Although I grew up right here, and for a time could hang out, fish, beach surf, launch rockets and generally just enjoy myself, where there are now private posted McMansions, I had never actually hiked the stretch of beach shoreline between Barneys Joy and East Beach, near Gooseberry Point. Now, years later, that it was sort of trespassing , and Bug and I enjoying the contrarian life together as we do, we decided to explore it. OK, I decided to explore it. Bugs was definitely into it, all the way...
...In my Yoot, me and my buddy Nick pretty much had our run of Barneys Joy Farm, which is what Barneys Joy and much of this part of the lower Cape was; small Dairy Farms. Life was quite different then. The variety of ecosystem here is amazing, actually. On the Barneys Joy - Slocum River side, the bay is calm and sandy and shallow, very shallow. In fact, you can walk out into the middle of Buzzards Bay, half way between Barneys and Salters Point at low tide, and stand on the exposed ripply sand bars, that in 6 hours will be under 5 feet of water. You can dig for clams if you feel like it.
As you walk around the point and head towards Horseneck Beach, the beach gets steeper, the wind picks up, and you can see the rip current right near shore. This is also where a large Salt Pond called Allen Pond breathes in and out with the tide, causing a rip tide channel about 30 feet wide connecting Allen Pond and Buzzards Bay. Bugs navigated this like a Champ.
You might think I am a bad person when you see the pictures, but I was ready to go out and get him if it came to that. But hey, I had to strip down to ford that rip too, and if was hard as hell on my feet.
Timing low tide here is critical.
A note here: this side of the point is the home to hundreds of Atlantic plovers. They are fairly unafraid of well meaning humans and canine americans. The run in and out with the surf, dining on tiny crustacians and tidbits. They also seem to race each other. It seems like a form of entertainment as well. It sure was to me...
A real enjoyable short hike that Bugs and I enjoy is to hike up into the Slocum River estuary, especially at low tide. There are many half-fresh, half-salt water rivers that empty into Buzzards Bay and rise and fall with the tide. At low tide, you can explore some of their secrets. That is what I loved to do as a yoot and what I love to do now. Back in the day I explored with Franz, Suzie, Eban and Freida and right now I am tipping my hat to them. My Canine-American companions.
Every one of them lives a little in my man Bug, and he adds his huge heart, making the best companion traveler you can imagine. Anyway, low tide is always interesting, and at Barneys, even more so. If you look carefully at the satellite map... Satellite map!..., you see a delta crescent of fine sand and river deposits in the shallow Buzzards Bay end of Slocum River as it empties into the divide between Salters Point and Barneys Joy. This makes a great feeding ground for sea life of all kinds, and Nick and I spent many hours fishing here for Blues and Bass.
At very very low tide, large expanses of the crescent of sand are exposed, and you can walk right out into the bay, or where it was six hours ago, anyway.
This is a cool feeling, one that you don't get used to. Looking Bay-ward you see the Island of Cuttyhunk about 8 mi out into Buzzards Bay; it looks like you can reach out and touch it, really! Conversely, the shoreline that the low tide and exposed sand bars have allowed you to escape, seems very far away. Eye of the beholder.
Slocum's River gradually narrows and meanders inland 4 miles or so to the Village of Russells Mills, a small settlement with Duvalls General Store (truly outstanding penny candy selection), a post office and Russells Mills pond, a dammed portion of the river, and an ancient childhood hangout of yours truly. I would ride my bike from Smith Neck, buy a bag of red hot Atomic Balls and Smarties at Duvalls (the store owned by Miss Duvall, my second grade teacher) climb up the huge rock overlooking the Pond, and ponder my future; the very place I now sit.
There are numerous side trips and 2 hour adventures in this area that (OK... require some creative tresspassing) allow you to enjoy how beautiful and amazing this part of the planet really is. The Dartmouth Land Trust has done a fantastic job of establishing a way for us to hike and enjoy the the natural beauty of Dartmouth, but some land is just real private. I have the advantage of having grown up right here and spending my barefoot yooth (literally) doing and going where I pleased. I grew up on Smith Neck in an area called 'Bay View', I had friends living further up the Neck in Nonquitt and Mishaum, as well as Horseneck and Barney's Joy (along the Westport River). There is a certain invisibility you acquire when you feel very comfortable with the terrain, and actually know it better than the current inhabitants. Just ask Bennett Grout in Marlboro Vermont about South and North Pond. If Bennett feels like going ice fishing on Hidden Pond, Iyyyup, he goes. The current residents don't see him. When you travel, always seek out these people. You will get into the real stuff.
So, Let's Take a side Trip...
This area is situated between Mishaum and Barney's Joy and was once referred to as Cow Yard. This was before Yuppie monstrosities and conspicuous consumption. There is a small settlement of tastefully constructed summer homes, at peace with their surroundings. This area is perfectly situated between the natural forces of tide, wind and currents to create a natural berm of sloping sand on the shore that provides 30' of sandy shallow swimming at high tide. What a beautiful spot for a midnight swim at high tide. The houses are small, tastful, old and naturally protected. Perfect...
The Freak House on Mishaum is a Monstrosity that was built by humans who have no understanding or respect for the beauty of this spot, or the nesting birds on the Point whose nesting grounds were paved over ...
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