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

HikeBeyondLI: Teddy Roosevelt Island

Where: Teddy Roosevelt Island (Washington D.C.) and the Mt. Vernon Trail (Washington D.C. to Mt. Vernon)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved // trail, paved)

Snacks: Baked & Wired (Washington D.C.)

Teddy Roosevelt Island is near the trail head at the start of the Mt. Vernon Trail, which stretches 18 miles from D.C. to Mt. Vernon. It ends at George Washington’s Mt. Vernon Estate. The trail is paved, Teddy Roosevelt Island is not. Years ago, I cycled the trail from end to end and back in the rain. It was my birthday present to myself and well worth it, even after the fall. The trail is gorgeous, but crowded. Be alert. The Mt. Vernon side is narrower and hillier than the D.C. side. Around Alexandria, VA you have to navigate some urban cycling.

There are parking areas scattered along the trail. The one for Teddy Roosevelt Island is found by using GPS for the Island itself. It holds a fair amount of vehicles but fills up fast. The island is open to foot traffic only.

Choose between the mile and a half Swamp trail or the shorter Upland and Woods trails. If you choose to do all three it is around three miles. The trails encircle a Teddy Roosevelt Memorial. There are also port-a-potties on the Island. Their cleanliness isn’t known to your author.

The loop around Teddy Roosevelt Island has great views of the city. You’ll also have access to benches and part of the loops is boardwalk. Continue on the Mt. Vernon trail if you’d like to extend your walk.

For snacks head to Baked & Wired. It is a super popular coffee shop with cupcakes, breakfast fare and of course coffee. Perhaps I went a little overboard?

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

HikeBeyondLI: Seneca Landing Park

Where: Seneca Landing Park (Darnestown, Maryland) and The C&O Canal Path (Washington D.C. to Cumberland Maryland)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Vie de France (Potomac, Maryland)

Seneca Landing Park is located around mile 22 of the C&O Canal Path. The C&O is a 180 mile path stretching from the Georgetown neighborhood in D.C. through Harper’s Ferry West Virginia to Cumberland Maryland. One day I hope to cycle it from end to end. It consists of various terrain from gravel to boardwalk to pavement.

We come to Seneca Landing today to look for the ruins of the Seneca Quarry. Park at the end of Riley’s Lock Road, near the canal. There is a large dirt lot with kayak rentals. I saw some winter kayakers trying to break through the ice. Good luck to them. Head right as you enter the park. Follow the C&O until you see it split to the right around a small body of water. Follow that around until the ruins appear on your right.

There are extensive no trespassing signs around the ruins. As always, I’m not advocating trespassing.

After the ruins, go back the way you came. I chose to continue walking along the C&O until around mile 25 before heading back to the car. There was some snow and some slick areas but overall it was a nice, soothing walk. Something about a winter twilight walk is magical.

Head to Vie de France for some strong coffee and French baked goods.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa

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: Udall’s Cove Park Preserve

Where: Udall’s Cove Park Preserve (Little Neck, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Bean & Bean (Little Neck, NY)

Udall’s Cove Park Preserve is located in Queens at the end of 34th Avenue in Little Neck. It’s kinda sorta off of Northern Boulevard (the Queens name for 25A) and I kinda sorta have no idea how to find it without GPS. You see, I found Udall’s Cove purely by accident after a cooking class in Manhasset. Do you do that? Just drive around when you’re in an unfamiliar area? No? Only me?

Udall’s Cove has space for about four cars at the trail head but don’t be surprised if all of those spots are taken by people that live in the neighborhood. It seems more like a cul-de-sac than an official parking lot anyway. Parking comes at premium ’round these parts. Street parking is allowed.

This place reminds me of a city version of a lover’s lane – right before the unnamed character gets murdered. It is eerily quiet for the City – marshy and mucky. If I were a little kid this is definitely a place where I would stand in the mud and pretend that it was quicksand. But, it is obvious that people don’t use this space to experience nature. Watch for debris – beer cans, and unfortunately needles.

The park is accompanied by Native American lore. Giants at war shaped the coastlines of the Long Island Sound by hurling boulders. But the space isn’t respected as an avenue to learn history. It is unfortunate.

Head to Bean & Bean on Northern Boulevard for delicious coffee, tasty treats and warm but industrial atmosphere.

See you on the trails,

x

Jessa