Friday, September 28, 2012

To The “Other Cape”

September 17, 2012
Cape Ann, Massachusetts

Cape Cod is the bared and bended arm of Massachusetts:
the sandy fist at Provincetown,
— behind which the State stands on her guard,
with her back to the Green Mountains,
and her feet planted on the floor of the ocean,
like an athlete protecting her Bay,
— boxing with northeast storms …
— ready to thrust forward her other fist,
which keeps guard the while upon her breast at Cape Ann.
HDT, Cape Cod

John Smith's map of 1614
It’s that time once again, for my annual vacation by the Sea!

This year we are spending five glorious days in Rockport, Massachusetts, to stay in lodging which sits directly on the beach. It's at the easternmost tip of Cape Ann, known as "The Other Cape."

In one hot July day in his Journal, Thoreau wrote disparagingly of his neighbors who felt the need to “go to the beach.”
Here he is at his crabbiest, as he sweats it out back in Concord :

I hear that Mr. and Mrs. Such-a-one
are "going to the beach" for six weeks.
What a failure and defeat this suggests their lives to be !
Here they live, perchance, the rest of the year,
trying to do as they would be done
by and to exercise charity of all kinds, and now at last …
succumb and slope to the beach for six weeks. …
At length their season of activity is arrived,
and they go to the beach, they energetically keep cool.
They bathe daily and are blown on by the sea-breeze.
This keeps their courage up for the labors of the year.
   HDT Journal, July 11, 1859

Full of sour grapes, I would say !

Well, one might consider that when he wrote the above, it was just a few months since his father had died. Henry was busy running the family business, surrounded by the grey of graphite dust in the summer heat.
No six-week vacations for him.
And since I work full-time surrounded by the grey of an office cubicle, going to the beach -- if only for a few days -- sounds wonderful.
It’s been plenty hot, and dry too, in our neck of the woods this summer.

So it was with pleasant anticipation that we stopped in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and met with Rick, who would accompany us on this trip. While Mom and I would be staying in a cozy hotel room, he preferred to set up his tent at the Cape Ann Camp Site (Thanks to blogging friend TrashPaddler for the recommendation!)
We arrived by noontime, after taking a route through New Hampshire that avoids major highways as much as possible.
It is still summery green over there, except for a few swamp maples.
Mom and I unpacked a lunch, while Rick efficiently set up his little base-camp.
This late in the season, the campers were outnumbered by the local inhabitants.
The campground is within a mile of Wingaersheek Beach, a place I had never been to.
At this time of year, there was no one at the beach gate to take an admission fee. The tide was high, the sun was out – how could we resist?
O the beach !

This beach is somewhat different from Crane Beach, which continues on to the northwestward on the other side of Essex Bay. Crane Beach is four miles of beautiful, flat white-sand beach stretching on and on.

Wingaersheek, on the other hand, is full of tidepools and sandbars and rocks to clamber on.

To the east, there’s the Annisquam river channel.
Mom, happy in a sandchair, is watching kids and dogs play in the gentle surf.
Shoes are hastily ditched and jeans rolled up.
Rick and I wander about, a-marvelling at the scenery.

What a beautiful day to “get blown on by the sea-breeze!”

And on this breeze, away off on the horizon, appears a white triangular speck.

Binoculars reveal:


The Ardelle! The mystery schooner that I saw come gliding out of a fog bank in Gloucester Harbor last year --  like a phantom then, but very real today.

She comes toward us, passing Annisquam Light


And thence into the river channel, where she heads through the Cut, taking the river route to her port home in Gloucester, on the other side of the Other Cape.

Not until a week later, back at home, did I read my friend TrashPaddler’s blog (here’s a link), only to learn that he had been at Cape Ann on that very same day, paddling in the river and past Wingaersheek Beach, and spending one evening at the campground!
Like ships passing in the night” I thought, in an appropriately nautical cliché … only it was a schooner that passed, and we each saw it from different sides of the channel.


  1. I don't think Cape Ann gets any better than it was on that particular day.
    The Ardelle showed you a lot more of her canvas!

  2. Oh I was able to see that canvas pretty close up -- a couple of days later... but THAT is another story...