by Peter Brace
During the summer months on Nantucket, when the island population swells to capacity, the adventurous outdoor explorer who loves his or her solitude is forced to find out-of-the-way places to hike, check out wildlife, and get out on the water.
Such are the destinations in my sights during July and August, because I crave the relief of experiencing the wilds of Nantucket solo (or with a carefully-selected companion) along with my dog.
A favorite midsummer haunt is Coskata Pond, its woods and beaches. But alas—how to get out there, when a long slog over hot sand originating from Wauwinet is the only on-foot option, and dogs aren’t allowed past the gatehouse from April 15 through September15? A kayak can be quite useful for reaching the fair number of remote special places on the island that are really only accessible by boat.
(I’ll not give them all away, as I’m saving these unique kayak-walks for my second volume of walks tentatively dubbed “Walking Nantucket – Vol. II” in which I’ve written a whole section on kayak-walks, but I will share one of my favorites, because it’s such a joy to do during the overcrowded summer months)
When conditions permit, I love paddling up into Coskata Pond and then walking a loop along the east shore of the island, because the density of people and vehicles is comparatively scant in the area.
A tidal pond with a mature maritime oak forest on its east shore and a soggy salt marsh cord grass plain called The Glades to the west, with two osprey nest poles at either end, Coskata Pond is deep enough even at low tide to paddle into, but shallow enough at high tide to keep almost all other boats out of it. At the northeast end of this pond is a narrow beach that parallels a stretch of the inside oversand vehicle trail running out to the Galls, Coatue, and Great Point. An ever-shrinking barrier beach and dune system around 200 feet wide through which this trail runs is all that separates Coskata Pond from the Atlantic Ocean.
The ocean beach late spring through mid-October is a thoroughfare for four-wheel-drive vehicles commuting to and from surfcasting areas all the way up to Great Point and also to remote picnicking spots out on Coatue. It is this beach that I love to swim and wade in, and walk along, after paddling there from either Pocomo Point or Polpis Harbor. It is the reward for the long paddle, and for braving mosquitoes and greenhead flies around the pond. Also, the ocean water is coolest on this side of the island, a feature you’ll learn is much more perk than deterrent.
The key to this kayak-walk is tide-timing and wind. It’s a great deal easier to paddle in and out of the pond going with the tide, and a more enjoyable paddle back when not heading into a strong wind. You’ll want to time it so that you reach the ocean end of the pond with one to two hours of the rising tide to go in order to have the time to swim, relax, and walk before catching the falling tide out of the pond and back to your ride. Also, with Nantucket’s prevailing winds being from the southwest during the summer, try to pick a day with wind 5-10 mph, knowing that the winds typically drop with the sun.
There are two starting points, depending on your energy level. Although I almost always put in at Polpis Harbor because I like to make a full day of it and see more shorebirds, occasionally I’ll launch from Pocomo Point when I’m short on time.
If paddling out of Polpis Harbor, choose one of two launching spots. Go 4.5 miles from Milestone Road or 4.2 from Siasconset village and turn onto Wauwinet Road. Either go down Polpis Harbor Road at this intersection, or .4 of a mile more down Wauwinet Road and turn left onto a dirt road opposite 19 Wauwinet Road that is marked on a flower box in blue letters. This second landing is usually less crowded, and has a port-a-potty, but it has fewer parking spaces.
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