“The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot. In my world of beach and dunes these elemental presences lived and had their being, and under their arch there moved an incomparable pageant of nature and the year.” – Henry Beston
One of my favorite books is The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. I love imagining the stretches of beach and marshlands that Beston called home, seeing all the changes from season to season, hearing of wild places far from civilization.
For a while now, I’ve wanted to visit the site of the Outermost House but wasn’t sure exactly where it was located. There hasn’t been anything there since a massive storm, the Blizzard of ’78, destroyed the wooden shack and carried bits of it off into the ocean. Still, I wanted to go there to experience some of the beauty to be found, to sit near the site and soak in the poetry of the place.
The site is about two miles from the Eastham Life Saving Station (white building above). Thanks to the Cape Cod National Seashore, I figured the area would look pretty much the same as when Beston stayed there in the 1920s. The Outermost House is credited with being one of the motivating forces behind the creation of the National Seashore, preserving 40 miles along the Atlantic coast.
While flipping through a book on Cape Cod hikes, I saw a map that showed the exact site of the Outermost House as an X on the beach. It looked like a treasure map. I knew then that I had to find it.
We set out from the life saving station. It seemed like the X marking the treasure would be easy to find. According to the map, the site would be on a beach and directly across a marsh from an observation pavilion.
We trudged through the sand, looking for the pavilion. But before we could stand across from it, an inlet opened up in front of us, a wide, deep inlet complete with waves that stretched from the ocean into the marsh. The inlet blocked our way to the treasure.
We stared across the channel to a beach that looked more like an island. The inlet hadn’t been there when Beston lived there. It wasn’t even on the map showing the hike, but it made the Outermost House site inaccessible.
Large rocks on the island beach moved. Then we saw heads bobbing through the inlet waves. Seals swam and played, oblivious to us and our quest for treasure. We realized that seals completely covered the beach and the area where the Outermost House once stood.
So we didn’t make it to the treasure. Or did we? As we walked away, we knew that the treasure is in knowing there are still places like this, places where seals can play, inaccessible places where nature can flourish. We were glad then that we couldn’t get to the site and that only seals could visit.
Have you read The Outermost House or anything that’s made you want to go on a treasure hunt?
What a wonderful treasure hunt! I have a coworker who goes to Cape Cod on holiday (I don’t exactly where)- I will ask her if she has read this book.
Thanks Letizia! It’s kind of crazy that it took me so long to try to find the site since it’s not too far away. But then the book is so descriptive that anyone reading it ends up feeling like they’ve been transported there. Thanks so much for the Twitter share – I hope you’re having a magical NYC Spring!
Magical! I don’t know the book or the author but I think I would enjoy it very much. I must see if I can get it from somewhere. I love it that nature, seals in particular, have taken over the place where Henry Beston lived!
I loved that too! It seemed fitting since he loved nature so much and described all the bird and animal visitations through the year. It’s a wonderful book – I hope you’ll enjoy it!
I was just telling my husband I’d love to visit Cape Cod as well as more of coastal New England, so this is wonderful. I’ve been to Old Orchard Beach, Maine and also Bar Harbor a long time ago, but there’s so much more I could explore there.
Yay! I’d recommend this book then for a virtual visit before your real visit. Let me know when you’ll be around and I’ll send some info on good places to go. We could get together for a real tour too – definitely of The Pirate at least!
Sheila, I definitely would say you reached your treasure!!😀 The beach looks beautiful, sweeping and peaceful – tantalising tranquility. I just want to walk out and explore as well! Isn’t it wonderful to think of the seals now swimming where the house stood…I’ve never read The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston but after reading about your deep affection for the book, I really want to read this. I enjoy visiting the houses where famous writers worked, to see the rooms they sat, the desks they wrote at. My personal favourite is Bronte Parsonage in Yorkshire. We visited often as we lived close by when I was young and we would walk through the house, see their amazingly tiny books written both ways across the writing as paper was scarce, wandered on the moors above the house. Wonderful days out! This summer I’m finally going to Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District and I can’t wait!
Thanks Annika! I think you’d like The Outermost House, then maybe it’ll inspire you to come over for a visit. The Bronte Parsonage sounds wonderful – I’d love to wander those moors that inspired Jane Eyre, but then the book describes them so well that I almost feel like I’ve been there. That’s great that you’ll be going to Beatrix Potter’s house! The area looks so beautiful in the “Miss Potter” movie – make sure to take lots of pictures and say hello to Peter Rabbit!
Oh my! This was a cruel post, Sheila! Viewing these stunning photos, while trapped at work…you’re mean! Just kidding. I loved this. I’ve never read The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston, but now I’d like too.
Hahah – yes it’s always torture when we’re stuck in front of our computers! I think you’d like The Outermost House – it’s one of the few books that made me feel like my soul was soaring just from the descriptions of nature. I hope you’ll be able to get away from the computer enough to enjoy all those beautiful NC places.
It’s kind of beautiful that the memories of the place live only in his words and the seeker’s imagination…while the place remains void of human habitation and left pristine. Lovely!
Yes! If it hadn’t been for the Cape Cod National Seashore, it would probably be all built up there now. I loved seeing the seals play there. I’m sure Beston would be excited to know that they’ve taken over. 🙂
Love this. You did indeed find treasure. Your Cape Cod looks so beautiful.
Thanks Char! It’s nice that the area has been preserved for all the animals and birds that migrate or live there. Sometimes Cape Cod can feel pretty built up and overcrowded, but at least there are still some places left like this one.
I know. I was loving the lonely beach pics.
I too remember reading that book and being influenced by it! I spend a fair bit of time on the Cape (often in winter) during the late 1980s and your stunning photos took me back there…
I’m glad to hear the photos brought back some memories! The beach in the winter can be lots of fun with all the wind and sand blowing everywhere. I hope you were able to enjoy some of that craziness during your stay. That’s great that you read The Outermost House too – all this talk about it is making me want to read it again.
I haven’t read The Outermost House, but your pictures remind me of the unspoiled stretches of beach at Cumberland island national seashore. Definitely another place where nature flourishes. 🙂 Btw i just started Ocean Echoes and looking forward to the read!
Thanks so much – I hope you’ll have fun reading it! I’ll have to check out Cumberland island national seashore now. I’m happy to hear of any other places like that – where nature can take over and play.
A friend of mine has gone on a writer’s retreat in one of these beach shacks. Definitely not the Outermost House, but something similar. So beautiful! The vast expanse of the ocean always draws me inward. Hard to describe.
Yes, I’m jealous of those writer’s retreats. It’s always inspiring to visit the ocean and breathe it all in – I’ll have to do that more often!
I haven’t read The Outermost House yet, Sheila – but it’s now on my reading list. And I do believe you found your treasure xxx
Thanks Dianne! I hope you’ll enjoy your virtual trip to Cape Cod. Love and hugs!
Sheila, it looks like you had a wonderful trip! I have never heard of the book, but it sounds interesting! Thanks for posting the beautiful beach and water! It makes me want to go to Crescent City again….someday!
I think you’ll love The Outermost House – there are so many wonderful descriptions of the ocean and nature that you’ll feel like you’re there. Thank you for the virtual visit!
Then I will have to look for it for sure, Sheila! Thanks for posting about it! 🙂
I loved The Outermost House Sheila and I’m pleased you got to experience some of the treasure that remains!
I’m glad you were able to read it too – it’s wonderful! I hope you’re enjoying your spring!
Such a great compliment to the author of that book that it sent you looking for the location.. and now I want to read that book too!
I’m glad to hear this makes you want to read it – I think you’ll love it! Then you can come and visit for a treasure hunt.
Love that a book inspired you to go on a treasure hunt Sheila and what a beautiful place it looks to be. Getting cold here but I love a good walk on an empty beach in the winter where I have it all to myself.
Hi Kath! Sorry I was out of town and just noticed this – I’ve been getting pretty bad with keeping up with the blog. I hope you’ll be able to get out on that winter beach walk soon! They can really take your breath away. 🙂
No worries I have not blogged for ages either have a great day Sheila xxx
Yes, and looking at the photos makes me want to go back there to play with the seals! 🙂
I’ve never been to Cape Cod….spent time in Boston, spent time in Vermont, but never saw the Cape. Great pics, and thank you for the book recommendation. I’m going to the library today; maybe I’ll find it there.
Have a great weekend and early Happy 4th of July!
Thank you! Cape Cod is a little like a strange combination of Boston and Vermont. If you end up reading the book, you’ll feel like you’ve been here while seeing all the best parts. Happy early 4th of July and happy summer!
What an awesome treasure hunt! I think you definitely found treasure just not the one you set out for. But this one may be more valuable indeed. 🙂
Yes, it’s a special place – I’m guessing it looks a bit different around now with the summer crowds, but I probably won’t be going there to find out! 🙂
I love that book too. And I love Cape Cod. It’s unusually beautiful, as your photos prove.
I’m glad you were able to read it and enjoy the beauty of Cape Cod (both virtually and in reality)! It’s the kind of book you can read over and over again.
Over the last 20 years I’ve become a Cape Cod addict! I love wandering around the Cape.
Beautiful post, Sheila. I think you found the spot.
Thank you! The ocean is always filled with such magic and beauty.