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The signature trail through Menemsha Hills is named for these donors. The Harris Loop winds from the parking lot off of North Road and connects with the Nashawakemuck Loop further down the stretch, forming a route that runs six miles round-trip and takes an hour and a half to hike. The route was formerly a cart path used for the brickyard as well as the excavation of boulders—also known as erratics, vestiges of the glacial activity that created the island—that were used to construct the jetty at Oak Bluffs. These days, the trail needs a little help from the Trustees: Crews are now repairing sections of the trail where rainfall has weathered wide troughs on the steepest slopes.

Alison Shaw Alison Shaw Erosion aside, the loop through Menemsha Hills possesses scenery that is the stuff of imagination. Canopies of oak and maple cast thick shadows on the trail. The rare sunlight shimmers off of the occasional small ponds that flank the path. Boulders teem with lichen, a mosaic of lime-green that reflects the purity of the air. It’s rare to get a glimpse of a rooftop through the thickets, and it appears then only if the eyes are trained to look for one. Passersby are few and far between. Aside from the prodigious numbers of ticks—those useless creatures—there’s not much that could be improved upon. “Even the poison ivy looks pretty—as long as you don’t touch it,” says Chris Kennedy, the Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent for the Trustees of Reservations. Alison Shaw Alison Shaw

The first point of interest is Prospect Hill. At 308 feet above sea level, it is the second-highest point on the island. (A few record-seeking neighbors hauled a heap of stones and stacked them four feet high to steal first place from the 311-foot Peaked Hill, though that effort had no impact on the actual elevation.) The hill provides a panorama to reward the effort required to get here: the outposts of the Elizabeth Islands, the flash of a beacon from Gayhead Light, the former military installation at Noman’s Land, the white sands of Lobsterville Beach, the deep blue of Vineyard Sound. For bird watchers, Prospect Hill is also a great vantage point to see Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and other species that pass through in late summer.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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