A week in the dunes
  A Week In The Dunes  


The path to our shack.

     The dunes outside Provincetown, Massachusetts are an unusual place.  When Thoreau wrote about his travels around Cape Cod in the middle of the 19th century they were a baren spot where no one lived.  At the beginning of the 20th century Provincetown was a a hangout for painters and writers.  Eugene O'Neil wrote his great play Bound East For Cardiff in Provincetown; the painter Jackson Pollack hung out there too.  Now Ptown is a huge summer destination.  In the early 60's President Kennedy created the Cape Cod National Seashore Park to preserve the Atlantic side of the Cape from development.  There were a few privately owned vacation shacks scattered through the dunes at the time which are now operated by a private trust, and their use is distributed a week at a time by lottery.  The cost is a pittance.   We put our name in the lottery and after a couple years we won a shack named Zara's for a week.


Zara's-- our shack.

     The accomodations were grand.  The shack came equipped with a wood stove for burning driftwood to keep warm, a small propane stove for cooking, a propane driven refrigerator, a water pump, and a very clever outhouse.




The kitchen-- what more could you possibly want?

     We had running water. . . of a sort.  It ran out of the plastic buckets I filled from the pump into a sink that just drained into the sand under the shack.



What trip like this would be complete without an outhouse?

      At first I was a little confused when I found a huge bag of popcorn in the outhouse.  "How thoughtful," I said to myself.   I was just getting ready to eat a big handfull when I read the sign tacked to the inside of the door.  It said  "Please throw the popcorn in the outhouse.  ONE SCOOP PER POOP."  I lost my appetite; but I have to admit it really worked to keep the smell down.


The parabolic dunes.

     One of the most interesting things we saw were the parabolic dunes.  When the wind erodes the dunes the sand tends to collapse in a very predictable way making huge symetrically shaped bowls.

The sand was too hot for bare feet.

      We would walk into town, about 40 minutes through the dunes, for dinner or a movie or to get supplies.



A bog.

    Sometimes between dunes there are depressions which catch enough rainwater to support different sorts of plant life than the surrounding sand.  This is a naturally occuring bog with cranberrys, among other things, growing in it.


This is what a cranberry looks like in the wild.  They are really bitter.



The water pump.


     Careful students of this site may wonder, appropriately,  how my wife, who claims to be freezing 365 days a year, took a shower when all we had was cold water pumped (by me) out of the ground.  In the morning I would fill several translucent water buckets, then I would lay a large black trashbag on the sunny side of the shack and put the buckets on the trashbag.  The heat of the sun would warm the water to well over 100 f.




The tip of the Cape from 4000 ft.


     This picture sums it all up.  We walked all the way around to Race Point one day and saw the old lighthouse.  It was a wonderful time.


Fall 2006 Update

     Our trip to the dunes last year was a big success.  So we got in the lottery again for the Summer of 2006.  And we won.  I am advised that this is statistically improbable, nevertheless, we got a shack for a second year in a row.  This year we were in a place called Thalassa.  It was quite a bit smaller then Zara's, it had only a single bed.  But who cares?  It was stunningly beautiful, and perched right on the edge of the high dunes overlooking the beach on the Atlantic side.


Looking West toward the sunset

Rosa Rugosa, the genetic precursor to all roses, grows wild in the dunes.