On My Way: The surprises of Chappy

So many new and exciting trails to explore.

Arriving at the Cape Poge Gut — Jonathan Burke

Chappaquiddick Road was paved in yellow bricks. The road was level and straight, with low brush on either side. Becham, my trusty terrier-mix companion, walked by my side. I felt a sense of Oz-like adventure. I looked up the road. It seemed to disappear into Chappy’s wilds. Ahead lay the North Neck Highlands. Ahead were the Cove Meadow Preserve and the Cross-Chappy trail. Ahead were the Three Ponds Reservation and Poucha Pond Preserve.

I had wanted to explore Chappy since I had read of the Cross-Chappy trail system, and scoured the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank online map for a route. A week ago Saturday was the day. We parked on Water Street. We walked down the street to the On Time. Soon, with the help of the captain, we were on the other side. We set out. The warm bite of winter was in the air. The sky was a chilly pale blue. The distant sun burned fiercely, without a cloud in the sky. The day was perfect for a hike.

The Chappaquiddick beach and Edgartown Harbor passed by to our left. A pond appeared to our right. The glassy surface held the color and nuance of the sky. Conservation properties appeared on either side. The low brush turned to taller pine and oak. I looked for North Neck Road — our route to the Highlands. The road began to turn. A Land Bank property brought me out of my musings. I looked at the trail map. We had overshot North Neck. But there was a connecting trail.

It was a nice property. We came across a small pond nestled within dense woods. There was some field and pasture. I followed the trail. We turned onto North Neck Road. There was nothing extraordinary about North Neck. The dirt road was suitable for one vehicle, and was fashioned like a driveway. A small hump in the middle separated the wheel tracks. Driveways to homes branched off to either side. We passed a trailhead to Cove Meadow, and some of the fairways and greens of the Chappaquiddick Links. We did not pause. 

The Highlands were our goal. I smiled when I saw the Land Bank sign. The first leg of our exploration was complete. I took off my outer layer and looked for the trailhead. I was befuddled. The only trail was an overlook of the Cape Poge Gut. On the Land Bank map, it looked to me like there was a square loop one could walk in the Highlands — with the Gut on one side and Cape Poge Bay on the other. I was most excited for this walk.

In my confusion, I turned back from the overlook without taking the time to admire the magnificent blue ocean below or the elegant spit of sand. I returned to the trailhead. Not finding another trail, I continued on North Neck Road. We came to another Highlands trailhead. This trailhead took us to an overlook of Cape Poge Bay. Again, I did not pause to admire what was before me, though I felt the beauty of the place. I turned back. I was stymied. There were no other trails. My only option was to press on. 

Within minutes, Becham and I, having followed a town sign, were at the top of a set of stairs down to the beach overlooking Cape Poge Gut, a section of Cape Poge Bay and the Cape Poge elbow. The Atlantic Ocean made an endless sweep. The spit of sand that made the Elbow was ethereal in its color and tone and shape. The bay was green and restless.

It was high tide. The bottom of the stairs was in the water. I decided to give up on my sought-after loop. It was not clear to me how it would go. And there was much left in our hike. 

With nervous energy, I put us back on the North Neck Road — albeit in the other direction. We moved along. The sun was warm in the sky.

Past the Chappy Links, I came across trail signs. One of the signs indicated a Land Bank easement trail to Cove Meadow. I gathered this would take us to where we wanted to go.

The easement turned into the Sheriff’s Meadow Woodger Trail. We walked alongside the Chappy Links. Eventually, we came to a dirt road with a little pond on the other side. There was no clear signage — other than a pond loop trail.

The lovely pond loop would have to be for another day. I was feeling a little lost. I had expected signage or some evidence of the Cross-Chappy trail. Neither was present. I knew that I needed to go south. Using the sun as a guide, I went right on the dirt road. The strategy worked. I came out of the woods to an open expanse. Cape Poge Bay was in the offing. I found Cove Meadow Preserve. There was a small cemetery as well.

The Cove Meadow Preserve was not what I had expected. I looked around. I had expected a clearly marked trail system to carry me alongside the bay and then inland to the Three Ponds Reservation. I saw only a few access trails to the beach. There was no map, either. In any event, it was time for a break. We took a trail to the beach. Someone had decorated the branches of the brush on either side of the trail with conch shells. The path was as festive as I have seen. We sat on the beach for a few minutes. I had a drink of water and a Kind Bar. Becham had a drink of water and a Milk-Bone. We did not stay long.

Back on our southerly way, we came across a trail easement for Brines Pond. I did not know about Brines Pond. I was looking for Three Ponds Reservation and the Cross-Chappy trail. The easement was the only way to go.

The easement turned into a wonderful little trail, narrow and gentle and quiet, with woods on either side. The trees were empty of leaves. I followed the trail signs.

We came to a paved road. I knew now we were headed the right way. I recalled from the map a road cutting across the trail. I looked up the road. There was the connecting trail. We walked up and crossed over. 

And then finally, like a shooting star in the nighttime sky, there on a tree was a Cross-Chappy trail sign. It was smooth sailing from here. Now I could relax and just enjoy the walk. 

I followed the trail signs. The leaves on the trail were like a bed of crinkly down. I listened to the musical shuffle. Becham seemed happy as well. The trail took us past Brines Pond — another marvelous little pond of Chappaquiddick. There were signs here and there for a place called Five Corners. We came to the Poucha Pond Reservation. 

Somewhere along the way, we took a branch trail to an overlook of a vast wetlands. Who knew the little Island had so much to offer? We walked from Poucha Pond to Wasque Road. Wasque was some distance off to our left. I thought only for a few seconds. Wasque would wait for another day. We had three-plus miles back, without also trudging out to Wasque. We turned right.

With the help of the M.V. Trails app, we walked to Litchfield Road, then we walked Litchfield back to the Chappaquiddick Road. Only a few cars and trucks went by on the dirt road. My legs ached. We took a short break on the side of the road for water and a snack — an RXBar for me and a cookie for Becham. Rejuvenated, we kept on the dusty road. We turned onto the Chappaquiddick Road for the home stretch. 

The little circus-like cabanas of the Chappaquiddick Beach Club pirouetted one after another along the beach. The road was level and straight again, and the low-lying brush was again on either side. The On Time was ahead. A wind blew over the exposed low-lying land as we waited for the boat. The passage was no more than a few minutes. We walked back up to the truck.

I had only scratched the surface of Chappy in our 4½-hour exploration. There were sights to linger on, and new trails to explore. I knew I needed to return.