A Walk in the Woods
Getting away to Provincetown, for many, is really about getting into its many abundances—of lobster rolls, ice cream shops and pithy t-shirts, of drag queens gliding up and down Commercial Street on scooters, of rainbow flags and barkers promoting drinks and $20 burgers and harbor views. It can be a lot.
But there are quieter spots too. Places you can get away and reconnect with nature. There’s swimming off the breakwater, or a sunbaked day at Long Point. Sunset at Race Point is quiet celebration of shifting colors and glowing bonfires, the former often hosted by gaggles of gray seals.
My personal favorite, however? Beech Pond.
Across Route 6 where Conwell Street morphs into Race Point Road, you’ll find a park service sign for the Beech Forest; at the far end of the parking lot, you’ll see Beech Pond. Shimmering and flush with water lilies in the summer, a bright, glittering black in winter, the pond and the shady glen that surround it are a year-round wonderland of birds, white-barked American beeches, bushy southern arrow pod, inkberry, and more. You might even be greeted—and eventually sent happily on your way—by the host of resident black-capped chickadees who are likely to track your every move.
(Speaking of tracking, keep your eyes peeled and you might even spot a red-cheeked garden gnome).
The trail starts with a short walk along a slatted walkway that crosses over low, boggy ground, then quickly turns sandy and more open. A huge, gnarled, Japanese black pine stands sentinel where the path curves left to hug the lake and a hushed, pine-soft trail that meanders up and down, with more than one well-worth-it offramp to explore. Breathe deep.
Along your way, you’ll hear any number of black, white, and red-marked woodpeckers; nuthatches; swallows, blackbirds, bluebirds, and wrens; even a wild turkey (or four). In the spring and fall, migratory species stop here for a while, enlivening the view. This spring, I was lucky enough to see a sharp-beaked palm warbler, his chartreuse underside flashing brightly among the trees.
But here’s the real star of the show: As you round the last curve of the walk after descending from the trail’s moss-edged high point, you’ll see a number of small paths leading off to the right. Most of these angle uphill toward the bright, open dunescape that surrounds the forest.
One, however, dips down, a simple break in the forest, and takes you to a small, gray dock sitting low on the water of another, smaller pond that—most days—you can have to yourself. In winter, this little pond freezes over, trapped bubbles like memories scattering the surface. In summer, the lily ponds and turtles and dragonflies are everywhere. But always, almost always, there is a greater quiet for you (or you and a loved one) to enjoy.
So if the delirious hubbub and candy-colored, rainbow-bright too-muchness of Commercial Street ever gets to be just a little, well, too much, walk the loop at Beech Forest and your spirit will be just fine.
Beech Forest is a roughly 10-minute bike ride from the center of town. You can also take the longer route along the Provincelands Bike Trail, which adds a sweep of dune and forest landscapes, a view of the ocean, and a solid workout to the outing. There’s also plentiful parking (and public restrooms) or a seasonal shuttle if you want a more leisurely approach.
Smile for the alluring and attentive chickadees, but don’t feed them! While it might seem magical and unique, it’s actually a problem. For years, people fed the birds in the winter—and habituating wild animals to people and human food is not only illegal in the Seashore, it’s also bad for the bird population’s long-term ability to survive.