Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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Napeague

Stephen Talkhouse west to Walking Dunes

 

  They don’t come with ray guns, and they aren’t stealing our brains, but they are having a negative impact on our ecology, and in some cases they are stealing Long Island’s unique ecosystems. These invasive plants spread into natural areas and push out, damage, and sometimes eliminate native species. They are wreaking havoc in many of our public parks and the Nature Conservancy is not standing for it. On July 21, Bill Jacobs and Bruce Horwith led a “Weed Watcher Hike” in Hither Hills. The Nature Conservancy leaders started training hike participants from the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society to identify the invasive weeds along the Stephen Talkhouse portion of the Paumanok Path in Hither Hills. We met at the Hither Hills West Overlook on Route 27 about a half-mile east of the split with Old Montauk Highway.

Bill and Bruce split the hike into two parts. Bruce headed towards Fresh Pond, and since I had walked there last week I joined Bill to visit the Walking Dunes. I was impressed by how much information we all carried in our heads about the ecology of our woods. Bill said, “just look for something out of place.” Tentatively at first, following our hike leader’s example we pointed out plants that looked like they didn’t belong, and most of the time we were right.

“This,” Bill said, “is why hikers are a natural resource for our battle to contain the invasives and help keep the inner woods pristine.”

This time I remembered to bring my map, and that was fortuitous because for the first time in my experience, there were no maps at the kiosk. “If you really need a map,” I volunteered, “you can go across the highway to the beach parking lot, they have them there.”

Both groups traveled the Petticoat Hill Trail to Elisha’s Valley Trail, and then crossed over the railroad tracks. We saw black pine, bittersweet, an exotic elm and several other alien invaders. After crossing the tracks, we reached a crossroads. I was with Bill’s group and we turned left onto Jerusha’s Hollow Trail as Bruce led his group north on the Paumanok Path. We saw some Japanese barberry at the crossroads, but then, as we traveled deeper into the woods, there wasn’t a single plant that seemed out of place. The black pine was replaced by pitch pine and oak, with a brush layer of blueberry and huckleberry. On the forest floor we saw clusters of Indian pipes, a parasitic plant without chlorophyll that looks like a peace pipe, with its single flower at the end of a leafless stalk. We saw a luna moth, many fowler toads, and heard several rufus sided towhees calling “drink your tea.”

We saw the oldest dunes from the trail, but we ran out of time and had to turn around. If we had continued, we would have reached a short trail branching to our left, taking us to Nominicks Overlook. There is a great panoramic view of the Harbor from there. Then we could have continued westward for another half mile and reached Napeague Harbor Road. The Paumanok Path cuts across the road here and runs up what looks like a driveway with a “No Trespassing” sign. If you are brave you can try to follow the Path to the harbor or you can turn right (north) and walk down the road a short distance to visit the harbor and the Walking Dunes. If you wish to drive here, you can find Napeague Harbor Road a short distance west of the split in Montauk Highway. Follow the road a mile north and you can park at the end of it where you will find a kiosk and pamphlets for the Walking Dunes’ self-guided hike. In an effort to make this natural wonder accessible to the public, the New York State Parks Department has built a trail that will lightly impact the natural movement of the dunes. However, if too many visitors wander off the trail, I fear that the negative impact will reach a threshold that will force the State to deny access to the area. Stay on the trail!

If you are interested in finding out more about East Hampton Trails Preservation Society’s hikes call 631-329-4227. If you wish to work with the Nature Conservancy to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth, and keep the aliens at bay, contact Stacey Goldyn 631-367-3384 X131.

Ken Kindler is a Trails and Open Space Advocate working to help the trails groups and land managers care for our “Natural Island.” If you would you like to learn more about our trails or help care for them, visit the Hiking Long Island website. www.hike-li.org
 

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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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