At last, on Monday snow fell up- Island, enough to cover fields and roofs and stone walls. I made a quick foray early in the morning down Music street in West Tisbury but it was slippery and I went home to attach my YakTrax before continuing. I was soon was out again, happily walking my field looking for rabbit and deer tracks. What I found, sadly, were largely tracks of turkeys and only one set of rabbit tracks, but they were better than none. Meanwhile, over the weekend, I had been pleased to see that Parsonage Pond was frozen and skaters were out on it. For a moment we were having my kind of winter. But by Tuesday all the snow had been washed away.

I am addicted to cold and snow, perhaps because I have lived in New Hampshire and Switzerland. I happily recall no-school, snow days in Exeter, N.H. I would spend mornings curled up reading Sir Walter Scott novels until the heaviest snow had fallen and I could get outside. Then, my collie dog Jock and I would walk downtown a block to buy peanut brittle. Munching it, I would walk for awhile along the Piscatawa River so Jock could enjoy snuffling the snow. Then I would return home to Sir Walter Scott, and watch the snow pile up high and higher.

I never skied during those New Hampshire days and rarely skated. In the two years I lived in Switzerland, I did neither. Appreciation of the beauty of snow grew, however, and has never left me. And this winter, until the last two weeks, I have been gloomily missing it. Now, at last, I have had a few touches of it.

Last Sunday, Anna Alley lured me into the Sheriff’s Meadow Middle Road Sanctuary. She assured me it would be a pretty walk and one I had never taken before, connecting with Land Bank property. Directional signs informed us that we would soon be walking the King’s Highway. We never got there, but I have been occupied ever since in these coronavirus days, trying to find out if our King’s Highway was really a part of the pre-Revolutionary King’s Highway.

It was Charles II of England who ordered colonial governors to construct the Kings’ Highway between Charleston and Boston in the 17th century. It extended 1,300 miles. It seemed to me that Martha’s Vineyard was far off that route. I remembered, however, how in the 1960s there was a riding path in the West Tisbury/Chilmark woods that was called the King’s Highway.

Life-long Islander and veteran walker Johnny Athearn confirmed that there was a King’s Highway in Chilmark, but he could not tell me how it got its name. It took Claire Ganz of Chilmark to find that out by delving in Gazette archives.

An October 1929 Gazette had the story, more or less, of the Vineyard’s King’s Highway, or “Hie” Way as it was called then. It lies approximately halfway between the South and Middle Roads and runs parallels to them from the West Tisbury/Chilmark line to not far from Beetlebung Corner, the article said. Chilmark, in the Gazette account, was second in population on the Island then and had many roads criss-crossing it. The King’s Highway passed through many of them.

The woods through which the Chilmark part went were “quite thick and some of the trees of considerable size.” Highlights were a peculiar looking flat stone standing on end, resembling an old-fashioned tombstone and “a larger boulder resembling a horse block.” Perhaps a house once stood there and the boulder was used for mounting. Perhaps travelers on the King’s Highway stopped at this roadside house for shelter and refreshment.

From Chilmarkers Chris Murphy and Lenny Jason, I have since learned of a Chilmark house of ill repute, offering food and drink and other attractions at Nab’s Corner in Chilmark. Neither Chris nor Lenny recalled a stone like a tombstone nor one like a horse block, though there are many boulders and stone walls in the area. The King’s Highway, they say, went as far as the Chilmark graveyard, which is now the much expanded Abel’s Hill Cemetery.

Another highlight on the King’s Highway, the Gazette reported, was Bailey’s Swamp “known to all older Vineyarders as a place where snakes congregated in great numbers and formerly supposed to harbor rattlesnakes, though no one ever produced a rattlesnake from that or any other spot on the Island.” Though there are many swamps in the neighborhood of the King’s Highway, Chilmarkers Chis and Lenny, Laura Murphy and Albert Fischer say they have never seen a swamp that is a gathering place for snakes.

It is also possible, the Gazette files suggested, that the road got its name not because it was part of Charles II’s King’s Highway on the mainland but because on a King’s Highway — at least in certain Canadian provinces — a fugitive could only be arrested by a special King’s officer. “The custom may have been the same on the Vineyard in days when the King’s Highway was a main traveled road,” the article speculates.

Although I am not expecting trouble with the law anytime soon, just in case, on my next Middle Road Sanctuary walk I’ll make sure that I keep going until I find the King’s Highway. If I were on it, presumably, it could still provide protection from arrest. And since winter won’t end until March 20, I can hope I might even find it white with snow.