Winter Walks: Quaise
Quaise and Bassett roads form three parts of a loop I like to walk when I don’t have time for a long hike in the morning but still need to get my dog her daily stretch of her legs.
With hunters scouring the island for deer, this route is another welcome hunter-free zone during the hunting season because the land in between the two roads, owned by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, is clearly posted as a sanctuary frequently used by walkers and as such, an area where hunting is prohibited. The land on the other side of these roads is private and as such, posted as no-hunting areas. Also, there’s easy access to the harbor shoreline in spots in sight of the water off of Quaise Road. During the remainder of the deer hunting season, most of the shotgun blasts you’re likely to hear will be coming from the moors on the south side of Polpis Road or from Coatue and Coskata across Nantucket Harbor.
Quaise, like most Nantucket place names is of First Nation Peoples origin. It’s probably the condensed version of the Algonquian word for “the end of the marsh;” Wechquaesqueck, according to Eugene Greene’s and William L. Sachse’s “Names of the land: Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and the Elizabeth Islands: A Compendium of Cape Area Proper Names and Derivations”. It is a part of Nantucket’s inner harbor shores west of Polpis Harbor that includes part of Folger’s Marsh, Quaise Point and the beach leading out to it, the Quaise Pastures Lane neighborhood with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s magnificent property, Masquetuck from Mishasqauk meaning “place of reeds,” according to Greene and Sachse, at the end of this road.
Nantucket’s Native Americans and eventually, European settlers lived in the Quaise area at one time, but today the area is populated with mostly seasonal homes and the UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station.
The shoreline from the mouth of Folger’s Marsh and halfway down to Quaise Point is strewn with gravel, large rocks and much larger glacial erratics, most of them in shallow water, and all left by the Laurentide ice sheet, the last glacier to cover a portion of the Northern Hemisphere, and the glacier responsible for forming our island. The shallow Quaise Pond between the two roads contains frogs, turtles and small fish in the warmer months, and acts as refuge for waterfowl year-round.
Find the parking for this walk on the south side Polpis Road on Altar Rock Road opposite Quaise Road. Park in the first parking area you come to on the left side of Altar Rock Road and then walk across Polpis Road onto Quaise Road.
When I’m pressed for time, I walk down Quaise Road past the pond and on to where right and left turns present themselves. Here, I go left continuing west on Quaise Road as it now parallels the harbor. Shortly, you’ll see that the road takes a hard left, which is where it becomes Bassett Road. Follow this road south, eventually passing Quaise Pond on its west shore.
Immediately after the makeshift horse-riding ring on the left just after the pond, find the trail running left up into the grove of Japanese black pines. Follow the trail as it goes over the rise and then down into a thicket of shrubs. This short trail takes you back to the start of Quaise Road where you can cross Polpis Road and get back to your ride.
If you have more time, there are two options for extending this walk. When you reach the end of Quaise Road in sight of the harbor, you can go right down a dirt road that quickly curves left toward the harbor. Find the trail leading down to the beach. Walk down onto the beach leaving the trail behind you and walk to the end, which is Quaise Point jutting out at the top of the two halves of Polpis Harbor. Walk back the way you came to reach Quaise Road.
If you want just to sit and gaze upon the harbor, possibly at sunset, or take a swim when the weather permits, instead of taking a right or left at the harbor end of Quaise Road, go straight. This quickly takes you onto a property owned by the Nantucket Islands Land Bank.
You can sit on the wooden bench and or walk down the stairs to the beach below. Either way, it’s beautiful spot and part of a great walk!