BikeLI: Cupsogue Beach County Park

Where: Cupsogue Beach County Park (Westhampton, NY)

What: Bike (Road)

Snacks: Hampton Coffee (Westhampton Beach, NY)

Cupsogue Beach County Park sits at the western most end of Dune Road. Dune Road is a destination in of itself if you want to take a slow ride along the coast and see some enormous homes. If I’m being frank, I don’t know if there are any full time residents; it’s so quiet this time of year.

Dune Road is a roughly 14 mile stretch of road connecting Westhampton Dunes to Hampton Bays. It is flat, well maintained and idyllic. The road, however is prone to floods as evidence by the pools of water and homes on stilts. The speed limit is very strict.

The Hampton Bays side boasts restaurants and night life hot spots – some of which have been open since I was in high school. They might be passé at this point but, I wouldn’t know. Beaches, both public and private dot Dune road. The Westhampton side boasts the most popular beach of all – Cupsogue. Parking fee applies during the on season.

For me, the beach isn’t the big draw. It’s a great beach, don’t get me wrong but it’s a hot spot on season and a brooding patch of sand in the off season. It’s always dreary in the winter. I recall being in college and trying to get onto the beach at night, thwarted, always by local police. The draw for me is Dune road itself and the promise of quiet cycling in early winter.

I bike from the Westhampton side to the Hampton Bays side and always manage to catch a head wind on the way back. It’s daunting, but worth it. I do wish Surf Shack had winter hours, but that’s neither here nor there. A beer rounding out mile 24 or so sounds stellar.

After a wonderful, brisk ride I headed to Hampton Coffee Company for a cappuccino. The foam is the best part.

Make sure to rinse the sand from your bike.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Caumsett State Park

Where: Caumsett State Park (Lloyd Harbor, NY)

What: Hike (trail, various)

Snacks: Southdown Coffee (Huntington, NY)

Wind through idyllic Lloyd Harbor all of the way to Caumsett State Park. Don’t quote me on this but, it seems very one way in, one way out, no rabble allowed. It was an estate, after all. Close your mouth. I did the same, had that someone-lived-here-once feeling of the grounds and the estate houses and the still active horse stables.

There is a parking fee ($8 as of this writing). Collection varies based on season and is sometimes limited to weekends. Unlike other state parks, I haven’t managed to go to this one without paying the parking fee. Take friends, it’s worth it.

When I come, I like to walk the perimeter – watch for cyclists and then head to the beach. I get in roughly four miles. The paved trail gives way to a sandy maze. There is ample signage to get you safely to the beach and back. No swimming allowed or rather, swim at your own risk. No swimming allowed.

I haven’t gone at a time when the estate houses are open for public viewing but I have looked in the windows. If they’re open, I suggest adding them to your walk.

I paired this with a trip to Southdown Coffee in Huntington. Parking is always a pain. Enjoy!

See you on the trails,

X

Jessa

HikeBeyondLI: Shenandoah National Park

Where: Shenandoah National Park (Skyline Drive, VA)

What: Hiking (trail, unpaved – wet)

Snacks: Before & After (Sperryville, VA)

I’m a little nostalgic for summer. I’m also angling to go back to Shenandoah – please Government shutdown don’t last long (ongoing as of this writing 🥺)

Skyline Drive is a vast expanse of road in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 105 mile road is popular for its sweeping views. It is home to Shenandoah National Park. Enter the park from any four entrance points and pay the parking fee – $30 for the week at the time of this writing. Entrances from North to South are Front Royal, Thorton Gap, Swift Run Gap and Rockfish Gap. Directions to each entrance can be found on the corresponding National Park Service website. Cell service is spotty at best.

We chose our starting point based on the hikes we were interested in. We entered the park at Thorton Gap and headed south. I was in the mood for waterfalls and waterfalls I got – Oak Canyon, Rose River and Dark Hollow. Plus the added bonus of Hawksbill Summit – the highest peak in the park. It’s doubtful that I saw more than 10% of the park. There were stretches of Skyline Drive that we didn’t touch. Don’t be sad for me, it just means I have to go back.

In true National Park fashion, there is emphasis on horse trails. Why, I don’t know. Be wary, the closer a parking lot is to a viewpoint the more crowded it will be, further there will be more bad behavior. Dark Hollow falls was a crowded nightmare, people sobbing with blisters in inappropriate footwear, people climbing in and on the falls, garbage. The falls were about a mile from the lot but the terrain still required appropriate footwear.

On the flip side, the Rose River loop was mostly empty and very wet. But, it was perfect. We meandered, we scrambled, we took in the sites and just enjoyed.

Next it was time to tackle the tallest peak in the park. With a hike hovering around two miles, the trails were packed. Nice meandering climb to the summit with no technical factors. There was a guy at the summit trying to take the perfect social media photo – walking on his hands. Crowded summit but still felt serene.

Our goal was to leave for day after Hawksbill but we still had plenty of snacks and water. The parking lot for Oak Canyon caught our eye. Arguably the most difficult hike of the day, rocky but with little technical factors. Wet trail in some places. So many people passed us asking if the parking lot was far – it was about five miles round trip so that lot was never all that far. But, at the end of our hike, I felt what those people were asking. Fifteen miles for the day, in the early August sun will do that to a person. Goodness was this waterfall incredible. Incredible, and by far the tallest I’ve ever seen in person.

Feed the hike team! We went into Sperryville to Before & After Café for some hard earned croissant egg sandwiches and the best cappuccino I’ve had outside of Italy. The best coffee is in rural Virginia, folks.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Smith Point County Park

Where: Smith Point County Park (Shirley, NY)

What: Walk (sand, unpaved)

Snacks: Jimmy’s Diner (Mastic, NY)

I know what you’re thinking. She went to the beach, big deal. But dear reader, I didn’t go to the beach for the sake of going to the beach. I go to the beach during off season to get a solid walk in. Really works legs. You won’t find me on the beach in the summer, I burn badly unless you dunk me in SPF. But, only certain kinds or I break out. (I’m fun at parties). Sun hats, please and thank you. Sun hats forever, sun hats for always – the wider the brim the better.

Anyway, take William Floyd Parkway all of the way south. The Parkway practically ends at the gigantic beach parking lot. Full disclosure, in the on season this beach is as disgusting as it is crowded. Patrons leave garbage everywhere and people smoke wherever they please. It takes away from what I feel is the point of going to the beach – serenity.

There is far less of that on chilly, late fall mornings. I still find some garbage to pick up – like old mylar balloons and water bottles. How hard is it for people to take their garbage? Why balloons? Now I just sound contrary.

Live music on summer nights. Empty air in the fall. Watch for Jeeps and other vehicle traffic on the sand. Permits allow people to ride right on. Stay off the dunes.

Before a beach walk, breakfast is always a good idea. Enter Jimmy’s Diner. I would describe it as a hole in the wall but it is a very visible, small freestanding building. It can hold maybe twenty people at a time. The cutest little no frills breakfast spot that you ever did see. Coffee is always fresh, home fries are always perfect. Be prepared for a wait.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Golf Course Secrets

Where: Secret Sink Hole

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Homemade Special Hot Chocolate

Disclaimer: I don’t advocate trying to find these trails.

I was torn over showing you this place. It isn’t a a designated hiking trail, instead, it is a labyrinth of unused delivery roads behind a popular golf course. In my estimate there are about two miles of trail that weave behind roads only intended for golf carts. But, I decided to go ahead with it. Sadly, I can’t say where but I did get some beautiful photos. Truly, it looked like I spent a day on a trail somewhere far off. Deception!? Or Instagram vs. Reality trail edition!?

It started innocently enough – my trespassing Odyssey. I was visiting friends and walking on the golf course roads when someone mentioned an abandoned pit. Turns out, construction was happening when a sink hole formed and the remnants are spectacular. It looks like a serene lake but, look more closely and you’ll find abandoned trucks and various equipment. Walk too close to the edge and you’re in danger of falling with the soft earth.

The trail spokes each end on main roadways and make you wonder what nefarious things take place after dark. I saw nothing of the sort but, the vibe says it all. Abandoned items cover the trail – tires, coolers, tiny brick structures that look like sturdy fairy houses and condoms. Clearly, leave no trace isn’t enforced.

Snacks include a Yeti thermos of peppermint schnapps spiked hot coco. In retrospect, it wasn’t safe to overlook a sink hole. Stay safe out there, kids.

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

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Brookhaven State Park

Where: Brookhaven State Park (Wading River, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Sushi picnic! (Pearl, Manorville, NY)

Brookhaven State Park has a pavilion, so, I thought that I would capitalize on that and bring my own snacks. Sushi doesn’t keep well in a vehicle, so, this time we reversed things and did snacks first. Lunch, really but, whose counting? Carry out what you carry in, please and thank you. I’m pretty sure that if it were summer the pavilion would be bee central. I have no true basis for this, just a gut feeling.

Brookhaven State Park is found just north of Whiskey Road on William Floyd Parkway on the right side of the road. The parking area has very strict hours (as of this writing 8:30a to 4p on weekdays and 8 to 4p on weekends – subject to change) but you can often see cars parked along the side of the road outside of those hours. Parking is ample, hooray!

Trails consists of a 5.3 mile green trail, a 1.7 mile blue trail and a 3.7 mile red trail. For kicks, do them all at once. When I have time, I do and it’s really satisfying. How often do you hike an entire park? A yellow trail that comes from outside of the park cuts through it. The red trail hugs William Floyd Parkway for a portion and from the green you can overhear gun fire from a local shooting range. It is unfortunate that you can’t get fully immersed in nature.

For the most part, trails are wide and debris free (the green trail narrows around the second mile but opens again). The park is well maintained and provides an easy stroll. Trails are very well marked and easy to spot. If you need sweeping views or water features to keep you moving and interested, you won’t find it here – all you’ll find is a nice walk.

Sometimes, a nice walk with a solid soundtrack is all you need.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Avalon Park & Preserve

Where: Avalon Park & Preserve (Stony Brook, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Crazy Beans

I’ve been going to Avalon for more than a decade. It is my go to spot and I can roam the trail network with my eyes closed. When a thick coat of late fall leaves hugs the trail, I’m most excited.

The address is officially 200 Harbor Road. You can find parking there in various dirt lots or along marked spots on 25A or in the shopping center across the street. I typically choose the shopping center – this is allowed overflow parking.

If you park along 25A or across the street, enter through the gate to the right of the duck pond. Follow the boardwalk up the stone stairs and take it all in. Follow the packed gravel past the labyrinth keep right and look for the signs for the preserve. Carefully cross the street. This puts you on the red trail, follow it until you reach the dirt parking lot. Here you should find a map at the start of the trail head. Sometimes, there isn’t one. Blame vandals.

Trails start at 2.2 miles and get shorter. Choose from yellow, blue, green or orange with yellow being the longest. Trails are well marked, clear with some roots and rocks and minimal steepness. A portion of the boardwalk area is accessible and their website mentions calling for accessibility help if needed.

I enjoy the yellow trail. It places you in more areas of the park. The blue trail is by far the rockiest and also has a set of steps that you must go up and down. Avalon is slightly hillier than most Long Island trails but far less hillier than Cold Spring Harbor and surrounding.

As you weave through be sure to look out for the mirrored orb. It is an art installation called ‘Cartas al Cielo’ by Alicia Framis. Typically, there is paper by the installation. Place wishes and letters through the slot on the orb.

Snacks we’ve got lattes from Crazy Beans in Stony Brook. Their Miller Place location is friendlier but I digress. It’s a very cute little diner. I usually grab something to go and hold it throughout my walk. Make sure what you carry in, you carry out.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Twin Lakes Preserve

Where: Twin Lakes Preserve, Wantagh

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Pipeline Coffee, Wantagh

Take the 135 to Sunrise Highway. Make a right on to Old Mill Road, then alright onto Park Avenue. Along the right hand side of Park Avenue you’ll find a handful of parking spots and ample signage for Twin Lakes Preserve.

Enter the preserve through the break in the fence. Head right. Keeping the lake to your left follow your way around the trail. The trail is marked by scattered white blazes with plenty of access to get closer to the water. A fence separates you from some major roadways. If serenity is what you’re after you may not find it here as the trail is always in earshot of the road.

As you loop around the lake you’ll come to a large staircase – slippery when wet. At the top of the stairs is Park Avenue. Look left and wave to your car. Cross the street and continue your loop. Make sure you look both ways before crossing. The trail floods in some places and roots are easy to trip over. Take the trail to the end and turn back to head to your car.

When I come to Twin Lakes Preserve it is always on my way to something else. An entire walk through takes about 30-45 minutes. It is in such an odd spot, sandwiched between major roadways and a residential area. Some debris around the park speaks to its popularity but, some areas of the trail are overgrown. The preserve isn’t accessible, unfortunately. Fishing is allowed but dogs aren’t. Watch for thorns. They getcha….

I was torn about which snack location to include as there are two really great coffee shops less than a mile from the preserve. Pipeline Coffee is new, modern and chill. Double shots are their standard. No late night. Bellmore Bean is cozy with vegan treats, caffeine options galore and a liquor menu – live music on the weekends. Photos from Pipeline. Park carefully if you’re going to either location – lots and street parking all have different criteria and time limits.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Pine Trail

Where: Pine Trial Nature Preserve: Ridge, NY

What: Hike (Trail, Unpaved)

Snacks: Waterdrinker Farms: Manorville, NY

Pine Trail is neat and vast. The entrance is on 25 and if you blink you’ll miss it. The trailhead is just west of Misfit Tavern on the same side of the road. Look for green hiker signs and a sizable dirt lot.

Pine Trail doesn’t make a loop but if you’re feeling up to the challenge you can take it to Manorville, into Rocky Point or to the Brookhaven Trail. Further, part of the Pine Barrens Trail and the Paumanok Path cut through here. Don’t trespass onto Brookhaven Lab! Fences will tell you when you’ve found it. Yes, even if the fence isn’t locked. Yes, I know it is tempting.

When I come here, I make my own short out and back in an attempt to mitigate the expanse of the trail network. Typically, I hug left, following the white blazes and walk to the trail sign for the Brookhaven Trail and turn back. It takes about an hour. I have yet to explore the other options. So much trail. So little time.

There isn’t much to see here, unfortunately, the trail hugs a residential area in some places and you end up under power lines in another. Dogs bark at you, people in their backyards stare at you like they forget that their house backs up to public land. The trail is very narrow in some places and the brush tickles at your ankles. Be sure to check for ticks once you exit.

The best part happens to be all of the local farm stands! The afternoon was spent at Finks, Lenny Bruno and Waterdrinker. Finks doesn’t let you into the U-Pick area if they have a field trip and Lenny Bruno is cash only. Pumpkins! Gourds! Purple cauliflower! Roast corn!

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: A Day of Folly on the Northshore

This post marks my first failed attempt at thru- hiking the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt trail. I didn’t plan the day well and it showed in the outcome. The portion of the Greenbelt trail that I did get to hike was remarkably well kept. I will be back Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt, I promise.

Where: Cold Spring Harbor State Park (Cold Spring Harbor) and beyond

What: Trail, unpaved

Snacks: Sweetie Pies, Cold Spring Harbor

There are plenty of people who say that there isn’t any ‘real’ hiking on Long Island. If you’re one of those people, I challenge you to put in some miles in at Cold Spring Harbor.

The goal was to take the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt trail, in a single day as a thru-hike. It didn’t pan out. Those that have completed it recommend parking at train stations. I got a late start and parked at the Cold Spring Harbor Library. That parking area closes and added a crunch time feel to the hike. This was mistake number one. My hiking companion and I intended to have someone pick us up in Massapequa but while we were on the trail we got word that, that fell through. We can call this mistake number two as it would have been better to have one of our cars at the Massapequa train station. We realized that we left most of the food and water in the car. This was mistake number three and a really unfortunate oversight.

The Cold Spring Harbor portion was hillier and far more crowded than anticipated. It was swarmed with people, which felt odd. I’d never been to Cold Spring Harbor and it is by far the most crowded I have ever experience a Long Island trail. We got to our third road crossing and there was a girl leaning into a tree, back to us, humming. Her presence really left us uneasy. This, coupled with the business of the road, coupled with lack of supplies and lack of ease getting a ride back caused us to turn around. It was like the Universe was telling, ‘not today.’ You ever get that feeling?

We’ll be back.

We decided to keep hiking and took a trip to West Hills Preserve to hike a bit of the Walt Whitman trail. We headed to West Hills County Park and were met with trail closures and fences erected in every direction we turned. It was unsettling. We turned back through the preserve and got very lost. Without maps on our phones, we may never have gotten out. The – not today – feeling felt strong.

It felt like a waste of a day although we put in about 12 miles. I want to go back and complete the Nassau-Suffolk. Perhaps when the days are longer. It was sobering to not finish something I set out to do but also, so many factors let to lack of completion.

Headed to Sweetie Pies in Cold Spring Harbor for Funfetti Scones and pumpkin spice.A weird day on the trails doesn’t mean snacks fall to the wayside. Although, it turns out that I don’t actually like pumpkin spice….

See you on the trails!

x

Jessa