HikeLI: Connequot River State Park

Where: Connequot River State Park (Oakdale, NY) (3525 Sunrise Hwy.)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Desserts on the Spot (usually between Wireless and Belle Meade on the south side of route 347 in a big dirt patch)

Picture this, it is 7:30am and you pull up to the park gate. A surely gate attendant tells you that she only lets permit carrying fishermen in before 8am. Cool cool cool. Your friend says that it is your first time at the park. The surely attendant asks you to pay the parking fee ($8 as of this writing) and hands you a map and a history pamphlet. She tells you that the gates lock promptly at 4pm.

It truly was our first time at Connequot; precisely because it keeps a strict 8-4 schedule. Brookhaven State Park does the same. It seems to be a rarity since I haven’t experienced it elsewhere. What happens if you get locked in the park after hours? Chaos?

Connequot River State Park is located in the westbound side of Sunrise Highway just before exit 46. If you miss it, you’ll have to loop back around. There’s an entrance on Veterans Highway but no official parking area. That entrance is gated too – and helps connect Connequot to Lakeland County Park via the Long Island Greenbelt (white blazes).

There are four marked trails to choose from excluding the Greenbelt. Red (3.7), blue (8.4) yellow (1.1) or green (3.9). Once you park the trails begin at the pond by the historic houses. Yellow and green are to the left and red and blue are to the right. Green crosses yellow, yellow connects to red, red runs along blue for a time. Confused? We couldn’t get through the park without a map from the app Avenza.

For this adventure we took the green to the yellow and did the red loop. Red was by far the prettiest. It was decently marked but not from the direction we took it (counterclockwise). Every so often we would hunt for blazes. This usually involved just turning around at the various intersections.

Now, the snack spot isn’t anywhere near the park. My original snack spot for this place was called the Golden Sparrow in Bayport but, it closed about a year ago. I miss it. Nostalgia aside, today was a task for Desserts on the Spot – a super delicious food truck with the best desserts. The only problem is, that it hangs out on the north shore. But, it’s a big pink truck and I (if you haven’t guessed by now) have a wicked sweet tooth. Today’s yummy is a chocolate danish pretzel hybrid.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

PS: No dogs allowed, no cycling allowed etc. Only permit fishing and walking/ running.

Heritage Park

Where: Heritage Park (Mt. Sinai, NY)

What: Walk (trail, paved)

Snacks: Crazy Crepe (Miller Place, NY)

Heritage Park has everything that I love: sizeable parking lot, public restrooms, a real address and hills that you can roll down.

I haven’t been very active lately so this is the perfect get-back-out- there location. There are a few paved trails, the longest of which being less than a mile. They don’t allow pets. There are plenty of benches and the trail is paved, wide and free of debris making the park accessible. There are also restrooms at both ends of the park.

It hugs two major roads, so don’t expect a quiet jaunt. There are also fields, a playground, an event pavilion and a mini putting green. No word on whether or not you need your own golf clubs.

For snacks we head to Crazy Crepe for coffee and dessert crepes.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

The East River Greenway

Where: The East River Greenway (Manhattan, NY)

What: Walk (paved)

Snacks: Bibble & Sip (Midtown West)

I went to Manhattan today. It was to cheer on a friend at the NYC Half Marathon, which, didn’t leave much room for exploring somewhere new. I did however have a super fun time tracking her run, and running around the City trying to catch her at various points on the course. Pretty sure that I was only successful once; if at all.

So, if you were in Manhattan for the NYC Half today and you saw a wind blown lady with a mini floral backpack running along portions of the half marathon route, it was probably me. Or ditto if you saw the same girl standing on benches trying to see the runners. I ran the Greenway from 14th (when the route took the runners on the FDR) and in short portions when the route turned onto 42nd.

Once the run hit Times Square, I took a detour to 8th and 51st to grab coffee from Bibble & Sip. They like llamas, and I like them. Also, cream puffs the size of your face. Also, my friend needed a finish line latte. Look at me, justifying snacks.

Let’s talk Greenway, shall we? (Thank you to everyone who let me pet their dog. Double thanks to the couple who tried to help me find a better view).

The Greenway stretches from Battery Park up to 125th Street with a gap between 34th and 60th to accommodate for increased midtown traffic with views of the East River. The entire thing is roughly 9.5 miles. You can navigate the gap just fine but keep your eyes open and your head up. At 103rd you can take a bridge over to Randall’s Island.

The Greenway is the most serene part of Manhattan. People fish, you can pick up a ferry. You can watch the trams to Roosevelt Island. If you get a chance to, take the tram. There is also an abandoned smallpox hospital on that Island. Also neat.

That’s all this week, friends. Take the Greenway, take the tram and support your friends.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

HikeLI: Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve

Where: Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve (Deer Park, NY)

What: Hike (trail, paved, unpaved)

Snacks: Jack Jack’s Coffee House (Babylon, NY)

From the LIE head south on Commack Road and Edgewood will appear on your right as a flat open air space at the edge of a residential neighborhood. If you reach Tanger Outlets, you’ve gone too far. Parking coordinates are available on the NYS DEC website.

Edgewood is an unassuming 800+ acre preserve managed by NYS DEC. The website states a permit is required as with other DEC properties. I assume most people go without a permit considering how visible the parking lot is from the main road. There are nearly 25 miles of paved and unpaved trails within the park.

Trails within the park are deemed accessible with ease of access for motorized wheel chairs.

A designated blue hiking trail is 2.7 miles. Bike trails are managed by C.L.I.M.B and range from beginner to advance as designated by white, yellow and red trail markers. Hiking is allowed on the bike trails but, be mindful of cyclist. Watch for model airplanes – the park is home to the Edgewood Flyers, a model airplane club that uses the park.

Edgewood has a lot to offer but isn’t particularly beautiful. Wherever you go in the preserve is a comfortably wide trail. I find it better suited for cycling than walking. It is flat. It is very dog friendly. While the cycling trails are well marked the remainder criss cross and can leave one a bit disoriented.

The grounds used to be an asylum and they currently sit next to Pilgrim Psychiatric. Some of Pilgrim’s buildings are abandoned and accessible through the woods which, lends a creepy vibe to Edgewood.

I find the history of the property better than the hike itself.

For snacks I headed to Jack Jack’s Coffee House in Babylon. Don’t let the exterior fool you. Inside is a world of fancy lattes, weekend brunch and pastries (including vegan treats). Also dog friendly!

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

HikeBeyondLI: Or 24ish hours in Phoenix

Where: North Mountain and Piestewa Peak (Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona)

What: Hiking (trail, unpaved, rocky)

Snacks: Dutch Bros Coffee (Phoenix) and Cartel Coffee Lab (Sky Harbor airport, PHX)

I’m a huge fan of whirlwind travel weekends. You set a plan, fly somewhere, do everything you wanted in your itinerary (or give it the old college try) and head home. It helps me spend less time lounging around trying to figure out what to do. Really capitalizes off of the cliché, ‘time is precious’. Bonus points for friends in the city.

Phoenix is roughly a six hour flight for me. Travel time to airports / waiting in airports meant that I spent a size-able chunk of time in transit. This would make most people stay home, I get it. The travel time has to be worth the trip itinerary; that’s key.

My flight to Phoenix was delayed nearly three hours, so, off to a good start. My seat mate was drunk enough to be annoying but not drunk enough to get booted from the plane. Then he called me stuck up for telling him I’d rather read than talk to him. Hazards of public transit – other people. For the curious I’m currently reading “Eating Animals,” again. It’s one of those books that I have yet to finish. I keep putting it down, forgetting what I read and restarting six months and many books in between. I’m determined to finish it this time.

This is getting more personal than I wanted it to. On to the hikes – thanks for reading the preamble.

Hike one, North Mountain in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Picture yourself in a suburban sprawl masquerading as a city and then boom! mountains. Ample parking, we’re talking real spots, friends – paved parking lots and lots of entrances. North Mountain is a short peak, roughly 2 miles round trip. Part of the trail is closed for renovations (making the trail accessible and paved). There is a welcome center and restrooms. The view is a suburban sprawl with mountains in the distance. A cellphone tower marks the summit. This trail is crowded. I suppose that’s the problem with cities – other people.

On to snack one! An iced coffee at Dutch Bros and a cinnamon cake thing. Coffee was fine, tasty. Their schtick is extreme friendliness to the point where it was unnerving (for me anyway – I’m from the land where a hello to a stranger is invasive).

Peak two. Same day; some hours later. The desert is interesting. It was 70ish but felt so much hotter. The dry air meant your typically well hydrated writer felt like she couldn’t drink enough. At 2,610 feet Piestewa is the third highest peak in Arizona. The ego kicks in, I’ve hit higher elevation, I’ve done more miles in a day – this should be a breeze. Nah, something about the desert, something about the fake rock stairs carve precariously into the trail, something about mid day and constantly feeling thirsty – this was tough. Took and followed the trail marked 302 for 3.7 miles.

The trail was packed, not only with people but with people who made me question my own fitness level. I know, I know, eyes on your own paper but when you see a dude running up the mountain holding ten pound hand weights or folks in weight vests or wearing babies it makes you wonder what else your body is capable of.

After hike snack? Cartel Coffee Lab at the airport. Blueberry loaf and a dirty chai with oat milk. Clearly a satisfying way to end a two peak day and quick trip. Voted by me personally as best airport coffee in the United States.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

HikeLI: Calverton Pine Barrens State Forest

Where: Calverton Pine Barrens State Forest (Calverton, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved) Mountain biking is allowed. These are designated bike trails.

Snacks: Taco Bout It (Riverhead, NY)

Just a few housekeeping notes before we begin:

1. A permit is required to use these trails. Land access use permits are offered through the NYS DEC.

2. This trail is designed as a single track for mountain biking. While I’ve never seen another soul on these trails, be prepared to move to the side.

3. While the trail is well marked with yellow placards be prepared to feel lost. The trail snakes around with more switchbacks than a steep mountain summit. There are various offshoots labeled with black diamonds.

4. January use is restricted due to deer hunting season.

Now that you’re up to speed let’s go!

This one is hard to find. In your GPS put the Wading River Motel. The trail head and parking lot are just east of the motel in the shadow of its sign. Blink, and you’ll miss it. Typically the lot is empty but every so often it is packed. My guess is local cycling and running clubs meet up and use the lot.

Follow the yellow trail blazes as they weave through the park. They’re few and far between but intersections are limited. The main loop is roughly eight and a half miles. There are off shoots designated by black diamond blazes – more difficult mountain biking areas that add an extra mile and a half. They have names like fox hollow and enchanted forest. According to the DEC website (https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/111929.html) these trails are maintained by a cycling group called CLIMB (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists) and they do an amazing job! Seriously, major props to them – these trails were impeccable.

Some of the yellow markers are on downed trees. My rule of thumb for this trail is to follow the serpentine. There are few straight sections. To wit, even if you have an internal compass, you might feel a little lost in here.

After mile three, you can see some of the Calverton National Cemetery. After mile six, a residential area will appear to your right.

The pines are gorgeous and foreboding. The trail is incredibly free from debris. While it feels like you’re weaving through a labyrinth keep going, the trail is clear and easy to follow. If you feel lost don’t panic, as long as the yellow blazes are in front of you, you’ll find your way out.

After hike treats included sharing horchatas and churros at Taco Bout It in Riverhead. It is so cute here. Coming back to this spot brought back memories. Connected to Taco Bout It (I don’t think it was Taco Bout It back then) used to be a coffee shop called Eastenders (now Haiku Sushi). Met one of my first boyfriends there after liking his music on MySpace. I’m not usually nostalgic but, I’m not usually in Riverhead either.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

PS: It is worth repeating that you’ll make it out of the forest. Just follow the signs.

Prospect Park

Where: Prospect Park (Brooklyn, NY)

What: Walk (trail, paved, cobble stone)

Snacks: Blue Marble Ice Cream (Brooklyn, NY)

You can drive here if you want to. You can find some street parking and various parking garages. I took the LIRR and the the subway (2 or the 3 to the Brooklyn Museum stop). Various entrances are walkable from various other subways, this one is just the simplest, in my opinion. Go to the museum too, and the botanical gardens and the library. Certainly, if you’re schlepping into Brooklyn, make a full day of it. This is especially true if you’re an East Ender like me.

Prospect Park has everything you’d expect from a large urban green space: baseball fields, sledding hills, ample walking spaces, people playing quidditch as best they can, a zoo, dogs, people on cell phones and inline skates. Oh and a carousel. It isn’t an unpopular park by any stretch. Even at thirty degrees the park was full. When I say full I mean that you can’t get a moment away from other people anywhere in the park. You also can’t escape the road noise; it is Brooklyn after all. I can’t imagine what summer in Prospect Park is like. I mean, I can, I’ve been there but, I don’t want to. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet, dear reader but I don’t like crowds and I’m not really a people person.

I entered by the archway across from the library; roaming the park for an hour and a half. I took the perimeter loop, which is roughly three and a half miles with various intersections. You can see a good portion of the park if you block out two or so hours. There are lots of benches and grassy areas if you need a break from exploring. The park is filled with maps and signage leading you to popular destination points. Maps are also available online (https://www.prospectpark.org/media/filer_public/7f/88/7f88b8ca-f614-4cf4-9761-7e3097e74753/prospect_park_running_map.pdf).

I don’t dawdle. I walk frustratingly fast when I’ve got lots to see and limited time. The city brings this out times infinity. Pro tip – play video games it will help with your spacial awareness and navigating through the dense fog of other people.

For this trip I overindulged on ice cream at Blue Marble. Ignore how smooth that is, I forgot to take a photo before starting. I promised myself that I wouldn’t skimp on food photos. Small warning to those that don’t like being around children – Blue Marble has a play area and is extremely child friendly.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess