While enjoying an extended family visit on Cape Cod over Christmas break, Carol and I navigated two snow-free hikes through fine woods and along beautiful waters.
Our first hike was a 4 1/2 mile loop on familiar trails through Brewster's Nickerson State Park, visiting five kettle ponds along the way. The park's 1,900 acres were once part of the Nickerson family estate. The land was donated to the state in 1934 and became the first state park in Massachusetts. With 400 campsites, the park is super-busy in summer, but in winter it is a quiet and wild oasis. The park's premier trail is the three-mile loop around 200-acre Cliff Pond, either in the woods just behind the shore or along sandy beaches.
Of course there was some geocaching to be done.
Inviting path through the pitch pines.
One of two large glacial erratics on the NW shore.
A sandy, windy spit at the south end of Cliff Pond.
One of our favorite stretches of trail.
On the other side of the spit is shallow Grassy Nook Pond, where a flock of Hooded Mergansers was hanging out.
Looking north across Cliff Pond.
New trail sign.
A gorgeous beach at the pond's SE cove.
The trail along Little Cliff Pond.
Another beach at the south end of Little Cliff Pond.
Just to the east is secluded Higgins Pond, with yet another beach on its south shore.
On the south side of Higgins Pond is shimmering Eel Pond.
View of Higgins Pond from its north shore.
Looking south down the length of Little Cliff Pond. Nickerson State Park is truly one of the Cape's treasures.
On the next afternoon we did a four-mile hike on fire roads and unmarked footpaths in the highlands of South Truro.
Scrub and stunted trees herald the approach to a high bluff overlooking the ocean.
The Atlantic, looking mighty cold on this grey December day.
I can see for miles and miles.
There are hundreds of acres of undeveloped pitch pine woods on this upland, making it one of the Cape's wildest areas.
A narrow path led out through these woods...
...to another ocean overlook.
The path dropped steeply through picturesque pines....
...down to the Great Beach, the most famous feature of the Outer Cape, where Thoreau and countless others have wandered.