When you think about iconic Cape Cod, what do you picture? Probably long beaches, grassy sand dunes, and salty ocean air, right? If you’re a runner, that picture likely includes Falmouth Road Race, the classic 7-miler that has traced the Cape’s picture-perfect coast every August for more than four decades. Turn 180 degrees from the water, though, and there’s another distinct Cape landscape: grassy, wildflower-strewn meadows and pitch-pine forest growing out of that same sand. And trails. Windy, moderately hilly, grassy, sandy trails.
Just a couple miles from downtown Falmouth, you can run for miles through the woods at Crane Wildlife Management Area. I picked the eastern portion of the property since the Falmouth Track Club hosts an annual trail race there, figuring I’d follow their 5K or 10K route to see the best trails. On a bright Saturday afternoon I pulled into the parking area off Route 151 and stretched for a few minutes. Meadow spread out in every direction, eventually reaching forest in the distance. Birds shot up out of the grasses and vanished just as quickly.
Otis Air Force Base, along the northern boundary of the wildlife area, wasn’t visible from my vantage point. I could hear what sounded like firecrackers but I can only assume was actually some sort of military training exercise.
I was headed west, though. The trails, mostly grown-over dirt roads, wind all over Crane in a tight cluster—too tight for easy navigation. After pausing repeatedly in the first mile to check my map of the race course, I gave up on that plan and started turning in the approximate direction I wanted to go. With traffic from Route 151 always audible to the south, staying oriented wasn’t a challenge.
Once I reached the trees, the uniform meadow gave way to small, rolling hills. Striding over loose sand, soft soil, and scattered pine cones, I followed footprints, horseshoe prints, and mountain bike tracks to stay on the most heavily traveled trails. One left-hand turn led into an open meadow, maybe the size of a football field, filled with chin-high wildflowers. Even on this late July day, wildflowers—white, yellow, orange, and purple—bloomed across Crane. (With grasses often tickling your knees as you run, a thorough post-run tick check is advised.)
The day was warm and my legs tired, so I stopped at 3 miles, but having indulged my curiosity on the first half of the run, I found myself wondering what was down each side trail I passed on the way back to the car. A runner could spend a fun afternoon piecing together a long run by looping around and around Crane’s maze of trails without any regard for reaching a particular destination.