Saturday, June 21, 2008
Welcoming Summer: A Fort Hill Walk
It was these clouds that drew me to Fort Hill.
I was already on my way to Eastham, as banking was scheduled as part of yesterday morning's activities, since I've not yet gotten my sh*t together about direct deposit. I'm a little wary of giving control of my money to computers, truth be told, and so for now, I'm still making weekly trips back that way.
Even more honestly, I miss living in Eastham. It's a terrific little town I've lived in on and off for much of the last ten years, and I've explored it in the car, on my bicycle and on foot. It's as much home to me as anywhere. A place that's familiar to me, where I am comfortable. I haven't really explored Harwich much yet, though hopefully the summer will bring such opportunities. But I like being in Eastham and so I suspect the weekly banking trips are my way to keep going back.
And it's that time of year when - work commitments allowing - it's easy enough to be let oneself be distracted from the beaten path.
I spotted the cloud when it was still just one large puffy mass, as I drove east on Route 6. It was just hitting the breezes off the ocean as it drifted across the outer beach and as I drove, I could see it splitting into four distinct chimneys. I wish I'd pulled over to take a photo then, as it was quite a sight.
I wanted a nice open spot to do so, though, and so I decided a detour to Fort Hill was just what I needed. Plus, I wanted to see if the lupines were blooming.
Fort Hill sits just above Nauset Marsh, which is protected from the Atlantic's surf by the barrier of the Outer Beach. There's a small parking lot on the hilltop, which is a wonderful place to sit and look in all directions.
It's also one of my favorite spots in Eastham for star-gazing, something I used to do often on the way home from late-night work shifts. There are no streetlights, which makes it ideal for meteor shower viewings and spying ships passing the Cape far out to sea late at night. On the right summer occasions, it can offer a view of distant fireworks displays.
If I were an early riser, I imagine it'd be perfect for sunrise, too.
There's a series of nature trails in the area, the first of which slopes down from the parking area to Doane Rock, a great boulder which sits on the shore of the marsh and offers more views along the shoreline.
Standing atop the rock, it's easy to imagine one of the area's native population doing the same while scouting the area in the days before Europeans arrived.
On the hillside that slopes down toward the marsh and Orleans town cove, it's a wild jumble of green, hosting an assortment of twining vines, yarrow, wild roses (many of those tiny white ones I've mentioned so much of late), milkweed, buttercups and also, a great stand of lupines.
I missed the height of the show this year, sort of on purpose, since I wanted to be sure I was able to collect a little seed. I did find a few still in bloom, but they were fairly far off the path.
Leaving the path really needs to be a careful business, as this is one of those areas Mother Nature protects with one of her fiercest defenders, those dreaded Leaves of Three, poison ivy.
I was well-clad, though, and have no interest in a another of those episodes, so caution was high.
Not only did I get a great photo, but also snapped off a small stalk of fully-formed seedpods. I'll hang it to dry and hopefully have seed to plant later this summer.
Further along the path, these pink rose blossoms drew me in with their brilliant happy colors and sweet fragrance.
You never know what you'll see at Fort Hill, from a wildlife standpoint. Gulls are a regular sight, of course, and rabbits. But I have also surprised in my headlights, when arriving for some of those star-gazing sessions, owls and foxes, and other occasions, spied herons in the waters of the marsh.
Today's sighting was this red-winged blackbird, who perched in a dead treetop just above the rock. There were other people wandering around the rock today, so I didn't climb it. Nor was I able to stay and explore as long as I might have liked.
The path near the rock offers some great views of it's own, both into the green marsh itself and of the mighty Atlantic Ocean beyond. (By the way, Atlantic, Robin says "hey, how's everything?".)
Lingering to enjoy the views meant being able to inhale more of that rose-scented air, which I did for a few minutes, until the cloud of cologne accompanying a newly-arrived clump of out-of-place tourists overpowered nature's roses and I knew it was time to move along to the rest of my day.
But not before capturing a few more shots of this special place to bring along with me. Look at that cloud - it thinks it's a whale or a mermaid.