Salty Air

Searching for–and finding–Tranquility (but no bottles) in Provincetown

Written by Laura M. Reckford

PROVINCETOWN – We embarked on an elusive quest—to find one of the 21 bottles hidden in Provincetown by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

It is a pandemic-era treasure hunt with prizes that doubles as a way to get people out and about to explore this wondrous town. We consider ourselves connoisseurs, if you will, in the delights of Provincetown, having been exploring this spit of sand for more than 35 years, so we gladly embarked upon the challenge.

We found no bottles on this crisp and cold, blue-sky day, but we discovered peace and tranquility on quiet woodland trails just a short way from the bustling center of town. To clarify, it was not so bustling this weekend as it is March, which is a typically quiet month anyway. And there is a pandemic, by the way, which makes quiet places even quieter. 

But there were a number of dog walkers and other strollers and a film crew working on a television show we are unfamiliar with called “American Horror Story.” We have no idea what “American Horror Story” is, but we saw the crew on Cottage Street in the West End, and Provincetown police had blocked off the roads nearby.

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Many parking spaces in the Macmillan Pier municipal parking lot were also blocked off—we assume for film crew. We saw a lot of New York license plates and fancy cars in those spaces but that doesn’t mean anything in Provincetown, if you think about it.

We saw a Hawaii license plate, so that made up for having to drive further back in the Macmillan Pier lot to find a space.

Old Colony trails travel the route of the former railway in Provincetown.

As to the woods, they are off Snail Road and there are just a few spaces on the side of the road to park. One side of the road has a trail called Foss Woods and the other side, the one we took, has a trail called Whistle Path Woods that veers off into several smaller trails, and miles of conservation land given to the Town for public use by generous local families.

The whole thing is called Old Colony Nature Pathway after the Old Colony Railroad track that used to bring trains to Provincetown beginning in 1873. The last passenger train made the trip in 1940. The last freight train made the trip in 1960 after 87 years in service.

Whistle Path Woods was donated to the town by the Locke and Bohm families in 2001, not that long ago, if you think about it.

The sign told us there are oaks and sassafras and wetlands. We saw those wetland areas in the woods, covered over with moss and muck and looking like a hand might reach out and grab you and pull you in—like an American horror story.

A sign told us Whistle Path Woods is named after an old cart lane that was used for cranberry picking on the way to the “back shore,” and for its proximity to the Old Colony train that would blow its whistle when it passed.

Mysterious, though well-placed, swing in woods in Provincetown.

Provincetown always has surprises, like the swing, in a pink camouflage design, we saw giving the swingee a sweeping view of a nearby pond. There was also a rock centered in the trail, painted pink with googly eyes. We wondered if someone under the influence came upon it, they might have an American horror story moment—whatever that is.

We came upon Fox Run, two acres of white cedar, beech and maple forest, donated by the Curtis family in 2004. This is the area that has a White Cedar Swamp, a rare ecosystem that perhaps houses the creature from the black lagoon with a hand that will reach up and drag you into the swamp, or maybe not. A pregnant fox was often seen in the area the year it was protected, inspiring the name.

We next came upon the Dwyer Family Woodlands, which unexpectedly led to a bright red barn with a pair of horses hanging out in a corral.

A roving band of musicians treks the West End Breakwater in Provincetown.

We hiked back to the car and swung by the West End Breakwater, just because we always like to do that and saw that they have taken all the plantings out of the First Landing Park. We hope they re-plant it by summer.

A roving troupe of musicians, carrying instruments, including a trumpet, walked out onto the Breakwater. We asked them if they were going to play and they said they might, “if the spirit moved them” or something like that. We waited and they didn’t play so we moved along. 

We tried to get close to the filming site but were blocked by police.

We ended up at Macmillan Pier admiring the fishing fleet and the blue sky and the views of town. 

No bottles but a serene, colorful, surprising Provincetown day.

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For more photos from across Cape Cod, please see Scenic Cape

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About the author

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years in magazines, newspapers and radio. She has also authored numerous Frommer's Travel Guide editions on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

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