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

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: 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