May is generally celebrated as National Bike Month across the country, including Massachusetts, but due to the pandemic, this year it is being celebrated in September. As part of National Bike Month, the League of American Bicyclists is challenging Americans to bike rather than hopping in a car for its “Drive Less, Bike More” campaign. To participate in this challenge and log your miles, go to www.lovetoride.net/usa.
There is no better place to celebrate bicycling than in Falmouth. Combining rides along the Shining Sea Bikeway with exploration of the many 300 Committee trails and land trust parcels around Falmouth, offers a great opportunity to discover Falmouth.
The Shining Sea Bikeway is arguably one of the most popular bike paths on Cape Cod. An automated counter installed by Falmouth DPW (with financial support from the Friends of the Falmouth Bikeway) recorded hundreds of thousands of users of the bike path last year. In July and August, over 45,000 bicyclists and 6,500 pedestrians used the bike path. The bike path, offers magnificent views of Vineyard Sound, cranberry bogs and the Great Sippewisett Marsh. And as much as 25 percent of the 10.8-mile Shining Sea Bikeway is adjacent to conservation land. The foresight of The 300 Committee Land Trust in acquiring land along the path, created quiet havens offering access to beaches along Vineyard Sound, paths through adjacent woods, cranberry bogs, bird sanctuaries and farmland.
At the northern end of the bike path is the newly acquired conservation parcel, The Florence Sylvia Woodland. This tract can be reached by exiting the bike path at the cut through near the 9.6-mile marker, just south of the Curley Boulevard bridge, leading to Millstone Road. A quick left leads to a small parking area and the entrance to the trail. Park your bicycle here and follow the trail south over hilly terrain while meandering through the woods, skirting a pond, and eventually emerging at the northern end of the Wing Pond Cranberry bogs, by the sand pits for a stunning view of the ever-changing bogs. Depending on the season, one might discover turtles sunning themselves, bullfrogs croaking, or deep red cranberries ready to be harvested.
Riding along the path, just south of Bourne Farm is another treasure, the 45-acre Cardoza Farm. Using Land Bank funds, this parcel was purchased by the town in 1999. To the east of the bike path, at mile marker 6.8, is the previously farmed field that now is habitat for birds and other wildlife. Opposite the field, across the bike path, are trails entering the woods. This western part of this parcel offers wooded trails that meander over herring runs, past vernal pools and ultimately to the southern end of the Wing Pond Woods and cranberry bogs.
The southern end of the bike path leads to the village of Woods Hole, where one can indulge oneself with a piece of pastry or an ice cream cone. But add a stop along the way to wander the maze of trails maintained by the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuaries, Inc between the Mill and Elm Road crossings, or make a side trip to Spohr Gardens and the adjoining Oyster Pond Environmental Trust land, a 1-mile loop through 30 acres of wetlands, woodlands, vernal pools and pond shoreline.
Off-season, when the weather is good and the roads are less busy, cycle toward Falmouth Heights for another spectacular walk along a trail that follows Great Pond in Teaticket. Park your bike at Bristol Beach, then head east on Grand Avenue to the entrance to Great Bay St on the left. This dirt road soon becomes a trail, that hugs the shore of Great Pond for close to a mile. Expect to see a variety of ducks, birds and local shellfishermen in the waters.
The 300 Committee offers more than two dozen parcels to explore. Download trail maps from The 300 Committee website, or join one of its scheduled walks to explore one of these trails. Parking is available at all sites if you do not feel comfortable cycling to any of these parcels. Personal favorites include the Mares Pond, Moonakis/Quashnet River and Breivogel/Shallow Pond parcels.
The benefits of biking and walking go beyond health and fitness. They also lower our carbon footprint and combat climate change. Let us also take the opportunity of National Bike Month to spur ourselves and encourage our children to bike more this month. With tourist season almost behind us, and schools restarting, it is a good time to safely bike with children. Let’s dust off the bikes and inspire each other to have some fun spinning the wheels and exploring Falmouth!