Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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Flanders

Spinny Road North

 

 

One of my favorite winter walks is in Flanders.  It is comprised of the half-mile Owl Pond Trail, a 1.5 mile section of the Paumanok Path (PP) and a 5-mile hiking loop that visits Hubbard County Park north of Route 24, and Sears-Bellows County Park south of 24.  This article guides you to the Black Owl Loop, and in the next article, we will walk around the loop. 

The parking area at Spinny Road North is an excellent place from which to access these trails. To get there, heading east on the Long Island Expressway, take exit 71 and continue east on C.R. 94, towards Riverhead. At the circle in Riverhead, take Route 24 south into Flanders. You will find the right turn for Spinney Road North on the south side of the road, just east of Birch Creek. 

The parking area is visible from Route 24, but recessed from the fast moving traffic, so there is less danger from speeding cars as you access your car. Park and Police stations nearby also make me feel secure about leaving my car here.  The parking area is easy to find.  It is located on the south side of the road between Pleasure Drive to the west, and the two NYS DOT roadside rest areas on either side of the road, to the east.  Look for a large paved parking lot with a kiosk. 

The walk begins by the kiosk at the entrance to the Owl Pond Trail.  Note the “Hiking Only” sign and the yellow-painted blaze on a vertical concrete stanchion.  It is easy to lose the trail; be alert for the somewhat renewed yellow blazes.  After walking about a half-mile, you reach Owl Pond.  You will see a white and blue Paumanok Path emblem on a tree at a “T” intersection. To access the Black Owl Loop, turn left to follow the white painted rectangles of the PP east.  If you are looking for a less challenging walk, you can turn right and follow the trail where it travels for a short distance along a very picturesque stream and swampland that feed into Birch Creek.  Turning left (east) the trail takes you through some wetlands and over a brook forded by a couple of logs.  Wintertime, on sunny days, sunlight shimmers off of the shiny evergreen leaves of the inkberry bushes, and sparkling droplets of water from melted ice on bare branched highbush blueberry and swamp maple make this a magical place.

The trail is a little muddy here for a short distance; there is sheep laurel, wintergreen, and various mosses along its sides.  The trail is being encroached by brush for the next quarter mile, but it passable.  Soon the trail climbs to higher ground, where it is dry and its tread is covered by a spongy duff of pine needles. The trees here are mostly pitch pine with some oak.  The trail cuts across Spinney Rd. The “Hiking Only” signs on either side, as the trail cuts across this wide dirt road balance out the forbidding “No Unauthorized Trespass” County Parks sign.  The County does allow hiking on its trails, so don’t let these signs discourage you from walking them.  Enjoy the sight of the dappled sunlight playing on the woods floor, and the sound of wind through the pines sounding like ocean breaking on the shore. Nearing Sears Pond, the trail forks; to the left a trail heads around the north end of Sears Pond, we are turning right and following the PP around the southern portion of the pond.   The trail rises up a ridge along one deep kettle hole and then ascends towards another kettle hole that reaches below the water table.  This kettle pond is commonly known as Sears Pond.  There is erosion on the trails here; however, water bars and check dams have stabilized the trail tread where it ascends steeply to the pond.  As you approach the Southern tip of the pond, you can see water through the naked branches on the right side of the trail.

1.5 miles into this walk the trail reaches another “T” intersection, this is where the PP intersects the Black Owl Loop.  Walking this spectacular hiking loop treats you to a wide range of ecological experiences, taking you through upland woods, marsh and swamp, over brooks and streams, past creeks, and ponds.
 

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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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