WHILE MOST PEOPLE USE CHAIRLIFTS TO START THEIR SKI TRIP, Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson strap on a helmet and start pedaling. Since meeting in 1998, the two outdoors journalists have documented human-powered adventures from month-long skiing expeditions through the remote reaches of East Greenland, Iceland, and Arctic Norway, to exploring the heart of Chile’s endangered Baker River Valley, to surfing a hurricane swell right here on Nantucket. Their stories have filled the pages of publications ranging from Outside Magazine to The New York Times to Organic Gardening. When they’re not off on a bike-powered ski trip in the high Alps or foraging for leeks around their organic garden in Vermont, Brian and Emily can usually be found here on the island. Most recently, the pedal-power couple returned to the off-road mountain biking paths of Brian’s youth on Nantucket.
Pedaling just beyond the cobbled streets of downtown Nantucket, I turned onto a familiar shortcut near Windmill Hill. Relieved from the bustle of the paved island world, I followed a quiet, single-track trail alongside blooming roses and ripening blackberries. My wheels carried me beneath the cool canopy of a pine forest, over a small hill, and within minutes, back to the pavement. The shortcut was merely a convenient warm-up on a nearly two-hour mountain bike ride around Hummock Pond, a hand picked route featuring plenty of gently rolling single and double-track trails, a touch of dirt and paved road, and for good measure, a casual beach walk with the bike around the head of the pond. It’s the kind of ride that characterizes the mountain biking experience on the island.
For many, the short trips around town are just a teaser for the longer trail rides encompassing the far reaches of the island, be it Hummock Pond, the Windswept Bog or Eel Point. Although it lacks the bigger climbs and technical challenges of many mountain biking destinations in the Northeast, Nantucket has plenty of sandpits, head winds and overgrown trails to keep you working. To make matters more interesting, very few trails or routes show up on island maps, and trail marking or signage is also limited. The flip side is that you are never too far from a road link back to town, there are no big hills, the trails tend to be smooth, and whether you have just an hour, or all day, the island of- fers something for everyone. Head for a quiet beach beyond the trails at Sanford Farm. Spend hours wandering the maze of trails through the moors near Altar Rock. Pack a few containers and gather some blackberries, or wild grapes. Get lost somewhere. It will be an adventure, guaranteed.
— Brian Mohr & Emily Johnson