No matter what the time of year, one of the best ways to spend your time on Martha’s Vineyard is to hike the trails. None of the trails is overly challenging and some of them are just a nice walk. Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation has put together a fantastic app called TrailsMV (available for free on iTunes) that maps out all of the trails and tells you how challenging each one of them is. There are lots of trails that I still haven’t walked—I’m slowly checking them off my to-do list—but so far, my favourite trail is Menemsha Hills.
Menemsha Hills Reservation can be found on the north side of North Road, relatively close to Menemsha Cross Road—they don’t call it Menemsha Hills for nothing! The trail is a fantastic opportunity to discover that there is more to Menemsha than the quaint fishing village we all know and love. At the entrance to the trail, there is a good sized parking lot and signage letting you know what’s what. One of the reasons that I like this trail is because of the options that you are given at different points. So, even if you have already walked this path before, you can choose different routes to keep things fresh. Also, there is a lot of variety along this trail. No matter what you like, this trail has it.
The first time I walked this path was with my friend Dave. I was on-island for my birthday and celebrating the release of my fourth Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Pretty Vineyard Girls. Dave had walked it before with another friend of ours and was eager to show it to me. I loved it! The trail starts, relatively flat, as you make your way deeper into the bush. Then the trail starts to lead you up—This would be the “Hills” part. Dave and I twisted and wound our way through the woods. At one point we walked through an opening in a stonewall. I love the stonewalls that criss-cross the Vineyard. Stonewalls cover the New England country side, but the walls on Martha’s Vineyard are different. The stones themselves are very different from the ones in America, but that’s another post altogether.
We kept climbing and climbing until we hit a plateau. There was a small clearing with a stone bench to rest on. It must have been a popular resting spot for a long time, because the bench has been dedicated to two couples. I can’t imagine how they got this piece of rock into position. There’s no way anyone carried it up the path. Then again, no one is sure how Stonehenge got there either, so who knows? However it got there, the view from the stone is beautiful, even though it is merely a hint of what is to come—an amuse-bouche for the main course. After a rest, the path continued.
When you curl up to the top of the hill, the trees fall behind you and you are in a clearing. If you didn’t know exactly what you were in for, you know now. The vista is epic. There’s no other way to describe it. On the lookout, here on the precipice of Menemsha Hills, the elevation is 308 feet, the second highest point on the entire island, just three feet shy of Peaked Hill a little farther south. On the far right you can see past Great Rock Bight and on your far left you can see, if you watch for it, the flash of the Gay Head Lighthouse in the distance. Before you turn back there’s just one more thing to be done.
Down To The Water
Like the song says, what goes up must come down. When Dave and I turned around, we noticed that there were two options. The first option was the path back, the one we had just taken. The second option curled around the lookout platform and headed down toward the water. I never like to waste an option to go down to the ocean, especially if it’s a seashore that I have yet to visit.
The path leads down a crevice which, when you’re in it, feels more like a canyon. The walk down is a steep one, so keep that in mind—remember you still have to go up! It’s not an easy walk either. You are walking on rocks and looking for your balance. Unlike the path through the woods, therein no beaten sand path. I remember walking on large loose stones and water running in small streams around my feet. I tend to like that sort of thing. When it comes to walks in the woods, I like them to be as rough as possible. The sun had been shining all day and even in the cool month of April, the valley had heated up quite a bit. It felt good. Eventually, we came to a boardwalk of sorts that lead us to a wooden staircase which ended on the beach.
It’s probably misleading to call the shore at the foot of Menemsha Hills a ‘beach’. It is rocky and it would be near impossible to go for a swim or even lay on a towel. Your best option would be to find a really big rock—there are lots of them—and have a seat. Both times that I was there I had an absolutely flawless day. Lots of sun, good friends, good conversation, and all on my island. It really doesn’t take a lot to make me happy.