Thoreau Who? Trek Provides A Different Perspective On Cape Cod

By: Chris Doyle

Topics: Conservation

CHRISTOPHER DOYLE PHOTO

“I just want to go on record again saying I think this idea is stupid.”

Eli had been saying this for as long as the rest of us had been planning, and at this point it was too late to change his mind. We stood at the metaphorical point of no return at the edge of the parking lot at Race Point in Provincetown. Twenty-seven miles of sandy beach lay ahead of us. It had stopped raining but the wind coming off the water drove the dampness in the air this way and that. We felt prepared, maybe it was just the adrenaline and the nerves, but either way the reservations addressed in the hours leading up to our departure seemed distant and unimportant the moment we walked out onto the sand.

In the beginning we were naive. Our legs were fresh and it was good to be together. The words from the passage we read in the parking lot by Oriah Mountain Dreamer played over in my head: “I want to know/if you will risk/looking like a fool/for love/for your dream/for the adventure of being alive.”

Out on the beach, removed from the rest of the Cape, we probably looked like fools. Small ants marching on into the monotony of where the water meets the sand. For our crew, however, we knew our task. We had our own reasons driving us and that was enough.

As the sun broke through the clouds for the first time, we felt relaxed, finally able to soak in the natural, untouched beauty before us. Things were looking up already, and it was hard not to let our emotions get the best of us. As locals, we should have known better. Will looked over his shoulder, calling out for us to do the same as the horizon filled with ominous clouds.

The wind drove the charging rain clouds across the ocean. In our minds, there was still hope that the clouds would break before they reached us, or that somehow we would be able to outrun them. The rain came down fast. Blown into our backs by the wind, we were soon soaked from head to toe. Seeking shelter behind a nearby dune, we found sanctuary enough to have a snack and wait out mother nature.

When the clouds broke and the rain subsided, we emerged onto the beach. Mother Nature had challenged our morale and showed us true power with raw inhibition. There was a beauty and truth that we could not deny. With our vigor renewed, we pushed onward down the beach.

We kept pace with the buoys, washed up from the ocean, being blown down the shoreline by the wind. Rolling along beside us, like old friends playing tag, we chased each other across the sand. A hawk with watchful eyes guarded the seagull carcass at its feet, fearing that we might try to scavenge its meal away. Nature ruled the land around us with untamed savagery and a gentle caressing touch. With aching legs and tired hearts, we slept under the stars. Tomorrow was another day.

The sun blazed over the horizon as the morning fog retreated back into the dunes. It was shaping up to be a gorgeous day. Breakfast was appropriately slow as we stretched with the beach grass towards the sun. A gentleman in the parking lot where we ate approached us, admittedly jealous of our location choice. He had eaten in the comfort of his home earlier. In the moment, that thought did not appeal to any of us.

The previous day we were outliers, humans trespassing in an untouched natural world. Alone with ourselves, we faced it head on. This day was different. Off in the distance, vibrant colors filled the sky. Paragliders were leaping from the dunes, timing their jumps with the gusts of wind that would, they hoped, carry them into the sky looking to catch a fleeting moment of what it must feel like to fly. Surrounded by this human attempt to imitate nature, we pushed forward now focused on one task, finishing what we set out to do.

At roughly 3 p.m. we arrived at Coast Guard beach; our mission was complete. Someone asked us where we had come from, and when we said, “Race Point,” they asked if we were following Thoreau’s walk. “No” was the truthful answer.

We knew nothing about his Cape Cod walk; at least, it was not our initial intent. We had set out to test our mettle as humans, experience our home in a way we had never experienced her before, and to get away from it all for a while.

So although we marched to our own drum, Henry David’s footsteps laid a path for us to follow.