FALMOUTH — I never intended to become a mountaineer, mainly because I don’t look good in crampons. But a peculiar series of events led me into thin air, clutching a paper map in the woods on a crazy, high-altitude adventure.
It all started when I became fascinated with the 2,466-acre Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area, located mostly in Falmouth. That is a huge chunk of territory, and somehow, I had never been there. This ridiculous oversight had to be corrected, so I began planning a journey.
I reached out to the delightful Nicole McSweeney, assistant director of outreach and education for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and she sent over a bunch of info on the area. The state calls Frances Crane “an ecological gem, containing some of the region’s most diverse and important habitats.”
Highlights include a nearly 400-acre sandplain grassland. According to the state, it’s “a globally imperiled habitat type that supports raptors, grassland birds, small mammals, butterflies, moths and native pollinators.”
That all sounded great, but then the state dropped this Frances Crane bombshell: “A hike to the top of the glacial moraine, called ‘Mt. Zig’ by locals, offers ocean views from one of the highest points on Cape Cod.”
Holy cannoli! Suddenly, all I wanted to do was get to the top of Mt. Zig, towering more than 200 feet above sea level. But where the heck was it in the vast subcontinent of Frances Crane?
There was only one thing to do: ask Lev. Of all the great trail gurus on the Cape, perhaps no one knows more than the eminent Lev Malakhoff, former senior transportation engineer at the Cape Cod Commission. Lev creates trails on Cape Cod and even has a workshop where he makes trail signs. Yup, Lev would have this Mt. Zig thing all figured out.
Thus, it was a shock when Lev wrote: “I still get a little lost in there.” Oh, great. But Lev looped in a guy named Dave, who he called “our mapping genius,” and things began to look up. Dave sent me a link to a map (trailforks.com/route/mt-zig) that looked pretty complicated.
I thanked Dave and said I also had the latitude and longitude coordinates for Mt. Zig (41.6512050, -70.5913530). He cheerfully replied, “The coordinates aren’t gonna help much unless you plan on bushwhacking!”
With some trepidation, I whistled for the Curious Prius, and we started the long journey from Wellfleet to Falmouth. We landed in a little pull-off parking area along the far western reaches of Route 151 just before it intersects with Route 28 (put “Otis MTB Trails” into a Google Maps search).
I entered a world where you could see the power of the long-gone glaciers. The terrain was hilly, and there were big rocks all over the place. The woods were thick, and the only thing separating me from oblivion was a paper copy of Dave’s map. I held onto it like a life preserver.
Many wrong turns were taken, spiced with backtracking. Unless you are crazy (like me) or tough (not like me), I couldn’t recommend this hike. But the call of Mt. Zig was strong, so I kept going.
I passed over a ridge that gave me a dandy view of Buzzards Bay, way off in the distance. Shortly thereafter, maybe 45 minutes into the hike, the stars and Dave’s map aligned, and I reached the summit of Mt. Zig.
Luckily, it has a big sign on beams suspended from pine trees. There’s also a weathervane in the shape of a horse mounted on a big seahorse. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a swing hanging down from the beams — an incredible payoff for stumbling around the woods!
The view wasn’t that great, maybe because the trees still had leaves. But the place was magical and I spent a long time on the swing, thinking about glaciers and ticks. And wondering how the heck I was going to get back to the Prius.
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @capecast.
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