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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 café 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

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