No matter how much hiking you do on Martha’s Vineyard, it seems there is always a new trail to discover. That’s one of the reasons the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank initiated the Cross-Island Hike to celebrate National Trails Day in 1993. The 26th annual hike will take place this Saturday, June 2, tracing a 17.2-mile path from Menemsha Beach to Blackwater Pond Reservation in West Tisbury.
Hikers can elect to complete the entire route or just a portion, depending on their schedule and physical capabilities. While the pace of the hike is brisk and some sections are more strenuous than others, a carefully planned itinerary of departure checkpoints allows hikers to “jump in” with the group throughout the day.
William Veno, senior planner with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, is contracted by the Land Bank for trail planning tasks, including planning and leading the Cross-Island Hike. “It’s not your typical educational naturalist hike,” Veno says. “The only species I point out are ticks and poison ivy.” Instead, he says the point of the day is to “bring attention to the conservation properties, to bring attention to the trails within and outside these conservation properties, and encourage people to get out, walk, and enjoy the outdoors.”
Veno plans each year’s route to start at the finish line of the previous year, emphasizing the continuity of the Island’s extensive trail network. Typically, the route stretches from one shore to another, although some years — this year included — a pond is substituted for a “shore.” Veno strives for variety, so if a certain trail or property was included last year, it’s not likely to be repeated this year.
This practice allows participants to discover and experience new trails with each Cross-Island Hike. Veno also acquires permission from conservation agencies and land owners for one-day-only use of certain properties, so even the most well-travelled hikers will have a chance to access parts of the Island they’ve never walked before.
One of the unique sections on this year’s hike is the beginning segment along the north shore, stretching from Menemsha Beach to Great Rock Bight. The shore here is very rocky — making for difficult walking — but includes gorgeous ocean views from under the dunes of Menemsha Hills, plus the little-known gem of land around Roaring Brook and the Brickyard.
The Nature Conservancy will also grant one-day-only use of the Woods Preserve, which connects this year’s route between Waskosim’s Rock Reservation and Polly Hill Arboretum. Veno says he doesn’t normally get to include the scenic Waskosim’s Rock trails because no trails connect with the property to the east. “The Woods Preserve is some very pretty property,” Veno says. “It stretches through some wide-open fields, then ducks into the woods along the Middle Brook.”
Other trails along this year’s route include Middle Ridge, Tea Lane Farm, Square Field, John Presbury Norton Preserve, Buttonwood Farm, Ripley’s Field Preserve, and a number of paths and ancient ways that connect these properties.
Veno says the annual hike always draws in an “eclectic group,” attracting hikers of all ages, including intergenerational families. While most hikers join for a segment of the hike, Veno says “increasingly, more and more people come to complete the whole hike.” Many of the participants are hikers from off-Island who plan their weekend visits to coordinate with the Cross-Island Hike. “It’s kind of a reunion for a lot of us,” Veno says.
That sense of camaraderie is important to the hike, which Land Bank employees work tirelessly to execute. In addition to Veno’s planning and leading the hike, Cindy Kraus ressupplies hikers with snacks on breaks, Maureen Hill posts all hike-related information to the Land Bank’s website, James Lengyel brings up the rear of the hike, and other crew maintain and prepare the trails.
It’s all in an effort to expose people to the Island’s many conservation properties and trails, which grow in number every year. “We encourage people to come out, explore, learn about some new places, and just enjoy,” Veno says. “It’s gratifying to hear participants comment, ‘I never knew this trail was here right in my neighborhood!’ That’s the intent. That’s what it’s all about.”
Cross-Island Hike: Saturday, June 2, 8:15 am. Menemsha Beach, Chilmark. For more information on this year’s route, hike preparation, safety, transportation, and parking, visit mvlandbank.com/annualhike.shtml. To see the Cross-Island Hike map, go to bit.ly/Cross-IslandMap.
2018 targeted departure checkpoints:
8:15 am, Start at Menemsha Beach
9:55 am (3.6 miles), North Road Fire Station
10:50 am (5.8 miles), AM break at Middle Ridge
12 pm (9.3 miles), Arrive Polly Hill Arboretum picnic area
12:30 pm, Leave Polly Hill
1:25 pm (12 miles), Dr. Fisher and Old Holmes Hole Roads
2:15 pm (13.8 miles), PM break at John Presbury Norton Preserve
2:55 pm (14.6 miles), Buttonwood Farm and State Road
2:55 pm (15.9 miles), Ripley’s Field Preserve at John Hoft Road
3:20 pm (17.2 miles), Finish at Blackwater Pond Reservation