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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cape Cod Bike Trails: Mid-Cape

 Off the Main Roads:  Safe and beautiful bike trails of Mid Cape Cod

Photo of a map of the Cape Cod Rail Trail
Cape Cod Rail Trail
A lot of guests at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast enjoy biking and are looking for scenic routes to get a little exercise and see more of the beautiful Cape. In an earlier blog, we introduced the two wonderful bikeways nearest to us on the Upper Cape, the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway and the Shinning Sea Bikeway. A little further down Cape is another great trail that many of our quests have experienced this year, the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

As the name implies, this trail started as the rail bed for the trains that criss-crossed Cape Cod in the late 1800s through the mid 1900s. For all the talk about rapid and mass transit we hear today, we forget that in the 1800s trains connected much of the country. The first railway on Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Branch Railroad, came to Sandwich in 1846 to service the large Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, as well as deliver the mail and passengers. Many of Sandwich’s first tourist arrived by train. Part of this original line still exists and is used today by the Cape Cod Central Railroad for ‘scenic adventures through Cape Cod’s hidden back country’ and still stops in Sandwich. After the Sandwich connection was made, other lines sprung up to link the Cape towns all the way to Provincetown. The advent of the automobile and improved roadways doomed most of the small lines and left the abandoned railroad right-of-ways winding through the countryside.

The old rail beds make the perfect bike path when reclaimed and paved. The Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) may be the Cape’s best-known and longest bike-way. It starts in the mid-cape town of Dennis and runs 25 miles to the outer-Cape town of Wellfleet. From its beginning off Route 134 in Dennis, the original trail ran through Harwich and Brewster to Orleans. I remember fondly my first ride on the trail in the late 1980s. A friend had a summer cottage in Brewster and he introduced me to the trail that is just a short way inland. We biked along beautiful marshes and bogs, even stopping to swim in a wonderful, small, fresh water pond. We lay in the sun on the grassy/sandy beach until our shorts dried and then resumed our ride refreshed. What a great way to spend a Cape Cod day. This original portion of the CCRT to Orleans has been extended approximately 10 miles through Eastham to LeCount Hollow Road in Wellfleet. You will find plenty of cafes and ice cream stands along the way, but I always advise my guest to be sure they are ready for a 50 mile round trip. Honestly, that is a little too far for me these days.

Photo of the Chatham Fish Pier
Chatham Fish Pier
For our less ambitious guests, the CCRT offers a shorter ride to one of our favorite destinations on the Cape, Chatham. We always recommend visiting this beautiful up- scale town on the ‘elbow’ of the Cape and if a guest also wants to bike, this a great way to do both. Again, from the start of the CCRT on Route 134 in Dennis, the Chatham Rail Trail Extension winds its’ way the 11.7 miles to Crowell Road in Chatham. From there, a short trip down Shore Road takes you past the majestic Chatham Bars Inn to the Chatham Fish Pier. Lunch in luxury at the Inn’s cafĂ© on the beach or casually on the pier watching seals beg for scraps as the working fishing fleet unloads it’s catch. The fish does not get any fresher. Another must see is the Chatham Lighthouse that over looks the breathtaking Chatham bars (sandbars for visitors). As the seal population has increased, a new attraction is spotting the Great White Sharks that also love the seals. If you remember the movie Jaws, take care before you go for that swim.

From our Sandwich bed and breakfast, it is only about 25 miles to the start of this great bike trail. A good source for detailed information about the CCRT, and other trials, is the Cape Cod Bike Guide web site. It has a downloadable trail maps, a complete list of bike shops, and directions to parking lots at the various access points on the trails. Stay with us and we will give you a list of our favorite ice cream stands along the trails.

 Charlie Preus, the Innkeepers Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cape Cod Bike Trails: Upper Cape

Off the main roads:  Safe and beautiful bike trails on Upper Cape Cod

Cape Cod is known for it beautiful beaches and summer fun. Also, it is now getting to be known for its network of splendid bike trails. Many guests at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast are cyclist, ranging in skill and dedication from the causal rider needing to rent a bike locally, to the fully spandex-decked-out nut with the clamp-on shoes (not the technical term, but you know who I mean). The first type wears his baseball cape and meanders about on a sturdy set of big tired wheels from the rental shop on Jarvis street. For these guests, the short rides around Sandwich Village, or maybe as far as the Boardwalk, is often as much exercise as they want. The second type dons a Star Wars like aerodynamic helmet and lovingly unloads his very expensive, ultra light, thin tired, racing machine from his custom-made bike rack with the half dozen locks. Lance Armstrong has nothing on these guys, including the faux near florescent yellow jersey.

photo of Cape Cod Bike Path mapI am pleased to say that Cape Cod and the Islands have much to offer both of these riders, as well as the many different leveled enthusiasts in between. Oh, a third type is the off road mountain biker, who most likely did BMX racing as kid, has had a few extremity fractures in the past, and I bet a total hip replacement or two in their future. In appealing to the biggest part of the bell curve of cyclist and needs of my most common baby-boomer guests, I will cover the trials that are paved and more civilized, leaving the off-roaders to find their own Trial of Tears.

Photo of the Cape Cod Canal bike path
Cape Cod Canal Bike Path
As always, we see Sandwich as a great central location for all types of Cape Cod recreation and site seeing during any season, and our Inn as the logical and convenient place to stay. We happen to be only a mile or so from the start of one of the easiest bike paths, the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway. The man-made Cape Cod Canal was built at the turn of the last century and connected two rivers, separating the peninsula from the mainland and creating the island we have today. On either side of the canal, the Army Core of Engineers, that maintains the waterway, has built wide paved access roads. Walkers, runners, roller bladders, and non-motorized vehicles enjoy this almost flat, scenic 8-mile path right next to the water. On the Cape side of the canal, it starts next to the Sandwich Marina and runs under both the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges to the Rail Road Bridge in Buzzards Bay. The easy ride gives you time to observe the water traffic, which ranges from small fishing and pleasure boats, to three-masted tall ships, to huge ocean tankers guided by Tugs heading to Boston. After a round trip ride of up to almost 20 miles, you can enjoy refreshments at the Aqua Grille as the sun sets over the marina. I often do the sunset, even if I do not make the ride. Comfortable bikes are available for rent from Justin at Ecotourz.   

Photo of the Shining Sea Bikeway market
About 15 miles away in North Falmouth is the beginning of the Shinning Sea Bikeway that runs through Falmouth and Woods Hole. It was named for a line in the song America the Beautiful that was written by Katherine Lee Bates, a long time Falmouth resident. Like many of the paved bike trails today, this one started as an abandoned railway right-of-way and has been reclaimed, cleared and paved. Like the original rail lines, it meanders through the back woods, past small ponds and in this case along the beach on Vineyard Sound and past the Nobska Lighthouse. This mostly flat 10.7 miles path runs from County Road in North Falmouth to the Steamship Authorities’ parking lot in Woods Hole. Full service bike shops for rentals and repairs are conveniently located at the start and in Falmouth. At trail’s end, treat yourself in Woods Hole at Jan’s favorite spot for key-lime pie, the Pie in the Sky coffee shop.

These are two of our favorite bikeways on the Upper Cape that we refer our guest to for easy, scenic cycling. The Cape Cod Bike Guide web site  has more information on each of these trails including downloadable trail maps, a complete list of bike shops, and directions to parking lots at the various access points on the trails. Stay with us at our Sandwich Inn and we’ll fill you in on the other fun things to do while you enjoy the trails.

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper's Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Friday, September 21, 2012

Visiting Cape Cod - Why Stay in Sandwich?

When we decided to become innkeepers, we wanted to buy a Cape Cod bed and breakfast located in an area that provided the best possible experience for guests. Having had a house on the Cape for many years, and commuting from Boston every weekend, we wanted a location that was easy to travel to from the airports in Boston and Rhode Island and for folks who come to the Cape from surrounding towns and states. Location was the most important aspect but our criteria was much greater.

A map of Cape Cod and the islands
The island of Cape Cod -- and yes, it is one of the largest barrier islands in the world--is such a spectacular vacation destination with so many quaint and beautiful villages that I think it is often difficult for folks who aren't familiar with it to choose just where to stay when they are planning their trip. This was also a challenge for Charlie and me when we began our search for the village in which we wanted to live and work. There are so many reasons we chose Sandwich, and particularly the historic village area, and we want to share them with you in the hope that it will encourage you to choose it when making your decision about where to stay on your visit to Cape Cod.

Aside from being the oldest and most historic village on Cape Cod, it is as the real estate slogan says; location, location, location. When staying in Sandwich, it is so easy to take day trips to any of the Cape's other villages and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The rich history here, fabulous restaurants (some on the water), beaches, great shopping, museums galore, hiking and biking trails, rivers and marshes for kayaking. What more could one hope for?

Photo of the Aqua Grille Waterside Patio
Aqua Grille Waterside Patio
 With the wide variety of restaurants in our village, there is something for everyone. We have one of the famous Seafood Sam's for some of the area's best fresh fish and shellfish. One of the finest restaurants on Cape Cod is located here in the renovated and re-purposed church that is the unique and elegant Belfry Bistro. We have the popular restaurant and tavern at the Dan'l Webster Inn and the wonderful Aqua Grille that is located on the Sandwich Marina with a beautiful outdoor patio for waterfront dining and a view of our spectacular sunsets. You can also have a cocktail and watch the sunset from Hemisphere Restaurant located right on town beach. We have a great little pizza parlor called Emelia's where some of the best pizza you ever tasted is made. There is the prized Cafe Chew (Sandwich's Sandwichery) for a great lunch and, for lovers of Italian food, we have Tomato's, Amari, and the Sagamore Inn. For traditional New England fare, you can have lunch or dinner at the Bee-Hive Tavern. We have two Irish Pubs; Flynn's and Bobby Byrne's. There is also a British pub and we have one of the top 10 English Tea Shops in the country in the Dunbar Tea Shop--you just gotta try their desserts. We have two of the best gourmet shops in Momo's and the Brown Jug and two great wine shops in the Brown Jug Wine Shop and Cellar 55 Wine Merchants. And, of course, you have to visit the Marshland Restaurant to try their quahog, which was named  'Best in the US' by the Food Network. And then there are our three amazing ice cream shops; Twin Acres, Sweet Caroline's, and Ice Cream Sandwich. They are only open during the summwe season but you want to try all three while you are here. You be the judge of which is the best. Right in the village are Beth's Teas and The Coffee Roost. So many of these great places you can walk to from our bed and breakfast.

We have antiques shops with some of the most affordable antiques shopping on the Cape, art galleries galore, and shops with divine gift items and lovely treats for yourself. We have shops that feature local artisans and crafts people and we have the very special Spotted Cod with the most beautiful gifts and home decorating items you will find anywhere....shades of Coastal Living. We have three glass blowing studios producing world class items. After all, Sandwich is known as the ''Glass Town' with a glass making history that dates back to the 1800s when Sandwich was the world center for pressed glass making. You can learn all about that era at the Sandwich Glass Museum, just across the street from our inn.

Photo of Dexter Grist Mill in Sandwich MA
Dexter Grist Mill
And speaking of fun things to do, in addition to visiting the Glass Museum,  we have the oldest operating grist mill, circa 1654, right across the street on Shawme Pond where you can watch corn being ground during the season and buy the meal to take home to enjoy. This mill is also one of the most photographed attractions in our area. And just up the street from the grist mill is the Hoxie House, the oldest completely restored house on Cape Cod where you can see how the colonials lived.

Located on Grove Street, and just up the hill from our inn, is one of the crown jewels of Cape Cod, and southern New England's largest public garden, Heritage Museums & Gardens. That in itself could be a day trip. In addition to the most amazing floral and tree covered grounds, this 100 + acre horticultural garden is home to three museums, including an auto museum with one of the finest antique American auto collections in the world. It is housed in a reproduction, round, stone Shaker barn. Housed in another museum is an antique carousel that has been fully restored. Be sure to take a spin back in time.

Before you leave Heritage Museums & Gardens, check out the Maze and the Labyrinth. If you are there in early summer, you will have the pleasure of walking the trails where 10,000+ rhododendrons will be in resplendent bloom. Don't miss Hidden Hollow and its tree house, believe me it's not just for kids.

Another part of Sandwich's history is that Thornton Burgess, famed children's story book author, lived here. Homage is paid to this environmentalist at the Thornton Burgess Museum and at the Green Briar Nature Center. At Green Briar, is possibly the oldest operating jam making kitchen in the country. If you love making homemade jam, you may want to schedule your visit here to include one of their jam workshops.

If you are like me and really enjoy visiting old cemeteries, we have several here in the village. Go for a morning walk and stop by the Old Town Cemetery just up the street, which dates back to the 1600s. The feeling that you have just stepped back in time is palpable there.

Photo of Sandiwich Boardwalk
Sandwich Boardwalk
A visit to Sandwich is not complete until you have visited the Sandwich Boardwalk, which spans the marshes and mill creek and leads to the sand dunes of Town Beach on Cape Cod Bay. Just this year, our lovely boardwalk was named one of the 10 most beautiful in the world by National Geographic magazine.

If that isn't enough to keep you happily engaged, how about an afternoon kayaking along Mill Creek and Scorton Creek or biking along the Cape Cod Canal Bike Path. You can bring you own bike or kayak or Justin at EcoTourz would be happy to rent you one and you can even schedule a kayak tour with him. There are also many trails to hike and beaches to stroll. Folks love to search our beaches in hopes for finding some small pieces of beach glass, perhaps even a particle of the illusive Sandwich glass.

Photo of Justin kayakingAs I have said, Sandwich is the perfect place to call 'home' while you are visiting Cape Cod. We will give you maps and direct you to other parts of the Cape for great day trips and adventures. We can also help you plan your visit to the other islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. We hope you will come stay at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast and think of it as your seaside retreat while you are here.

Jan Preus, the Innkeeper, chef, and artist in residence at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cape Cod Cranberry Harvest 2012

Photo of Cranberries on the vine
Some people think the ‘season’ on Cape Cod ends on Labor Day, when many Cape Cod residents wave goodbye from the overpasses on Route 6 as tourist stream home. For us at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast, we are just swinging into our fall season, which many of our guests think is nicer than the summer season because the weather is still great, the crowds are gone, and there are great things to do. Take Cranberry festivals for an example of unique and truly Cape Cod experience that does not involve the beach and sand. 

Fall is harvest time in any agriculture community and the cranberry is the Cape’s number one farm product. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the largest growers of cranberries in the United States, with over 900 bogs and 14,000 acres in the Southeastern part of the state, more than half of which are right here on Cape Cod. Cranberries have been an essential food crop since the Pilgrims landed 20 miles north of here in 1620. The Native American Indians introduced them to this versatile little fruit that they used for everything from creating colorful clothing dyes to a powerful healing potion. A fact I find interesting is that the cranberry is one of only three fruits indigenous to North America. The other two are Concord grapes and blueberries. All three are native to our New England state.  

Cranberry harvesting usually starts after Labor Day and, depending on the weather, can go through late October and early November. The berries grow on short evergreen shrubs in ‘bogs’, which are flat sandy rectangular plots surrounded by dykes. During the summer, the shrubs turn from a dull brownish color to a dark green. Most are harvested by what is known as the ‘wet-picked’ method, where the bogs are flooded and the red berries float to the top. The berries are loosened from the vines and corralled to a corner of the bog to be pumped out for processing. We have all seen the Ocean Spray commercial with the two men standing in water surrounded by floating berries. It does look something like that. During the harvest season it is fun to drive along 6A or down the back roads off 6A, and come around the corner to see the brilliant patchwork of squares of green and red as the bogs of the lush green plants are flooded and the ripe bright red fruit floats on top of the water. Great information about the cranberry industry is available from  the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association.

The cranberry harvesting season is not only a visual delight, but a fun time as festivals and special events around the Cape celebrate the bounty all during September and October. The town of Harwich is credited with establishing the commercial cranberry industry on the Cape in 1847. Harwich’s relationship with the berry continues with their annual Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival Saturday and Sunday, September 15th  and 16th. See their website for details of their ‘Cran-Jam’ music line up and parade schedule.

Photo of Jam Making Class
Jam Making at Green Briar
On October 6th you can actually make your own cranberry jam at the 1903 Jam Kitchen at the Green Briar Nature Center, a mile or so down the road from our Inn. The Centers’ bogs and ponds served as the inspiration for the stories of the famous children’s book author, Thornton W. Burgess. On a stroll of their nature trails and wild flower gardens you may see a descendent of Peter Rabbit or Peter Cottontail.

Also, the weekend of October 6th and 7th is the 9th Annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration, sponsored by the A.D. Makepeace Company and the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association. The two-day event features cranberry bog tours, helicopter rides, pony rides, cooking demonstrations, juried crafters and artisans, and musical performances. A.D. Makepeace Company is one of the largest growers in Southeastern Mass and located just across the canal in Wareham.   

Come and stay at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast anytime and we will you tell you where our local Sandwich bogs are so you can see one for yourself. We can also help you set up bog tour with at the Cape Cod Bog and Farm in Harwich. Jan may also be cooking up some of her tastey cranberry bread to help celebrate the harvest. 

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper's Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lighthouses of Nantucket Island

Lighthouse hunting is a favorite pastime for guests who stay at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast. Nantucket is a magical island like no other I have visited and it is home to three picturesque lighthouses; Brant Point Light, Sankaty Light, and Great Point Light. These beacons of safety have been guiding mariners into harbor for centuries.

During the 1800s, Nantucket was a major whaling port. Many books have been written about this small island  and it's whaling history. One of my favorite is Ahab's Wife written by Sena Jeter Naslund. This magical book weaves fascinating stories about whaling in and around Nantucket.

Brant Point Light
Photo of Brant Point Light on Nantucket
Brant Point Light
The first light, and the second to be built in the colonies, Brant Point Light was built on the island of Nantucket in 1746. It was a wooden structure built on Nantucket Harbor. It was replaced several times over the years as it was destroyed by fire or storm. The first brick tower was built in 1856 and was lit on December 10th of that year and bore a Fourth order Fresnel lens that beamed a fixed  light. Although this structure still stands, because of erosion a new tower was built in 1901. It was only 26 feet tall and was again constructed of wood. It was fitted with a Fifth order Fresnel lens. Some years later, the light would be changed to a flashing red so that it was more easily differentiated from the lights of the town.

Brant Point Light is still guiding mariners today. Although its flashing red light is only 26 feet above sea level, it can be seen ten miles out to sea. When you visit Nantucket, it is one of the first things you see as the ferry rounds Brant Point and heads into the harbor. You can walk to the grounds on which it stands but the lighthouse itself is not open to the public.

Sankaty Light
Photo of Sankaty Light on Nantucket
Sankaty Light
Built in 1850 of brick, Sankaty Light is located on Sankaty Head in Siasconset (known as Sconset to the locals) and stands 70 feet tall. The lighthouse was originally fitted with a Second order Fresnel lens, making it the first in the United States to have one of these lenses. The fixed white light that it emitted could be seen for 20 miles out to sea and was called by fishermen 'the blazing star'.

Sankaty Light was electrified in 1933 and changed to a flashing light. In 1950, the Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern rotating beacon and in 1965, the light was automated. The original Fresnel Lens is now on exhibit at the Nantucket Whaling Museum located at 13 Broad Street near where the ferry docks . The museum is a must see when visiting Nantucket. Some guided tours of Nantucket Island include the lighthouse but the tower is not open to the public.

If you decide to go it on your own, leave Nantucket Village by Milestone Road and head out to Siasconset. When you reach the rotary, take Sankaty Avenue to Butterfly Lane and turn right. When you reach Baxter Street, turn left. At the end of Baxter, you will see where the original light was and the new one 400 feet from the original site.

Great Point Light
Photo of Great Point Light on Nantucket
Great Point Light
During the 18th century, the area between the mainland and Nantucket was one of the busiest shipping routes and one of the most treacherous. Residents of the island requested the building of a lighthouse to reduce the number of shipwrecks in that area.

In 1785 the first lighthouse was constructed on what was then called Sandy Point and was made of wood. It was destroyed by fire in 1816 after which a 60-foot stone tower was built and finished in 1818. In 1857 a third order Fresnel lens was installed and in the 1950's, the light was automated.

As erosion began to threaten the lighthouse, Islanders appealed to the Coast Guard to move it inland. The request was rejected and in 1984, the lighthouse was destroyed. Because of he efforts of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, federal money was made available to build a replica of the original light some 300 yards from the old site. It is made of concrete and plastic and stands 60 feet high. A solar powered white light flashes every five seconds.

You can reach Great Point from Nantucket Village by traveling east to Polpis Road and then turning north on Wauwined Road. You will need a four-wheel drive vehicle and a permit to travel the seven miles from Wauwinet to the lighthouse.

The area where Great Point light is located is not open to the public as it is a nesting area for the endangered piping plover. From May to October guided tours of area are available through the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. The tour includes a climb to the top of the tower. The Fresnel lens is fittingly on display in an area outside the Nantucket Lifesaving Museum which is located at 158 Polpis Road.

The lighthouses are not the only attraction to Nantucket but a visit there isn't complete until you have paid homage to these historic beacons of safe harbor.

Jan Preus, the Innkeeper, chef, and artist in residence at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts