hill and Red Maple Swamp trails, which start near Eastham.
We followed Fort Hill Trail across open fields, through cedar and oak forests, and along the edge of a marsh. It offered wide vistas of tidal flats and the Atlantic Ocean as well as a Native American sharpening rock. Wildflowers and birdsong accompanied us along the clearly marked trail.
We took the cutoff to the Red Maple Swamp Trail and enjoyed the boardwalk that wound its way through an unexpected grove of maple trees rising from the swamp. I’ll bet this walk is beautiful in autumn, but the cool greenness of the walk was refreshing in the late spring.
The 2-mile loop was easy walking for us. We spent about 2 hours on the paths because we took our time observing the vast assortment of landscape and wildlife along the trails and reading the exhibit panels.
No restrooms, but free parking and information pamphlets are available at the trailhead. Check out the National Seashore for more info on what to see and do in the park. And if you’re thinking of going, go soon: this part of Cape Cod may well be gone in a few hundred years.