Cape Cod, Massachusetts
For as long as we've been planning to take Trevor to all 50 states, I've had certain activities in mind that we HAD to do in each state. For Massachusetts, one of those was to visit a cranberry bog. I'm sure you've all seen the Ocean Spray advertisements with the farmers wearing hip waders, standing in a sea of beautiful red cranberries. I really wanted to see, and possibly experience, that. Visiting cranberry bogs is popular; many Massachusetts cranberry growers offer bog tours during their fall harvest.
One problem: we were visiting in June. Cranberries are not floating in bogs in June. They are blossoms with a promise of cranberries in the future.
Fortunately, you can visit a cranberry bog during the growing season as well! The easiest way to do this is to contact the wonderful people at the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association (CCCGA). Kim Miot, Cranberry Tour and Event Manager, arranged for us to tour the Ward family's farm in Carver, just nine miles from Plymouth. It was one of the highlights of our entire trip.
Kim, along with farmer Dick Ward, told us everything there is to know about cranberries and how they're grown.
This is what a Massachusetts cranberry bog looks like in mid-June.
When the berries are ready to harvest in the fall, they'll use pumps to flood the bogs. Then the water is returned to ponds on the property.
Kim shared some pictures of what we would see at a cranberry bog during the fall. Someday!
I love cranberries (cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, cranberry juice, cranberry flavoring... all of it). I have long been fascinated by the way they're grown and harvested, so seeing the cranberry fields was great. But equally fabulous was visiting the Education Barn. Kim runs school field trips there.
We learned about traditional and modern methods of cranberry harvesting...
... examined the tools of the trade...
... and tried our hand at sorting cranberries. It made me think of Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory, although picking out less-than-perfect cranberries was much easier. I didn't have to shove a single berry into my mouth and I wasn't even wearing a hat.
We also learned that there are different varieties of cranberries. I didn't know that. Yet, duh, of course there are. CCCGA farmers grow many types of cranberries, including two of the original heritage wild varieties: Early Blacks and Howes. Early Blacks are the first berries in the market each year and feature an intense color that deepens in cold storage. Howes are larger and firmer with a crisp, tart taste and are excellent for cooking.
If you are a teacher in or around Massachusetts, you MUST bring your students for a field trip. In addition to all the things we did, kids on a field trip plant their own cranberry vine to take home. They also experience the Traveling Bog, a large wagon of growing cranberry vines, where they can see the layers of soil, peat, gravel, and sand. Agritourism is so valuable for kids, many of whom no longer have a connection to the land.
Huge thanks to Kim and Dick for the tour.
From Carver, we had an hour-long drive to Brewster, located on Cape Cod. You could easily spend weeks on the Cape and not run out of things to do, but we only had the one afternoon. After a lot of research, I decided the best way to learn as much as possible about the area in the short time we had was to visit the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.
The museum has been around since 1954 with the goal of teaching about the natural environment of the Cape. Exhibits cover everything from the geologic creation of Cape Cod and the changes it has undergone...
... to the indigenous people of the area...
... and the native animals and their habitats.
This bicolored Northern Lobster was fascinating. It's the result of a genetic mutation, occurring once in every 50 million lobsters.
There is a lot to see and do at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.
There was a fascinating exhibit about Eldridge Arnold.
We thoroughly enjoyed birdwatching from the museum and particularly loved the live osprey cam. The whiteboard shows that the first baby osprey of 2023 hatched the day we visited, weeks later than in 2021 or 2022.
The museum is surrounded by 300 acres with nature trails that pass through woodlands and a salt marsh on the way to Cape Cod Bay. I scheduled our visit so that we could hike the John Wing Trail (named for the area's first colonial settler) at low tide. This is very important. If you ignore the tides and head out, you could find yourself trapped on Wing's Island for six hours. Not life or death, but something you'd probably want to avoid.
This is what the trail looks like close to the museum.
Soon, it transitions to this:
Then this. See the blue box? That's the osprey nest.
You cross the salt marsh on a boardwalk. We were there at the lowest point of low tide and it was still a bit squishy on the boards.
When you reach the end of the boardwalk, you're on Wing's Island.
It is absolutely fascinating how quickly the biomes change. The whole hike is only 1.3 miles!
The weather was perfect and the Cape was beautiful.
We had one last thing to do on the Cape and that was to eat. We went to Scargo Cafe in nearby Dennis.
I chose it based on its high ratings and their diverse menu. Steve could have the local seafood he wanted...
...while Trevor and I had lots of non-seafood options. (My French onion soup was amazing.) We also got their world famous Grapenut Custard. You may remember that I was going to try to find it on this trip. It tastes like gingerbread and is very tasty. Definitely share it. One was more than enough for the three of us.
After a really fun day, it was time to (temporarily) say goodbye to Massachusetts and head to our next state. I'll tell you about our adventures in the Ocean State tomorrow.