Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park

Where: Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park (Great River, NY)

What: Walk (trail, paved, gravel)

Snacks: Hidden Oak Cafe (Great River, NY)

What a day, friends! There was sunshine. There was one of my best friends. There was high tea. I bought dahlias and lavender to plant. I met Pete, the best tour guide – ever.

The arboretum is very popular. Even more so when you stumble upon a plant sale day. Normally, I’m not a crowds kinda gal but, I got a lesson in dahlia care, growth and storage. Now I have new friends at the Dahlia Society of Long Island.

Find this magical place at 440 Montauk Highway – Great River or Oakdale depending on your GPS. They’ve got a large parking lot. As of this writing there is an $8 parking fee. They’re open Tuesday-Sunday from 10-5pm with narrower hours in the winter.

This isn’t a hiking trail per say, more like a gentle stroll. Choose between the Riverwalk or the gardens. We did both! The riverwalk on our own and an hour long tour of the gardens with tour guide Pete. Pete was as knowledgeable as he was funny. Now I know that when I have a big back yard I want a European Weeping Beech, a blue conifer and a whole slew of other stuff. Despite the gravel areas on the tour, it felt accessible. I say this because someone on the tour had a walker and could navigate.

We then had high tea at the Hidden Oak Cafe. Treats on treats on treats. Scones, sandwiches, cakes, cookies. I’m so full.

Okay friends, I’ve got dahlias to plant.

See you on the trails,

x

Jess

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.

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

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.

HikeLI: Cedar Point Park

Where: Cedar Point County Park (East Hampton, NY)

What: Hike (trail, sand, unpaved)

Snacks: Grindstone Coffee & Donuts (Sag Harbor, NY)

Hello friends! Welcome. Fancy a drive out east? Farther east than we’ve ever been together? Yes! Thanks for coming.

We’re going to Cedar Creek County Park in East Hampton (5 Cedar Point Road) to see the abandoned lighthouse. The trip, from the paved lot is between 5 and 6 miles. Two of which are on the beach so prepare for sand. For reference, my GPS said 5.7, my friend’s said 5.9 and All Trails clocks it at 5.3. If you drive deeper into the park, there is a beach lot, which will cut your trip down to roughly two sandy miles. If you go this route, you’ll miss a lot of beauty. Follow the yellow blazes to get to your destination. Please note, the trail is not marked on the beach.

The trail begins in the woods and meanders on rolling hills until you reach sandy bluffs. Unlike many county parks the trail head is marked with an awning. Nice and easy. The bluffs are closed due to erosion but you can still see the beauty of Gardiners Bay. There is a path around bluffs.

You’ll come to a sandy parking lot, head toward the water and to the left. You’ll be able to see the lighthouse in the distance. It feels as far away as it looks. Once you get to the lighthouse, if you walk onto the balcony, be careful- it’s slippery. You cannot go inside the structure.

To get back to your car, head the way you came. It can get a little confusing to find the trail after the beach.

After the park we head into Sag Harbor for Grindstone Coffee & Donuts. Oddly enough, no coffee and donuts for this girl just a super cinnamon infused hot apple cider. It really hit the spot after a chilly winter hike.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeLI: Sans Souci County Park

Where: Sans Souci County Park (Sayville, NY)

What: Hiking (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Little Nook Café (West Sayville, NY)

Take Sunrise Highway to exit 51 and go south on Broadway Avenue. Wave to the almost defunct Sun Vet Mall. The park entrance will be on your left about a quarter mile south of the Target. It is a nice Target; in case you were wondering.

This is definitely a head up focus on where you’re going kind of park. The trails are well marked but there are a lot of intersections – most of which aren’t listed as official park trails. Some go into residential neighborhoods, one can kind of take you to a train station or into the Girl Scout camp and more still to parts unknown. I love a good mystery, don’t you? Maybe not while I’m alone in the woods. Speaking of mystery, there were a few missing pet posters on the white trail. It creates an eerie feeling.

Sans Souci is French for ‘without worry,’ which is a nice well wish for walking around a park with mystery trails. Officially, the park is comprised of a yellow connecting trail, a 1 or so mile white trail and a 2 mile orange trail. I spent about two hours in the park using the marked trails and testing a few of the unmarked pathways – particularly around the lake.

The orange trail parallels a Girl Scout camp, which makes it very clear that trespassing is not allowed. The grounds beg to be explored but, I’m not telling you to trespass. For a time, the orange trail hugs a lake with an unmarked trail that loops partially around. You get better lake water views from the unmarked trail, but watch your footing as it gets very narrow near the edge of the water.

The white trail, while the shorter of the two is hillier and has some boardwalks over water. You can’t hear busy Broadway Avenue. Sometimes, it is nice to pretend that you aren’t on Long Island.

Lots of folks bring dogs here, they usually mill around by the parking lot and many are off leash. If off leash dogs bother you, I would skip this one. Deeper into the trails, I didn’t pass anyone despite a full parking lot. Otherwise, it is a great little walk with some serene features.

There is no better way to describe the Little Nook Café other than eclectic. Hours listed on the door say 10-3ish don’t let that deter you, just try the door (I think 3ish refers to AM based on their social media but I’ve never asked). They have evening activities like open mic and game nights. You can get anything from vegan pizza (or Nutella marshmallow dessert pizza) to espresso concoctions to so so many sweet treats.

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