Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fall Walking on Cape Cod

The heat of the summer is slowly exiting as we enter the Autumnal Equinox or season of Fall. A great time to walk the beaches, paths and old roads of Cape Cod. The sun holds strong in the sky favoring us with temperatures in the mid-seventies during the day and warming the air enough to give us cool nights in the moderate fifties.

Recently I walked with the Eastham Hiking Club to find some new views of the Cape. We began our four mile hike at Marconi Beach in Wellfleet with a beautiful view from atop the dunes.

  Then we turned around, walked a short distance, and then into the woods.

Our goal was to find the remains of the old Fresh Brook Village of Wellfleet, located within the National Seashore.
This ancient settlement near the Old Kings Highway began in 1730 in what was then called Eastham with a dozen fishermen and their families. With the incorporation of Wellfleet in 1763, it became a part of Wellfleet.

Image and map by Michael O'Connor
The red line on this aerial view shows our path. Marconi Beach is to the right and in the middle of the picture is a yellow pin to mark the old cellar from the house of the last resident of Fresh Brook–Asa Cole–who died in 1905.

The village, located on a portion of the Old King's Highway, was a quiet place where fishermen could access the bay using small boats. The houses were adequate and usually included enough land for a small garden plot. There was a store and Aunt Lydia Taylor’s tavern, where travelers using the stage along the old Highway might stop for refreshment. Children attended a one-room school house nearby. In 1872, with the building of the railroad, Fresh Brook was crossed over by a culvert restricting the size of passage under the tracks. The fisherman couldn't get their boats through to the bay, soon afterward, the families moved elsewhere. The long gray line on the left in the aerial view represents the railroad, it is now the bike path.
We stopped midway on our walk, to view a depression in the ground. The hole had a diameter of about five feet. A hint of gray from circular stones showed beneath a cover of brambles and green growth giving evidence that it was indeed an old cellar. One could envision a small house built on top of it.  We hiked farther into the woods following the meandering Fresh Brook River, returning through a thick woods. As we came to our starting point, some left for the parking lot of Marconi Beach. Others, like me, walked to see one more magnificent view of the ocean.

The path grew narrower as we climbed the dune but the sounds of the ocean kept us going–we knew it was close.

And there it was, a beautiful expansive ocean view.

The sea air blew our warm faces cool and refreshed us after such a long hike. The minor aches in my body were forgotten as my eyes enjoyed the mixed blues of the water and verdant greens of the ground cover.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day! – one of my favorite days of the year.
I discovered this event almost 12 years ago when I started getting serious about actually writing my novel involving Sam Bellamy, Maria Hallett, and Nancy Caldwell.
During that decade on the Cape, I would walk the bay or visit the crashing waves on the ocean side, conjuring up plot-lines, ideas, and ways to weave my story across time. I wrote The Old Cape House using alternating chapters from the 1700s to the 21st century.

As I researched pirates, I came across this wonderful site and was hooked. It's so much fun!

 International Talk Like A Pirate

Tim and I race to the beach whenever we hear that the remains of a shipwreck have been uncovered, usually after a nor'easter or an exceptionally high tide.

Here are pieces of the Montclair from Nova Scotia a few years past. It wrecked on March 5, 1927 near Orleans, MA.

Barry Clifford, adventurer, underwater explorer, and treasure hunter discovered artifacts and remnants from the pirate ship Whydah in 1984 off Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, Ma. It's the only authentic pirate ship ever discovered and documented. It was captained by Black Sam Bellamy from 1716-1717. The bell of the pirate ship Whydah was discovered in the fall of 1986, this was proof positive that he had located the site of the wreck.
Photo courtesy of The Whydah Museum

 The Whydah Museum in Provincetown on Macmillan Wharf is one of my regular places to visit.
Whydah Museum

Photo courtesy of The Whydah Museum
  Here is Barry Clifford with some of the treasure that was found at the underwater site.

Photo courtesy of The Whydah Museum
The Spanish doubloon was a 7 gram piece of gold minted in Spain and Mexico. The word doubloon has its roots in the latin word 'duplus' meaning double or the sum of two escudos. From the Americas, they were carried throughout the Caribbean by Spanish galleons seeking trade for silks and spices. Pirating was rampant in the West Indies, the pirates knew that gold was always welcomed wherever they sailed and finding it on these ships was extremely high.
The coins were usually odd–shaped due to the process of producing them. The gold was melted into narrow strips, cut into blanks, pressed against a coin die, weighed, then trimmed by hand.

Photo courtesy of Sea Research Society
On the other hand, 'pieces of eight' were generally of silver and minted in the Americas. This Spanish coin made by native Americans in Mexico, Peru, Columbia, and other countries in Central and South America enslaved by the Spaniards was valued at eight reales and could be physically cut into eight bits for change. The abundance of these coins gave the pirates even more incentive to loot the galleons who sought to trade throughout the oceans. Note the half coins and uneven cuts on them.
The dies pressed into either gold or silver coins were generally of Spanish origins.

Over the years, my family took note of my interest in pirates, which reaped great rewards for me.

One of my favorite mugs...

When I was waiting for a new hip, I used a tall walking stick, always thinking pirate.

Coming soon...The Old Cape House

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Twelve months of gratitude.

 Gratitude has become my word of choice and here are a few reasons why. In December 2012, I was offered a contract from Booktrope Publishing in Seattle Washington to publish my first novel. Many of you know I love history and the Cape, so when I combined the two with a passion for writing and telling a good story, The Old Cape House was born.

This historical fiction, available sometime in late October, as an ebook and paperback, uncovers a Cape Cod secret, hidden for 300 years, through the lives of Maria Hallett in the 1700s and contemporary Nancy Caldwell. More details later...

On top of that great news, I was in the middle of a successful recovery from a hip replacement that had occurred in September of the same year. Eager to get back to a normal life, I did a dumb thing...I fell through an open hatch, falling five feet down, landing on the cement floor of our old Cape Cod basement. It was dark, I was helping Tim with some electrical fine-tuning, the lights were out, and I forgot it was open. Just stupid on my part.

Long story short...I broke no bones but tore my rotator cuff. I can laugh now, especially when I think about during the few seconds of my falling, I was determined not to land on my new hip, which I didn't. I was lucky. Then I had another surgery to repair the shoulder and after several more months of physical therapy I'm back to exploring and discovering all the unique things about Cape Cod and feeling very grateful to live in such a beautiful place. Plus, it gave me plenty of time to edit and re-edit my manuscript in preparation for publication.

Crosby Landing–Brewster

 Hemenway Landing–Eastham– the shorebirds search for dinner.

Photo courtesy of P. Eppich
 In August, my brother, niece and sister came visiting from Ohio. I gratefully turned into a tourist, tagging along with them to show them some of my favorite spots for treasures. Here in this photo, my brother and I examine interesting shells that were found as the delicate sound of the tide returned to the beach. It was a beautiful day.

A few weeks later, as Tim and I resumed our daily walks, I was fortunate to find this interesting pottery shard in Brewster.

Walking a little farther down the beach, the tide presented us with a beautiful pattern of rivulets in the sand.  

Now that I'm back to normal, we're walking more, and enjoying the Cape's beautiful sunsets–perfect endings to our days.