Lying between Namequoit and Portanimicut Roads in South Orleans are several OCT- and Town-owned lands that are open to walkers. A glance at our Locator Map shows the importance of these interlinked parcels—the 6.85-acre Christian Property, OCT’s Seikel Property fronting on Namequoit, and the not-quite 9-acre Atlantic white cedar swamp embraced by the two. Residential development has been steadily filling in the open space between the two roads, so hidden refuges like the Christian Property Conservation Area are increasingly precious.
Location: 80 Portanimicut Road, South Orleans
Trail length: Less than 1 mile
Year acquired: 1999
From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, follow MA Route 28 towards Chatham for 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Quanset Road and veer left at the Y to stay on Portanimicut Road. Follow Portanimicut Road to the trailhead entrance on left (0.6 miles). Entrance is a small dirt driveway at 72 Portanimicut Rd.; please do not disturb occupants.
The Town of Orleans acquired the 7.85-acre Christian Property in 1999 for conservation and passive recreation, with $148,200 of the $345,000 purchase price coming from a state Self-Help Grant. The parcel was a priority for its close proximity to Pleasant Bay, in conjunction with the Town’s efforts to preserve the Bay’s waters.
The acquisition also helped safeguard the abutting 8.9-acre Atlantic white cedar swamp, a globally rare habitat. In 2000, the Town acquired, by eminent domain, the white cedar swamp to provide a wildlife corridor and additional natural habitat. Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly is unique to these swamps, and Northern saw-whet owls nest in the cedars.
This land is also contiguous with OCT’s 4-acre Seikel Gift, given to the OCT in 1991, which can be accessed from Namequoit Road, though no trail exists on that property.
From the entrance to the Christian Property, a loop trail heads north through a meadow, then descends toward the cedar swamp. Early on the walk, you can spot ornamental trees left behind by earlier residents: tupelo poplar, silver birches and yews, along with native shrubs and young sycamore maples. Moving into big oaks and pitch pines, the footing becomes mossy; soon you reach the viewing platform built by the Town to look into the swamp. From there the trail loops back toward the parking area.
“I walk on a tracery of exposed roots and mosses among waist-high water-willow and other understory shrubs, winding through the ranks of big cedars: upright or aslant at many angles. When the breeze penetrates, dancing foliage shadows make it a bit dizzying to look down. The sense of magic deepens: What is it about shaggy old cedars that makes you feel you’re in a fairytale forest inhabited by half-plant/ half-human beings, like Tolkien’s Ents in The Lord of the Rings?”
– Diana Landau, from a 2014 OCT newsletter article