Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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Napeague

The Inland Dunes

 

 

East Hampton Trails Preservation Society (EHTPS) has been leading a series of hikes along the 45 miles of the Paumanok Path (PP) that runs through East Hampton.  On the second hike in the four part series we walked through the beech forest of Stony Hill and the inland dunes of Napeague.  We met Cliff, our hike leader at the end point of the 10.5-mile hike, left most of our cars there and carpooled the group to the beginning of the hike. 24 people participated in the hike, the youngest hiker was 9 years old and the eldest was 78.  The pace was brisk and we had two “sweeps”, Bill and Richard, who hung back with the slower hikers and coordinated with Cliff to keep us all together.  This was an exceptional hike; this entire segment of the PP is well blazed and cleared.  Experiencing the two unique environments side by side is an extraordinary experience.  Meet a friend at Napeague Meadow Road about .7 miles north of the intersection with Route 27.  Walk up the LIPA sub-station driveway to where the trail crosses it, so you will recognize the end of the hike when you get here.  I suggest you bring a road atlas with you to carpool west through the winding back roads to the intersection of Soak Hides Road and Springy Banks Road in Springs.

A couple of days later, I returned to take a closer look at the 3-mile section of trail that runs through the Napeague inland dunes.  Traveling east on Montauk Highway, Cranberry Hole Road is west of Amagansett Town on the left side of the road.  I followed Cranberry Hole Road over the railroad bridge.  Just east of the triangular intersection by Cross Highway to Devon, the trail enters the woods on the right side of the road.  Park on the road shoulder just east of the entrance to the trail.  The proximity of a large house nearby, and the wide level trail tread makes it seem like you are walking up an unpaved driveway.  In fact, what you are walking on is a woods road parallel to the now submerged Old Montauk Highway.  Wetlands border the trail and sphagnum moss and cranberry sometimes cover it, but even though I took my walk in the rainy season the new trail had only a few muddy areas.

Here the trail heads almost directly east with Cranberry Hole Road to the north, the train tracks and Montauk Highway to the south.  After a short distance the only reminders of civilization remaining are the sounds from the highway or from an occasional train.  For long stretches inkberry bush, a wetlands plant, border the trail like a hedge.  It was warm for November and I could hear peepers and the unmistakable plopping sound that disturbed frogs make as they hit the water.  There was sweet pepperbush, highbush blueberry and the rich scents of bog, pine, and marsh. A small animal skitters across the trail and above I hear the call of a raptor.  Suddenly the trail broke out into a dry sandy area covered in heather, bearberry, reindeer lichen and pitch pine, much like the dunes adjacent to the ocean, only here we are half a mile inland.  The pitch pine here are reminiscent of the dwarf pine in the Sarnoff Preserve up island.  They are shorter than normal with the lower branches reaching out along the ground, and the scales of the mature pinecones are rarely open at maturity.

The trail continues east to an abandoned railroad spur.  Turn right, walk along the rail for about 100 yards.  The turn away from the tracks is easy to miss; look for a hard left into a narrow trail.  If you don’t see white blazes, you missed the turn.  This is a newly cut section of trail with brand new bright trail markers.  The trail moves north onto a shallow ridge, there is now more holly and what appears to be cluster of healthy white birch in the near distance.  I wanted to examine the birch trees, but the catbrier is too thick here.  Always be alert for the blazes because there is a network of trails running through here, offering many turns.  Deer tracks on the trail are dense and in places their traffic has damaged the trail tread.  The ecology of these nutrient poor inland dunes is fragile and easily disturbed.  We must use these trails gently if we hope for this unique ecology to be here for future generations.

The trail slowly loses the little bit of elevation it had, and begins to thread its way through wetlands.  Just before I reached a boardwalk, I saw the entrance to a trail marked by light blue painted rectangles veering south of the PP.  There are still some enclaves of cattails that haven’t been replaced by phragmites, to be seen along the trail.  The trail now widens with leaves and roots churned into the sand.  It takes a lot of energy to move forward on this soft mushy trail tread.  Here the blazes were very far apart.

It wasn’t long before I came upon the other end of the blue trail, where it once again intersects the PP.  I gambled that this was indeed the other end of the blue trail I had passed earlier and not another trail leading to who knows where.  I turned right on this unknown trail and was rewarded with a lovely trails experience.  This trail is very well engineered, a great amount of care and expertise went into the building and blazing. It led me back to the PP heading west to the roadside parking at Cranberry Hole.
 

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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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