The previous two years we worked at Atlantic Oaks Campground, our season ended with a delectable dining experience, compliments of our owner/managers, and friends, Katie and Dan Nussdorfer. Such an event was impossible to plan this year due to Covid restrictions – restaurants would not seat a party of eight and they were unable to guarantee two 4-tops next to each other.
Well, everything happens for a reason, which resulted in one of coolest adventures Bill and I have ever experienced. Our team of eight was treated to a sunset tour with Art’s Dune Tours out of Provincetown. Art’s Dune Tours has been providing these expeditions since 1946, with the business now being run by Art’s son, Rob.
None of us had ever taken such a tour, although we would often recommend the tours to campers. Well, now we can truly expound on the adventure to guests, having experienced it first-hand!
We piled into two Suburbans – men in one and ladies in another – and off we went with our guides, Mark and Bill! Before we knew it we found ourselves in 1,960 acres of the most remarkable sand dunes one could ever imagine, located in both Provincetown and Truro. We traveled up and down, weaving in and out…you truly felt like you had been transported to a totally different planet, and all the while our driver related history which made you feel like you had traveled back in time several generations!
Let me share some of the highlights – remember, we should all be life-time learners…
- There are 19 dune shacks in this protected area, all part of the National Seashore since 1961. The dune shacks, often called “artist shacks,” were originally built from driftwood, remnants of the numerous shipwrecks that occurred in this part of Cape Cod in the 1800’s.
- The existing shacks have no electricity, no running water and no plumbing. You might have a water pump within a short walk, and the outhouse is somewhat close. Who would want to live this way in the midst of constantly continuously shifting sands? Well…
- Eugene O’Neill took up residency as did Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, e.e. Cummings, Henry Kemp, “the dune poet,” Ray Wells, and Jackson Pollock. Now I know where to go if I ever follow through on my threat to write the great American novel!
- There is a lottery each year that anyone can enter in hopes of being selected to spend time in one of the dune shacks. Several are now owned by a family trust or a non-profit, while others have been privately owned for generations. Ah, but doesn’t the Cape Cod National Seashore really own them? The controversy continues!
- The vegetation in the dune area includes scrub pine, bayberry, beach grass, scrub oak and salt spray rose. We saw cranberries and were told that beach plums grow there as well. The area is also home to various birds, deer, rabbits, coyotes and snakes!
- Look at these Provincetown dunes…Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway filmed a portion of The Thomas Crown Affair here in 1968! Can’t you just see them driving like crazy over the dunes?!
I always feel like I’m at the top of the world when I’m in Provincetown, but Henry David Thoreau – one of my favorites – most likely said it best after walking through the dunes…”A man may stand there and put all America behind him.”
Following our hour excursion through the dunes, we ended up on the beach in Race Point. As our guides set up beach chairs for us, we watched the sunset – beautiful, but hazy due to the smoke from the fires on the west coast – unbelievable! As the sun set, we feasted – and I mean feasted – on lobster rolls, potato salad, a potpourri of dessert treats, and beer and wine!
What wonderful people we work for and with, and what an amazing finale to a Cape Cod summer! We will always be thankful.
Stay Calm and Travel On!