PROVINCETOWN — It came to me in a dream: I was pitching for the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and had just given up a home run that landed in New Hampshire. Mixed in with the thunderous boos was a lone voice. “Urban hike,” it said.
This was an intriguing idea. Could there be a way to craft a fun walk through a densely populated area, with a dash of nature and perhaps some water views? There seemed to be one easy answer: Provincetown!
A few magic Magellan moments later I had mapped out a route that would start in the West End of town, weave through back streets to the Shank Painter Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, then roll through an ancient cemetery. Stops along the approximately 2.5-mile journey would include an awesome thrift store and, in my opinion, the best pizza slice on Cape Cod.
The Curious Prius and I were in high spirits on the drive. It’s alway thrilling to head to Provincetown, land of beauty and jovial hubbub. We came to rest in the West End parking lot (roughly 55 Commercial St.). Parking here is a great way to put a different spin on any trip to the Cape tip.
The first order of business was savoring the awesome harbor view at the back of the lot. Then I hung a right on Commercial Street in the direction of downtown Provincetown. This might be the most beautiful neighborhood on the Cape, filled with sweet old houses and peeks at the water.
I passed the West End Racing Children’s Community Sailing clubhouse (94 Commercial St.), where my kids learned to sail. This place is amazing and likely the best sailing camp deal in the history of the world.
According to their website, the program, for kids ages 8 to 14, runs weekdays from June to August and the whole season costs $100 for the first child and $50 for any other children in a family. They have boats and the clubhouse is on the water!
I spun around the corner next to the Coast Guard station and walked straight onto Franklin Street. It took me across Bradford Street and into neighborhoods I hadn’t seen before. The takeaway? Every street in Provincetown is filled with cool stuff: quirky houses, fancy houses, hidden gardens, all dipped in a rich sense of place and history.
I took a right on Race Road and started angling over toward the Provincetown United Methodist Church thrift shop (20 Shank Painter Road). It’s a real community crossroads: a big space with an awesome vibe, and they play great shopping tunes. I pounced on a $2 glass candle holder in the shape of a fish and named it Flamey.
Now it was time for nature. I sidled along Shank Painter Road toward Route 6, banged a left on Province Road, then another left on Ship’s Way Road. At the end of the road is the woodsy entrance to the Shank Painter Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. According to the Provincetown Conservation Trust website, it’s home to “the world’s largest known quaking bog found on a barrier beach.”
A quaking bog is like a vegetation toupee that sort of floats atop a pond. There’s a nice observation deck at the sanctuary to help you take it all in and it’s amazing how close this vast open space is to town. Gulls and geese were yapping at each other, but they refused my mediation offer.
I headed back to civilization, weaving through the Winthrop Street Cemetery. Established in 1723, it’s Provincetown’s oldest existing burial ground. It’s peaceful and slightly spooky, especially as you climb the hill to the older gravestones.
Pushing existential worries aside, I jumped on Court Street and walked back to Commercial Street. This dropped me off near Spiritus Pizza, my all-time fave pizza joint on the Cape. I sat outside with a crispy slice and watched the world go by. This urban hiking thing is delicious!
Eric Williams, when not solving Curious Cape Cod mysteries, writes about a variety of ways to enjoy the Cape, the weather, wildlife and other subjects. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @capecast.
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