South Road. Middle Road. North Road. Fulling Mill Brook. Peaked Hill. And just for the heck of the double hat trick: Ocean View Farm.
The first time I did this hike — with my trusty terrier mix companion, Becham — I nearly was in a state of euphoria at having connected the three up-Island roads and three different land bank properties. I felt I had discovered a whole new world of possibility and adventure.
(Since then I have learned that many such hikes exist on the Island. My discovery was not a novel one. All one has to do is the work of looking.)
My awakening to the Island’s long hike offerings occurred three years ago.
I learned I could dispose of my Christmas tree at John Keene’s — a perfect opportunity for an up-Island walk. I took out my Land Bank map and saw that a trailhead to the Fulling Mill Brook Preserve was off of South Road.
The property did not disappoint — until Becham and I reached the end of the trail after only about 15 minutes. Not wanting to turn back, I took out my phone and found where I was on the TrailsMV app. I saw that I could walk up Middle Road (near where I was) and connect with the Peaked Hill Reservation. This laid the groundwork for a 2 ½ hour hike.
A week ago from Saturday, I pulled into Keene’s. The nice woman in the office saw me and came to the door. She saw the tree in the bed of the truck and instructed me on the location. Within minutes, Becham and I were back on our way. The Fulling Mill Brook trailhead is a short distance after the Abel Hill Cemetery. You have to look if you have not been there before. There is pull over space for three to four cars. One car was there when we arrived.
Becham and I set out. The January morning was cold and damp. The trail was soft and comfortable underfoot. I felt the presence of the woods. Soon, I heard the faint and wonderful sound. I saw up ahead the namesake brook. The water flowed in the course carved over the years to the left and parallel to the trail. I listened. As I neared, the brook turned unexpectedly at a right angle under the landbridge of the trail. The water ran and swirled around the rocks on the other side. The brook had a mind of its own and went on its way.
We walked alongside the brook. The water looked fresh and clear and icy cold. The current moved swiftly over the bed of mud sand and some rocks. Further ahead there was a small waterfall. The running water falling over the rocks reached a crescendo. Then the brook moved away from the trail. We walked a ways. We passed through a meadow. The woods were on either side of the wide and flat trail. We went along in good spirits.
We took a left on the connector trail to Peaked Hill. (The first time that I did this hike, I either missed the connector trail or it did not exist.) A series of foot bridges took us through a wetlands area. Scrubby brush was on either side. A young family of four appeared. They were making their way down a section of trail ahead of me. All smiling, they passed in the opposite direction.
One section of bridge offered a view into the forest. I stopped and gazed as deep in as I could. A stand of narrowly-built tall trees stood at ease. The woods seemed untouched — as they might have been hundreds of years ago.
The trail was rugged after the bridges. A lattice of roots crossed in places making for difficult footing. The trail went up and turned. I began to breathe more deeply and felt my legs work. Some sections of the trail disappeared around me.
The trail flattened in an enjoyable way as we neared Middle Road. The hiking was easy. We were going up making small turns back and forth. The side of the trail sloped off in places. We came to a clearing — a plateau of level ground — that abuts Middle Road. The trail followed the edge of the clearing. A Land Bank footbridge, only a foot or so above the ground, was constructed most of the way. We arrived at Middle Road and crossed.
We walked up the steep, paved Peaked Hill Road for the length of its ¼ mile or so. We arrived at the top of Radar Hill known for its radio tower. From here began our hike of Peaked Hill.
There were two routes. I chose the one on the down-Island side. We descended on good trail. I had a sense of where we were from prior hikes. When I saw a sign for Peaked Hill views, I left the trail we were on and we began to ascend on a new trail. Shortly, we arrived at the Peaked Hill summit (311’).
Sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, Menemsha Pond and the Vineyard Sound rewarded our effort. The sky was gray. We were literally on the top of the Island. We lingered for a moment to enjoy the Island kingdom. I set us back on our downard quest. The familiar Ridge Trail carried us to the base of the hill in no time at all. We next took a trail to North Road.
Back now on the firmer footing of our level Island, we walked an amiable mid-width path. The trail was thick with dense patches of green and black moss in places. We tagged up at North Road. On the return, I found what I was seeking. The trail closed in around me and time slipped away. My mind found a peaceful place. For a moment, I could have been Daniel Boone with only the need of the woods for company. I let us lose our way for a while.
(Land Bank properties with many different trails and signs and without maps can be confusing entities if you let them. I am loath to take out my phone and log on the TrailsMV app unless absolutely necessary. The connection to the internet does interfere with the zen of the hike.)
Becham and I made it back to the Radar Hill summit on the familiar Ridge Trail. We descended Peaked Hill Road to Middle Road. We crossed Middle Road. We walked again on the footbridge along the edge of the clearing.
We reentered the Fulling Mill Brook woods. We went back over the series of footbridges. We did a loop in the preserve that we did not do on the way in. We returned on Fulling Mill Brook’s main trail. Becham and I were a few hours into our hike. I could have returned to the truck well-satisfied with the morning. But there was one more land bank property nearby — impossible to resist.
We turned onto the Eastern Loop trail. The trail did as advertised and went in a looping fashion. An easement of sorts led to Ocean View Farm. Just for the heck of it we did Ocean View Farm’s short loop. The view from the overlook was spectacular.