Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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Napeague

Paumanok Path; Napeague Meadow Road to Kirks Park

 

 

Last Wednesday, a group of 17 hikers, led by Rick Whalen, took the third and longest of a four-hike series encompassing the 45 miles of Paumanok Path (PP) in East Hampton.  We met at Kirk’s Beach parking lot, on Montauk Highway just east of Second House Road.  There is an entrance to the lot on both the east and west side of the “Welcome to Montauk” sign. Follow the short roads south and enter from the back.  During the winter, it’s easy to park here, but the bathroom facilities are closed.  There is a public restroom in town next to the police sub-station.

We carpooled 6 miles west on Route 27 to Napeague Meadow Road and parked on Napeague Meadow Road, .7 mi north of the highway.  We walked a short distance up the LIPA sub-station driveway to where it crosses the PP.  Turning right (east) we began our 13.5 mile meandering hike.

As we began our walk on the inland dunes of Napeague, Rick described where we would be going.  Angling north towards the south shore of Napeague Harbor, we would pass the Art Barge and cross over Napeague Harbor Road into Hither Woods. Then we would visit the high point at Nominck’s and cut across the outer Walking Dune to skirt the east side of Fresh Pond.  The majority of the hike would be traversing the northern section of Hither Woods.  As we walked along the bluffs facing the Block Island Sound we would pop out to see the water in several places.  We would swing around Rocky Point, go inland to Riah’s Ridge Trail, pass by the Lost Boulder, traverse Laurel Canyon, and visit Panorama with its view of Fort Pond Bay.  The final segment of the hike is on the surprisingly pretty Parkway Trail. East of Amagansett, most of the land is preserved.  We wouldn’t see houses or other signs of civilization again until we reached the Parkway Trail.

Near the beginning of the hike, we alternated between bouncing along on a deep pitch pine duff and trudging through sand churned up by boots and hooves.  The nutrient-poor soil of the dunes supports stunted pine, bearberry, heather, and reindeer lichen, so the trail markers need to be placed on flexible stakes here.  As the sounds of traffic to the south faded away, we occasionally heard a passing train. The train tracks roughly parallel the trail.  We saw the old radio tower in the distance.  Blazes are on telephone pole stumps that were notched and cut down like trees.

We crossed over Napeague Harbor Road, climbed up to the ridge at Nominck’s and traveled over the outer Walking Dunes now stabilized by vegetation.  The pitch pine reign supreme in this poor soil.  As soon as we crossed the road, we began to see a wider variation of trees, including oak, hickory, beech, and cherry.  It was a warm day for December, and I spotted a Grey Comma Butterfly wintering over by Fresh Pond.  As we moved into the upland bluffs we began to see ironwood and laurel.  The Stephen Talkhouse Trail runs parallel and north of the railroad tracks.  This was originally a plowed furrow for fire control, a wise precaution back in the day of steam locomotives.

As we passed by Flaggy Hole, I learned from Rick that its name is from the Blue Flag irises that grow in this marshy area. Views out onto the bay and sound make this part of the walk exhilarating. Many people park at Rod’s Valley, walk towards the pier and then continue up the coastal trail west to the PP for this 2-mile visual treat.  We waited at the kiosk for those who needed to visit the portable latrines across the field by the Rod’s Valley parking lot.

The PP now heads south, deep into Hither Woods.  Riah’s Ridge Trail runs along ridges from which you can look down into deep kettle holes.  The trail is like a tunnel cut through laurel, just wide enough for one person to get through.  The trail tread is thick with leaf litter. It is an enchanting, storybook kind of trail.  We found the Lost Boulder on the trail with that appellation.  The picturesque, boulder-strewn, deep crevice of Laurel Canyon was traversed in respectful silence that lasted until we arrived at Panorama, with its awesome view of Fort Pond Bay.  We then walked 1.5-miles along the Parkway Trail.  It is a wetland trail that provides a jungle-like experience in summer and requires an enormous amount of maintenance from the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society.  Soon we found ourselves in Kirk’s Park, across the road from where we had parked our cars 6 hours ago.
 

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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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