HikeLI: Sweetbriar Nature Center

Where: Sweetbriar Nature Center (Smithtown, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Various

I like owls and other birds of prey.

Sweetbriar is a 54 acre nature preserve and animal rehabilitation center. Located on Eckernkamp drive it has a sizeable parking area and is within walking distance of the Smithtown LIRR. The grounds have beautiful gardens, a farm and a butterfly house (small fee). There is no fee to visit aside from the butterfly house.

On Sunday, I attended a fundraiser there. Not only did I get to support a place that I adore, I got to roam the trails and get up close and personal to some handsome feathered friends.

The Long Island Greenbelt (white blazes) skirts the property as does the Nissaquogue River. Trails contained by the property are marked with red, yellow and blue blazes. I estimate that the trail network is about a mile and a half to two miles making it a great introductory hiking location.

The fundraiser included food trucks so snacks were empanadas from Island Empanadas and various tastings from local breweries.

See you on the trails

x

Jess

HikeLI: Belmont Lake State Park

Where: Belmont Lake State Park (North Babylon, NY)

What: Hike (trail, various), Peddle Boats (water)

Snacks: Babylon Bean North (North Babylon, NY)

Belmont Lake State Park has its own exit off the Southern State Parkway. This makes it simple to get to and difficult to drive by without noticing. There is a parking fee on season ($8 as of this writing). The parking lot is enormous. Belmont Lake State Park allows biking, has trail areas for horses and pedal boats (additional fee) for its namesake lake.

The Belmont Park lake loop is a well defined path that is about 1.3 miles and mostly paved. It is flat and wide enough to accommodate for multi-use. An underpass for the Southern State Parkway spokes from the loop and can lead you to Southards Pond Park snaking along the Carlls River. The underpass isn’t high so if you’re tall, you might need to duck. There are far more trails in and around the park but they don’t form neat loops like the aforementioned. These are still worth exploring.

The park has playgrounds, a picnic area and an outdoor games area. An ice cream truck showed up while I was there. The park has such a family friendly vibe.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

McAllister County Park

Where: McAllister County Park (Belle Terre, NY)

What: Turning around and going home for the dozenth time.

Snacks: Ruvo (Port Jefferson, NY)

There’s something you need to understand about Belle Terre to understand this post. According to the 2018 census, Belle Terre had 787 residents. A 2015 Newsday blurb lists 13 code enforcement officers. That’s one officer for roughly every 60 residents; very similar to an NYC classroom.

The 100 or so acres that comprise McAllister County Park were donated to Suffolk County in the 1970s. There are five parking spots if everyone in them parks perfectly. There is no parking on Belle Terre streets including those that comprise the mouth of the County Park. This is so strictly enforced that an officer hangs out the park, watching and waiting…desperate to write you a ticket if you dare to park. There appears to be space to expand the lot.

I’ve never seen an open space at the park. It doesn’t matter what time, what day, what season – I’ve never seen an open spot. But always an officer.

It is clear that Belle Terre doesn’t want you there. The County should give the land back to the donating family or sell it to Belle Terre so they can keep their exclusivity.

Enjoy the photos that I took turning around…again…

Got a fancy cappuccino from Ruvo and it made the day much better.

See you on the trails (just not this one).

x

Jess

HikeLI: Kings Point Park

Where: Kings Point Park (Kings Point, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: For Five Roasters (Manhasset, NY)

Kings Point Park is located on Redbrook Road in Kings Point, (additional entrance on Steamboat road) smack dab in the middle of a residential area off of Middle Neck Road. The 175 acre park has roughly five miles of trail, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and more. The park is dog friendly in some sections provided dogs are leashes. There are ample places to picnic.

For this trip, I took the 1.8 mile loop as recommended by All Trails. The loop criss crosses over Mitchell Creek with a series of wooden bridges. Mitchell Creek was dry today and I’m glad for it, I wasn’t in the mood for mosquitos. A portion of the trail hugs various backyards and for a moment there I thought about inviting myself into a stranger’s pool.

Despite the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood it is serene here. Such a cute place for a quick walk or a trail run.

For snacks we went into Manhasset for a quick flat white from For Five Roasters.

See you on the trail,

x

Jess

HikeLI: Planting Fields Arboretum State Park

Where: Planting Fields Arboretum State Park (Oyster Bay, NY)

What: Hike / Walk (trail, gravel, unpaved)

Snacks: Southdown (Oyster Bay, NY)

Planting Fields has gorgeous gardens, welcoming greenhouses, an estate to explore and a small trail network.

Formerly the Coe Estate, Planting Fields sits on 400+ acres, one of the only Gold Coast estates to remain on its full acreage with all of its buildings. Buildings include laundry carriage and tea houses. Mansion tours available during warmer months. As of this writing an $8.00 parking fee applied. The tour is a separate fee from the parking fee.

Among the gardens, are roses, rhododendrons, conifers, hydrangeas and dahlias. Greenhouses include tropical plants and seasonal displays. A newer addition to the arboretum is the 2015 sensory garden.

Trails range from a tenth of a mile to a quarter of a mile and intersect to make for a nice stroll through the trees.

Head to Southdown Coffee for a no frills cup.

See you on the trails (or among the dahlias)

x

Jess

Greenwood Cemetery

Where: Greenwood Cemetery (Brooklyn)

What: Walk (road, unpaved path)

Snacks: King’s County Distillery (Brooklyn)

Bakeri (Brooklyn)

Today was a day of urban exploration. Did you know that Greenwood Cemetery was one of the first green spaces in NYC and one of the top three tourist attractions of the 1860s? Rounding out that list are Niagara Falls and Mt. Vernon. The cemetery is also an arboretum boasting thousands of trees. A popular website feature is an interactive tree map. I dub Greenwood Cemetery a great place for an outdoor excursion, if a touch macabre.

Today didn’t involve your traditional hike. Instead it was a cemetery tour – both with a guide and later self guided. The guided portion was for the Cemetery’s Dead Distiller’s tour. Part trolly, part walking tour I got to learn all about distilling in NY in the late 1800s.

Casual side note, I love a pretty mausoleum and the Cemetery has so many from the guided age of mausoleums including the Steinway (of piano fame) with spaces above and below ground with the ability to hold more than 200 people (not pictured).

After a solid education, we took the Cemetery trolley to the streets of Brooklyn and headed to King’s County Distillery at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. It happens to be the oldest Distillery in Brooklyn (2010). Here we got a tour of the distilling process and samples. To get the most out of the tour, you should have an appreciation for bourbon and moonshine.

Back to the cemetery armed with a map for some self guided meanderings! We have a lot of ground to cover – 478 acres, just a touch smaller than Prospect Park. The Cemetery is a lattice work of paths, roads, ponds. If you’re deep enough on the grounds you can forget that you’re in Brooklyn. If you’re paying attention you can see the Statue of Liberty from Battle Hill. Rumor has it it’s the tallest point in Brooklyn.

If you go, do yourself a favor and go in through the main entrance so that you can experience the archway – something I regret not getting a photo of.

I rounded off the day with a hazelnut magic bar and an oat milk cortado from Bakeri in Williamsburg. Because what is Brooklyn without a little extra something?

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

HikeLI: Manorville Hills County Park

Where: Manorville Hills County Park (Manorville, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Eastport Luncheonette (Eastport, NY)

Manorville Hills may look daunting but don’t let the long dirt driveway fool you. Nestled on the northbound side of rt. 111 between Sunrise and the LIE (the Manorville one not the Smithtown one) is a picturesque walk in the woods.

Despite its easy access location, this park is by no means popular. For large chunks grass grows on the trail. Be gentle to it. Absolutely check for ticks. But come and you’ll be engulfed by nature. The park is broken into three sections: an 8 mile pedestrian loop, a 12 mile mountain bike path (blue) and a 6 mile horse trail (yellow). Horses have the right of way at trail intersections. There is also access to the Paumanok Path – an LI thru hike from stretching from Rocky Point to Montauk. The pedestrian trail is marked with white blazes and from what I’ve seen the only way out is through. Paumanok is also marked with white blazes but worded signs point you towards Paumanok.

Turn around if you can’t commit to the loop. The loop is riddled with fences in an attempt to curb horses and cyclists from using the pedestrian trail. You may have trouble navigating these areas if you are a person of size or use mobility aids. Trail is hillier than other local parks but it isn’t daunting. Since the trails are quiet, it is one of my favorite places to get fully immersed in nature.

Sometimes, quiet trails feel eerie but at Manorville Hills, the trail blazes are bright and the parking lot is always clear of debris. You get the sense that not only was someone here before you but that they also cared for the space.

Since this writing, prior to publishing there was a fire at the park. The July 7th fire is a reminder to exercise caution and to understand how fragile outdoor spaces can be. I found no news reports of closures to the park after the fire. The brush fire covered 15 acres, according to 27east – a local news outlet. County rt. 111 was closed for a time and there were no evacuations of residents necessary.

Manorville Hills pairs perfectly with nostalgia. I grew up going to the Eastport Luncheonette. Enjoy a no frills breakfast / lunch / coffee with a side of small town charm. Eastport used to be home of the antique shops, now Main Street is mostly empty stores with a stained glass shop and a boutique or two.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess