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Northwest Woods

Cedar Point to Val Shaffner House

 

 

At a recent Southampton Trail Preservation Society meeting the board members discussed some exciting, new hiking routes for member hikes.  One hike that was considered is a walk from Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton, to the Val Schaffner House in Bridgehampton’s Long Pond Greenbelt.  This is a hike that symbolizes the ties between the two towns and their respective trails groups. 

I decided to preview this hike with a friend.  We left a car at a parking area near the Val Shaffner House and then drove to Alewive Landing, where this walk begins.  The (long) ramble took a little more than five hours.  I’m not sure of the exact distance; I think it is about 11 miles.

Driving directions to the hike destination: turn right, north on Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike (CR-79) for approximately 2 miles.  Pass Scuttlehole Road on the left and immediately to the right, find a Nature Conservancy sign by a gated dirt driveway.  The driveway is to the Val Schaffner House; it’s on the east side of Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Tpk. about 100 yards north of the Scuttlehole Road intersection.  It is a .3 mile, bumpy ride to the house.  Before reaching the house, there is a small parking area on the right side of the driveway with a Nature Conservancy sign, and a split rail fence across the trailhead, blocking motorized traffic, but allowing easy access by foot. To drive to the starting point of the hike from the Val Shaffner House, take Bridgehampton Sag Harbor Turnpike north.  Turn right on Jermaine Avenue, right on Madison, left on Clinton. Pass the High School to make a right on Henry Street (Route 114).  Follow Rte. 114 past Barcelona Neck to turn left onto Swamp Road.  Turn right onto Old Northwest Road and then a quick left onto Northwest Road.  Follow Northwest Road to Alewive Brook Road, turn left and follow the road to its end by Alewive Landing.  Park on the shoulder of the road. This is also an excellent place from which to launch a kayak.

To begin the hike from Alewive Landing, head back up the road.  Just before Terry Road look for a gate in the cyclone fence running along the left side of the road.  Enter Cedar Point County Park through gate 3. Remember to close the gate behind you.  The lack of trailhead signs and sparse blazing keeps the first section of the Northwest Path hidden. The rest of the trail is very well blazed, so if you don’t see a blaze for a while, you will know to backtrack and find the turn you missed. 

Start out walking parallel to Alewive Brook.  There is an old NW Path triangle blaze, indicating that you may already be on the 6.5-mile NW Path.  The trail reaches an osprey nest and a bench facing out onto a panoramic view of brook and pond.  A sharp right turn takes you back to Alewive Brook Road; the trail exits the County Park through gate 2.  On the gate, some faded yellow-painted triangles assure the hiker that this is indeed the NW Path.  The path follows Alewive Brook Road to the left crossing Scoy Run before turning right, to travel along the Run, then passing it again at the sluice where a well built bridge takes you across the run again.  A less scenic, but more direct route is to the right on Alewive Brook Road 40 feet beyond the intersection with Terry’s Trail on the left side, by the entrance to a residential community.  Note the sign: “Grace Estate Originally Settled in 1672.”  It is a well-worn trail that meets up with the NW Path south of Scoy Run.  At a “Y” intersection bear right back onto the path. At the next intersection, turn right onto the Paumanok Path heading west.  Turning left will take you east on the PP a short distance to the trailhead by the School House plaque on Northwest Road.  You will now be following the yellow triangles of the NW Path and the white rectangles of the PP.

The next major intersection is Five Corners, where you follow the blazes across Whalebone Landing Road.  It is easy to take a wrong turn here, so be alert for white or yellow blazes.  If you took Whalebone Landing to the right the trail would take you to Northwest Harbor where a walk north along the shoreline would provide you with a pleasant beach walk back to Alewive Landing. 

Next week this 11 mile ramble continues.

School House to Val Shaffner House

Park on Northwest Road 0.3-mile south of Alewive Road at the School House Plaque parking area and follow the Paumanok Path west.  A short walk will bring you to the place where we left off in the last column.  Directions: On Montauk Highway heading east you will see the Wainscott Town sign. Turn left (north) onto Stephen Hands Path.  Bear left onto Old Northwest Road.  Stay on Old NW Road until you reach Northwest Road.  Turn right onto Northwest Road. Park by the School House Plaque parking area on the right side of Northwest Road.

As you head south, note that the white pine seedlings are finding enough sunlight in the understory to thrive.  As you continue south the pines are larger.  Soon mature pines become interspersed with the oak and hickory trees.  It appears that the pine forest is expanding.

Soon the hiker encounters Standing Rock, a large glacial erratic “standing” on the edge of a kettlehole depression.  This is an excellent place to stop for a snack, or just to contemplate nature.  As you head south, the knob and kettle topography becomes more pronounced, and soon the trail travels a ridge above Samp Mortor Hollow, a lovely deep kettlehole with a vernal pond.

Where the trail cuts across the wide intersection of NW Road and Old Northwest Road, it is difficult to find the trail openings.  As you watch for traffic from three directions, walk diagonally across the intersection and you will find the opening.  Shortly before reaching the intersection there is a bypass route for mountain bikers.  This section of trail is for foot traffic only.  The huge old straight trunks of the white pines in Wilson’s Grove support a vaulted evergreen ceiling with a plush pine needle carpet below.  This is a sacred, solemn place where sound, wind, and footsteps are muted.

Continuing south you will encounter Chatfield’s Hole, a beautiful coastal plain pond that changes its shape with the seasons.  Here the NW Path runs left onto Foster’s Path.  It follows the red blazes of Foster’s Path a very short distance, then a right turn takes you up to an excellent viewing point above Chatfield’s Hole.  The NW Path crosses Two Holes of Water Road, 200 feet southeast of the roadside parking for the Foster’s Path trailhead.

The trail tread is eroding in some places here; watch your footing and be alert for a left turn, where the NW Path crosses another trail.  Once again, the dominant trees along the trail are oak and hickory, but here also you can see the pine seedlings flourishing in the understory.  It is unusual to see pines expanding into a hardwood forest; usually succession works in the other direction.

Where the trail crosses Route 114, by Edwards Hole Road is the southern terminus of the 6.5-mile Northwest Path.  There is a new parking area here, with a kiosk featuring a comprehensive trails map. It is difficult to see where the PP continues; crossing Route 114, the trail opening is offset to the left.

Soon after passing a large erratic, the trail crosses Wainscott NW Road.  A quarter mile after crossing the road, be alert for a hard left turn that is easy to miss at a “Y” intersection onto the Miller’s Ground Loop Trail.   Just before it begins to head back northward, a left turn takes you off of the loop trail and across the wide, straight, dusty Town Line Road.  After a short distance, turn right onto the LIPA right of way (ROW).  At one point the trail leaves the ROW, comes back to it, and then immediately makes a sharp right back into the woods.

As the trail approaches Sagg Road, the trail corridor grows narrower and is nearly pinched off between two houses as you approach the road.  Turn right onto Sagg Road and then turn left onto Widow Gavitts Road.  There are no blazes to follow here.  After almost a mile on Widow Gavitts Road, there is a right turn blaze leading you into the Long Pond Greenbelt and onto a Trustee boat ramp access road that runs parallel to and then becomes the ROW.

Cross Sprig Tree Path and turn left onto the old Railway Trail.  When you see Crooked Pond to the left, and post and rail fencing on either side of the Railway Trail, look for a trail cutting across and turn right.  The parking area along the driveway to the Val Shaffner House is 100 yards up this trail.

 

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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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