A first glimpse of the great outer beach of Cape Cod is one of the most memorable experiences in all America. As one looks from the height of the earth-cliff which there confronts and halts the North Atlantic, it is the immense and empty plain of ocean which first seizes on the imagination, the ocean seen as one of the splendors of earth, and ever reflecting the mood of the season and the day. One may gaze at a mirror of summer blue ending at an horizon taut as a gleaming line; one may stare down into a vast and leaden turbulence of storm roaring ashore under another violence of the sky. To know the earth-cliff itself, one must do as Thoreau did and walk the long miles at its base between the ridged erosions of clay and sand and the outcry of the waves which follows one along, never dying from the air. From below, one can see the grass rim above trembling in the eternal wind of the lower Cape, and watch the cumuli of August trying to leave the land and float eastward and out above the alien meadows of the sea.
Thoreau came to the Cape with the eye and mind of one who has lived an inland life and is more accustomed to fresh water than to salt. He had noted the unbroken miles of the outer sands on a map, and thought them a feature of geographical interest which it would be rewarding to explore. Once upon the Cape, however, he did not limit his attention . . .