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Cape Cod National Seashore Wheeling

Posted in Features on June 1, 2007
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Contributors: Andrew P. Newton

Head east, turn right at Boston. When you reach Buzzards Bay, head over the bridge and begin a long sweeping left. Keep driving until you're 60 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, parked on a strip of sandy beach, looking across the horizon towards Europe. To get to this spot, however, you will need four-wheel drive.

Yes, Cape Cod is nearly the easternmost point of the United States. A hook-shaped spit of sandy earth, once inhabited by Indians, visited by the Pilgrims, and the graveyard of tall ships and pirates. Just a stone's throw from the bustling Boston/New York corridor, the Cape is home to a unique opportunity for off-pavement adventure.

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Many areas of the Cape are densely populated, but the National Seashore and local towns such as Nauset, Chatham, and Barnstable protect many of the Outer Cape beaches from development and are ORV-friendly. The Cape is genuine New England, and many of the best beaches, sand bars, surfing breaks, and fishing spots can only be reached by hiking for miles through deep sand, or by four-wheel drive.

Admittedly, the dedicated off-pavement corridors are not the toughest trails to tame, though the deep sand and deceptively steep dunes will having you searching for more horsepower. With a competent driver, almost any vehicle with wide tires and four-wheel drive will get the job done-including highly modified 4x4 self-contained RVs, from homebuilt camper specials to professionally modified motorhome conversions that set up beach camp for days on end. However, you bury one of these rigs, and you might be there for a while.

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The area is environmentally fragile, and there are efforts to close the ORV corridor. As usual, those who use this resource are the ones who have the keenest environmental sense, while the well-heeled urban landlubbers, who are buying and renovating once-sleepy dune cottages, don't want other people spoiling their idea of fun. The Piping Plover was used this past year as a way of closing some of the corridor, though the Piping Plover has flourished in areas used by four-wheelers. (Apparently, the "Piping Plover: You Can't Eat Just One" bumperstickers didn't go over too well with everyone.)

The cape is truly a unique national treasure that can only sustain so much use, so there is always a need to Tread Lightly and stay on the trails. Many of those who come to the Outer Cape to camp, surf, and fish, have been doing it for generations and understand how to preserve the nature of the Cape, and enjoy some great four-wheeling.


Cape Cod Natl. Seashore

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