Saturday, March 23, 2013

First Encounter Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

I've blogged a few posts earlier in admiration of some of the beautiful beaches in my wife's home country, the Philippines, such as Boracay and a few of the beach resorts on Mactan Island in Cebu.  This time, I decided to showcase a gorgeous beach here in the U.S.  Last summer, when we took our family trip to New York City, we also toured Cape Cod, Massachusetts a few days later.   Cape Cod is a narrow "elbow" or "hook" of land in the northeast part of the U.S. that extends quite far out into the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland part of Massachusetts, forming a "protected" bay called Cape Cod Bay.  The area of Cape Cod, while small in comparison to the rest of the U.S., contains some really interesting history and great beauty, and is a famous tourist area for those wishing to enjoy the beaches, watch whales (I will post about our Cape Cod whale-watching tour soon), and much more.    

Cape Cod offers gorgeous beaches on its east side facing the open ocean.  However, these ocean-side beaches have a few drawbacks -- namely the water temperature is cold even in the summer, the current can be tricky with experienced adults and treacherous with little kids.  Perfect beaches for experienced body boarders and surfers and swimmers who like big surf, but maybe not the best for folks with little kids or non-swimmers.  Also, (very unlikely but...) there was a great white shark attack last summer near Truro, Massachusetts, just before we went there.  This latter incident is due to a large extent to new laws that protect seals in the area -- more prey for the sharks.   Given these factors and mainly the fact that we wanted a warmer place to swim, we made the trip of just a few miles/kilometers across the narrow strip of land that is Cape Cod to travel from the eastern shore to the western shore.    The western shore looks inland toward Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the beaches here (near Eastham, Massachusetts) enjoy the much warmer water of Cape Cod Bay, much smaller surf and waves, hardly any current and no dangerous rip-tide, and no sharks.

The beach we chose, First Encounter Beach, was recommended to us by the lady who owned the hotel at which we were staying.  It got that name because the English "Pilgrims" who first colonized that area of what was to become the U.S. landed on Cape Cod in 1620, and first encountered the Native American tribe called the Nauset tribe at this very beach.  It was a fantastic recommendation, and we all enjoyed it so much.   We arrived late in the afternoon, and decided to stay late until after sunset (maybe 8:30 PM or so) because we just wanted to rest and relax after making a pretty long drive that day.   

The beach is amazing in its beauty, and there are cute little typical cedar-shake (wood shingled) Cape Cod cottages built on top of the sand dunes that overlook green reeds growing in the tidal flats. After doing some swimming with Mommy and Daddy, our daughter quickly discovered (and we were stunned to see) the amount of tiny little hermit crabs that were so active right at the shore line... she loves swimming, but became much more interested in investigating and catching the little critters.  She had so much fun catching these little creatures in a plastic cup (all of them were later returned to their natural habitat unharmed)!  

Typical Cape Cod cottages at First Encounter Beach
Crab catching

Clamshell, First Encounter Beach
Sand dune at First Encounter Beach, low tide

Historical marker at First Encounter Beach

Lots of little hermit crabs!

Father-daughter crab catching expedition in the tidal streams

Big fun at First Encounter Beach

Diggin' for crabs

As the afternoon progressed and the sun dipped lower in the sky, the tide gradually went out.  The tidal flats became amazing at low tide, with long extended sandbars that you could walk on very far out into what was earlier the water.   The rippled patterns and texture of the sandbars had an appearance almost like what you would expect to see on the surface of Mars.  

Low tide -- can't swim here anymore 

"Mars-scape":  footprints in the sandbar  at First Encounter Beach

Undulating ribbed patterns in the sandbars at low tide

Sandbar at low tide 

Green reeds, sand bars, and sea gulls

There was a tidal stream that flowed through and around these sand bars and the green reeds, and many tiny crabs and little creatures were in these waters. We spent hours and hours enjoying this, and we enjoyed it so much that we had to go back again the second day.   We saw a barnacle-encrusted horseshoe crab, which judging by the amount of them on its back was pretty old (I suppose).  It was interesting to watch how it propelled itself in the water and how it made tracks in the sand.  

Checking out the horseshoe crab - lots of barnacles on his back!

Ancient barnacle-encrusted horseshoe crab

Cup full of crabs

Certified Cape Cod crab catcher

Family photo on the sandbar
Mommy checking out the tidal streams

Catching critters
Cottages at First Encounter Beach just before sunset

The tide is getting lower

The setting sun and the sunset itself was absolutely spectacular, and my wife made sure to capture some great photos of the setting sun.   We had a wonderful time, and all of us would love to go back there again!


Kids catching crabs on the sandbar
Looking west toward Plymouth, Massachusetts

Finding little creatures

Checking out the sandbar

Crabs in the cup

The low tide sandbars extend far from the shoreline

Someone else's little girl carrying a pail

This is the track made by the horseshoe crab
Someone else's little girl playing frisbee... or is she pointing at a UFO??!!
Yeah, I think it's a frisbee
Remember that famous old black and white faked film footage of Bigfoot -- oh, wait, that's just me.  

Final seconds before sunset

Our favorite star

Digging in the tidal sands
Me stomping around trying to find treasure in the sand

Me at First Encounter Beach - beam me up, Scotty! 

Hunting for crabs in the setting sun
Taking flight at as the sun drops lower

Glaring waters under the setting sun

Sunset at First Encounter



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