Nature's Path & Way To Go
7:50 PM EST, January 24, 2013
It's January, a time many people escape to an island.
Usually a warm island with palm trees swaying in the breeze somewhere near the equator.
Not for me. I go east. Directly east to Cape Cod. "I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky," as John Masefield wrote. And Cape Cod in January is a lonely place. And there's no place in this world I would rather be.
This time it was a visit last weekend with my 10-year-old daughter, Molly, who sometimes seems to be looking to put the golden years of her childhood behind her in favor of becoming an adult.
Cape Cod has always been one of the places I go to escape. I go to renew my spirit and recharge my batteries. My playground is the Cape Cod National Seashore and places like Nauset Light Beach, and Coast Guard Beach down to the break where the Nauset Marsh enters the Atlantic.
But this time, I wanted to explore a new frontier. After consulting a quadrangle map, I discovered Pochet Island, a knob of sand at the southern end of Nauset Beach in Orleans, just south of my familiar beach playgrounds.
So with my daughter and my 75-year-old mother, who still loves to explore, I set off down a trail from the parking lot of Nauset Beach in search of the wooden bridge that takes us to Pochet Island. Some might view the brown dune grass and tundra-like sand as a wasteland, but the beauty of a barrier beach in winter is its solemn vastness.
A bridge across a tidal channel marks the entrance to Pochet after a mile-and-a-half walk. A rocky and sandy trail takes visitors to the heart of the island, a mixture of open fields with huge pitch pine, cedar, and oak trees. From the top of the island there are panoramic views over the dunes out across Atlantic. Unmarked, but easy-to-follow, trails encircle the island.
The island immediately became a playground for both young and old. After racing through the fields, Molly found a huge oak. I gave her a boost, and she climbed up and looked over the Atlantic like she was in the crow's nest of a ship. I walk through the field taking in the views of each overlook out across marshes and dunes to the ocean whitecaps.
Before we end our journey, we explored every nook of the island, from a small kettle hole to hills covered with bearberry with overlooks out across Little Pleasant Bay to the west. We found a bench overlooking the island and took a break from our explorations to listen to the ocean and the wind blowing through the pitch pines.
My daughter always wants to be older than her years. As we return from the island, I watch her on all fours in the sand pretending to be a crab, or chasing after me with sea foam on her fingers. I had my little girl back — if only for a few moments.
After our visit, she called my wife at home. "We went to the coolest island ever," she said. "It was magical."
More than you will ever know, Molly.
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