Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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Flanders

The Black Owl Loop and Hubbard’s Creek

 

 

Sears Bellows and Hubbard’s Creek County Parks in Flanders have an excellent network of trails to walk.  When walking this area I like to park by the gated entrance of the driveway to Black Duck Lodge.  Wherever I find a locking gate, I park my car outside the gate.  The wide shoulders of Red Creek Road by this driveway will accommodate several cars.  Park off of the pavement, and don’t block the driveway.  This parking area is a few hundred feet in from the intersection with Route 24. 

An excellent winter walk is the Black Owl Loop.  I have checked the blazing in both directions and find the trail very easy to follow.  It is approximately 5 miles long.  The Black Owl Loop was created by the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, in cooperation with the Suffolk County Parks Department.  From this parking area, the trail runs north, up the driveway for Black Duck Lodge in Hubbard’s Park or south to Sears Bellows County Park.  It is blazed with plastic rectangular markers having black owls on a white background.  The Black Owl Loop shares several miles of trail corridor with the Paumanok Path (PP).  The PP is blazed with white-painted rectangles.  Winter and spring are the best times to walk this trail because you are less likely to pick up ticks then.

There are many ways you can modify this loop; This walk travels the loop clockwise, heading south into the middle of Sears Bellows Park.  It’s a short walk across Red Creek Road and Route 24.  The entrance to the trail is obvious where you cross the fast moving highway.  Years ago the woods road on the other side was churned up by motorized traffic, and was very uncomfortable to walk on.  Barriers that were erected and restored several times since then have allowed the pine needles and rain to stabilize the trail tread while the tree canopy has reached out to provide shade.  This walk between the two parks used to be a drudge, but now it is quite pleasant.

Walking around the motor vehicle barrier, bear right, then follow the blazes to bear right again.  Here the trail intersects the faded blue blazes of George’s one-way Blue Loop.  George painted these blazes, with permission from Suffolk County Parks in 1999 or 2000.  The trail has not been repainted since.  George’s theory is that hikers should walk loop trails in the direction that allows the experience of the prettiest section of the loop last.  The one-way loop circumnavigates Sears and Bellows Pond in a long narrow loop.  Bear right following some blue and white painted blazes a short distance.  At the next intersection the PP and the Black Owl Loop continue straight ahead while the Blue Loop heads right.  Both trails are heading west, and will meet up again at Sears Pond.  At the next intersection bear right onto a woods road used by County Parks as an access road for maintenance vehicles.  The trail is on a ridge, with a steep drop-off to the left.

Take the yellow owl trail to the right.  This travels north of Sears Pond, while the Black Owl Loop runs below it.  Once again bear right onto a narrow winding path.  Follow this trail to the northern tip of Sears Pond, where a new bridge takes you over a brook that flows into Mill Creek.  The yellow trail brings you around Sears Pond affording several lovely views.

Where this trail intersects with the Black Owl Loop turn right (north) to cross Route 24 once again.  Follow a series of turns through the marshlands contiguous with Mill Creek, and then south, to two culverts that cross the creek.

Just before reaching the Black Duck Lodge there is an intersection with a red owl trail.  Turn left, and this trail takes you to the “haunted forest” on the shoreline of Flanders Bay, between Mill and Hubbard Creeks.  Note the Osprey platforms; this trail is closed to the public during nesting season (April 15 to August 15).  As you approach the shore, you walk though an open marsh with clumps of cedar.  The trail is a little muddy in places, but the overall experience is delightful.  Tree stumps sticking out of the water attest to a recent shift in sea level.

Follow the Red Trail back south to the Black Owl Loop Trail, pass the Black Duck Lodge on your left as you follow the driveway back to Red Creek Road, where you parked your car.
 

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Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate
Post Office Box 1466
Sayville NY 11782
ken@litlc.org

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