Grant and I have been dating since early 2009. That makes this our 8th Independence Day together. In that time we have never seen fireworks on the Fourth of July. We have seen fireworks – at Disney World, New Year’s, a random festival in Florence, Italy – but there’s always been a roadblock of some sort when it comes to Independence Day. Some years we were out of the country, one year we were inside Yellowstone National Park, a couple of years we were in a location that was so dry and had such a high fire risk that they cancelled the fireworks. Our first year together, we were so tired from driving all day we settled for being able to hear the fireworks from our hotel room, even though we couldn’t see them!
Our goal this year was to actually be in a place that had fireworks and to stay up and out to see them and celebrate the Fourth of July like “normal” Americans! Our itinerary worked out so that we would be in the greater Boston area close to July 4, so we decided to spend the day on Cape Cod… Fourth of July at the beach sounds pretty standard to me!
Getting to Cape Cod
We started our day early, leaving our campsite in Plymouth around 8 a.m., hoping that we would beat the worst of the traffic out onto the Cape. We did good… It was smooth sailing with very little traffic at all. We actually saw more traffic leaving the “island” that driving out. I used quotes for island because Cape Cod is not a natural island, but became one once the canal was dug separating it from the mainland. This canal saves boats approximately 135 miles, since they can go straight through and not around.
We were about 20-30 minutes from our first stop, the Salt Pond Visitor Center at Cape Cod National Seashore, when I realized that I forgot to turn on the air conditioning and the windows were closed in the camper. That combined with temperatures in the mid to upper 80s does not make for good conditions for the cat! Without missing a beat, we turned around and went back to “save the kitty.” Of course we knew we had to turn around, but it was frustrating nonetheless. Better to have figured that out at 8:45 a.m. than at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, though!
So, after an extra 1.5 hours, we were headed back to the Visitor Center to actually begin our day of exploring Cape Cod. Interestingly, while traffic onto the Cape had picked up a little bit, traffic off the Cape had picked up A LOT! I suppose it makes sense that everyone had spent the weekend “partying” on the beach, but had to be ready for work on Tuesday morning, but we were still a little surprised by the number of people leaving… No complaints, just a little surprised.
Cape Cod National Seashore
Once we finally arrived, we did a quick hike on the Nauset Marsh Trail, which starts at the Visitor Center, then headed farther northeast to find a place for a picnic lunch. We ended at the Pilgrim Heights area. There are a couple of very short nature trails there, but we decided to skip them in favor of a longer hike that one of the rangers suggested.
After lunch, we continued driving to the “top” of the Cape, where we stopped at the Province Lands Visitor Center. There we found an upper level observation deck with views in all directions. Just a bit more driving got us to Race Point Beach. We still wanted to get some hiking in and, well, let’s be honest, with my fair skin I can’t really hang out on the beach for hours at a time unless I have gallons of sunscreen and a tent of some sort. So, we snapped the picture up at the top, dipped our feet in the water, which was very cold, and headed back to the truck.
We continued our drive into Provincetown, the farthest town on Cape Cod. My guidebook stated, “this sandy outpost has morphed into the hottest gay and lesbian destination in the Northeast.” Not at all a problem for us… But I will say that from our quick drive through, there did not appear to be any lesbians. We saw TONS of groups and couples of guys. I seriously have never seen that many guys (straight or gay) in one place without any women to speak of. We did see a few females and a few heterosexual “couples” as we drove around, but with just a quick drive through the streets, we would definitely agree that this is THE spot for gay men to hang out.
From P-town, as the locals call it, we started south, stopping at the Highland Light, otherwise known as the Cape Cod Light (not sure why some of the lighthouses have two different names, but they do). As we were approaching the back observation deck, we happened upon a quick, informal wedding! We seriously waited about two minutes and they were done. Grant became an impromptu wedding photographer (yes, the pictures he took with their camera were better that this one!), before we continued our sight-seeing.
Great Island Trail
Based on a glowing recommendation from the ranger at the visitor center, we decided to hike part of the Great Island Trail. The trail guide “warned” that there was some hiking through soft sand, but the ranger didn’t mention it and had lots of great things to say about the trail, so we figured it would be worth it. Hiking/walking through soft sand is horrible and there was way more of it than we had hoped. Once we got to the “island” it was better terrain and shaded, but still not necessarily awesome enough to make up for the “bad” part at the beginning/end. Still, we got in a significant number of steps and saw some stuff that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Our final stop before dinner was the Nauset Light. The beach here is very popular and this parking lot fills up fast in the morning. It was full when we arrived this morning about 10:00, but at 4:30 it was almost half-empty. A quick walk to the lighthouse and quick view of the beach, and after the long, grueling hike, we were ready to clean up and change for dinner. Several of the beaches, Nauset included, have showers and changing rooms. They are nothing to get too excited about, but it is better than nothing. The changing room is just a gender separated room with a few benches and very minimal privacy. There are two beach showers out front and a slightly better one in each of the changing huts. Don’t expect any privacy in the “inside” shower though, as there is no curtain. At least it provided us with a place to get out of our hiking clothes and into sometime a little nicer and cleaner for dinner!
Dinner & Fireworks
We chose Hyannis, one of the seven villages in the town of Barnstable, for the rest of our day on Cape Cod. If Hyannis sounds familiar, that is because it is where the Kennedys (yes, THOSE Kennedys) have a house. We chose Spanky’s for dinner. While there was a long line, everyone in the restaurant seemed to be working their tails off getting folks in and out. Our wait wasn’t too bad, and was helped along by a very quick bartender! The food was ok – nothing too exciting, but nothing to complain about either. The highlights were the mixed drinks, which were tall and stout, and the dessert: a limoncello mascarpone cake!
Following dinner, we followed the masses to Veteran’s Beach/JFK memorial for fireworks. Our timing for the day couldn’t have been better, as we only had to wait about ten minutes after arriving before the fun began! Finally, after seven years, we got to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth of July together! And Cape Cod was a wonderful place to do that. The traffic out wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be… Just a little bit right in town, but once we got to the main highway, nothing really slowed us down.
It was a very long day, especially with the extra trip back to turn on the AC for the cat, but it was a great day that we will remember for many years to come