Nantucket in Early November

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A lucky assignment yesterday got me to an island I’ve been dreaming about for years.

Despite the dreary skies and fallen leaves, Nantucket in November proved absolutely wonderful.

First, I boarded a high-speed catamaran from Hyannis called the Iyanough. It crosses the 26 mile route in record time, only an hour. On board I geeked out over the complimentary wi-fi, outlets and LCD screens. Being off-peak, I had my pick of cozy lounge chairs and spacious tables on two levels.

Upon arrival, Barbara, who has lived here on and off for 40 years, was anxious to show me her pride and joy. The cobblestone streets, historic homes and quaint shops of Nantucket would have to wait until after sunset. The habitat of Nantucket was more important.

We circled around the central highlands and shrublands and, indeed, even in late Autumn, the ecology is a visual treasure. Patches of overgrown grass open up to salt bogs, ponds and marshes with a few shriveled native berries still clinging to hibernating vegetation.

Barbara described the asters and goldenrod and wild flowers that dominate in the summer.

“There was never much development here until, maybe, 10 years ago” says Barbara, in a melancholy tone. She’s a little troubled with the influx of new homes on the hill but appreciates the extension of the paved bike trail that runs alongside the road.

The sun sets quickly and I settle for pink shots from a windswept beach.

Finally – a downtown without fast-food joints and tacky souvenir shops. Instead, reflections of kerosene lighted churches and neighborly pubs glisten off of wet cobblestones. This is the European-kind of culture that travelers crave. We troll around a restored Whaling Museum, linger in front of decorated boutique windows and peep into a popular spot called Brotherhood of Thieves.