The Friday of Labor day Weekend found my husband and me playing hooky from work and waking up in our camper on the Cape Cod Canal. We watched the sun rise, with the promise of a beautiful day of weather ahead, in total relaxation mode. It had been a long, busy summer and we hadn’t had any real time to de-stress until then. In wanting to grab the last few days of summer, while trying to erase the memory of the previous weekend and Hurricane Irene – which had left us without power, water, and patience for 36 loooong hours – we packed up and hit the road. We took a few changes of clothes, stocked the refrigerator in the camper and grabbed a couple of coolers to fill with drinks for the extra-long weekend that stretched out before us. Oh yeah, we were psyched.
Both of us have loved camping since we were kids…all of it – from cooking outdoors over an open fire, to hiking and biking in the clean, fresh air, to roughing it out in the woods. OK, maybe I wouldn’t go quite that far. But we do love to be outdoors, sitting by a campfire, breathing in the pungent scent of wood smoke rising from the fire pit as the night falls. And I have to say that a pan of lasagna baked over glowing coals gives it a very unique flavor.
After we got set up, we put out the chairs and sat down just as the sun was setting. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the salty air. Just that one deep breath seemed to wash the stress of the week completely out of me. I was ready to enjoy this last blast of summer.
One of the best spots in the area to go camping is Bourne Scenic Park. Nestled beneath the Bourne Bridge in Bourne MA, Bourne Scenic Park runs along the Cape Cod Canal. Here you’ll find a great mix between roughing it – lots of tent sites and rustic cabins – and more civilized camping. For those of us who still can’t part with the hair dryer in the morning, there are plenty of sites where you can drop your camper or your motor home for a few days – or a few weeks – that include running water and electricity.
For my husband and me, the best part about Bourne Scenic is its location. Yes, there are lots of amenities like clean bathrooms with free, hot showers, a pavilion where there are plenty of activities for the kids throughout the summer and Wi-Fi hook-ups for your computer. Two years ago, they added two inground swimming pools and this year we found a new horseshoe pit. But I would say the draw for most people who camp there is the Canal.
From almost every site, there is a staircase within a short walking distance that provides direct access to the Canal and a paved road that runs the entire length of the canal on both sides –from Buzzards Bay to Scusset Beach – a mere 14 miles round trip and quite a workout on the bike, I can honestly say.
The canal is one of those unique spots that seems to have a life of its own, and even if you’re not camping at Bourne Scenic, you can visit the canal and find lots of stuff to do – from the avid saltwater fishermen and women, to the walking groups that gather for a great workout. To the cyclists who cruise past at death-defying speeds, to the elderly man and woman who walk slowly along, simply enjoying the view – the canal is an amazing place to visit and camp.
When the kids were little and used to camp with us, we’d spend the entire day on the Canal. We weren’t much into fishing but loved to watch the fisherman pull in a “keeper”. They would get so excited when the schools of bait fish would leap out of the water and it was even more exciting when a seagull would swoop down and grab one for its lunch – right before their eyes. We’d wander down along the rocks at low tide and look for the treasures the tides left behind. There’s a great spot, just beneath the Bourne Bridge, where there are loads of snails and starfish and other sea creatures that the little kids love to snatch up and drop into a pail of sea water. On a hot summer day this is where you’ll find an escape from the sun and a pocket of cool air to ease the heat. Afternoons were spent on a blanket on the banks of the canal with a good book or binoculars to check out the varied styles and sizes and shapes of water vessels that drifted by. Sometimes we’d all just take a nap.
Nowadays when we camp, my husband and I spend a lot of time on the canal with the dog. The kids are grown and sometimes visit but usually it’s just us and the dog. So, we throw a lead on our golden retriever and start off for a three mile walk from the campground down to the train bridge and back.
The train bridge is another unique facet of the canal. This is a steel, vertical lift bridge which sits at the mouth to the Buzzards Bay side of the canal. It is the second largest vertical lift bridge in the United States. Unlike most bridges of this type, this bridge stays in the upright position until the train needs to cross over the canal. Then, with groans and squeaks it descends to allow the train to cross. As soon as the train has made its way to the station, it gets lifted back up with more noise. It’s a fascinating sight to see.
Standing beneath the train bridge you can see the wind turbine at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy which is just a little further on beyond the train bridge and an easy walk if you want to check it out. Also at this end of the canal is the downtown area of Buzzards Bay, with antique shops, pizza joints and one of the best ice cream shops in the area – Shawn Patrick’s Ice Cream Vault.
Shawn Patrick’s Ice Cream Vault is a brand new ice cream shop with the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Its home is the former Bank of Buzzards Bay building, with the original façade still intact. As you walk into the shop the scent of home-cooked waffles wafts through the air. Yes, they make their own waffle cones and bowls – some of which have a rim of dark chocolate as an added bonus. Fill one of these babies with a couple of scoops of their home-made ice cream, add a ladle-full of hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry and you’ll find life is very good at that particular moment.
Walking back to our campsite after a sundae is a little slower, but so worth it. The slow pace gives us the chance to enjoy watching the boats floating past. The sun begins to set and by the time we are back at the Bourne Bridge, we decide to sit on a bench at the side of the canal road and watch the sun sink beneath the train bridge.
Labor Day has past now and we had to bring the camper home. It’s almost the end of September, but Bourne Scenic Park is still open for those who love fall camping. Columbus Day is a big weekend at Bourne Scenic and they remain open until October 30th this year. You can call ahead for a site or take a drive there on a Friday afternoon and see what sites are open. Just remember to bring a sweatshirt or two.