Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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West Hampton

Middle Line of Toppings Purchase
Firebreak & Dwarf Pines

 

 

Naturalist Bill Mathews invited me to accompany him as he previewed trails in preparation for his West Hampton Beach School District adult education course, Walking Tours of Greater Westhampton.  We met on Speonk Riverhead Road, 1 mile south of CR 51. On the left side of the road, just before a curve, you will see three vertical metal pipes marking the entrance to the trail. These trails are not blazed; when I walk here I always carry a copy of Larry Paul’s East Pine Barrens map (LIGTC 631-360-0753).

Bill and I headed east on Middle Line of Toppings Purchase (MLTP).  We followed this straight woods road almost 2 miles.  Relics of the Great Wildfire of ’95, naked bleached tree trunks tower above scrub oak and young pitch pine trees.  Early succession groundcover such as heather, bearberry, and reindeer lichen are plentiful.  A short distance into the walk, we cross over an illegal north / south running ATV trail. This trail seems to follow a boundary line between parcels of land.  We will use part of this “boundary trail” near the end of our walk. 

Suddenly we found ourselves in mature oak and pinewoods.  Just before this transition area the woods road, cuts across a narrow ribbon composed almost exclusively of pitch pine trees.  These trees are several years more mature than the trees emerging from the burned area.  I expect that from above, it would appear as a mile long green line describing the boundary of the wildfire.  On Larry’s map it is labeled as a fire road.  We noticed the raised shoulder of soil caused by the bulldozers scraping away the flammable duff, down to the mineral soil.  A couple of years after the fire, Mindy Block and Kenny Spadafora planted three-year-old pitch pine seedlings in this 15-foot wide scar.  Recently, Kenny and I tried to walk part of this “fire road” and found that the closely planted seedlings have grown into a nearly impenetrable wall.  If you wish to know more about these environmental restoration projects visit www.qualityparks.org

After a short walk through mature woods we arrived at the intersection with another woods road, Old West Hampton Road (OWH).  If you turn right and walk a short distance south on OWH you will find a panoramic view of the now verdant burn area.  If we followed OWH north we could have cut the loop we were walking in half, but we intended to visit the pygmy pines.  Continuing east on MLTP, we noticed the uneven trail tread caused by motorized vehicles.  The large oaks began to disappear and were replaced by scrub oak.  Smaller and smaller trees were gradually replacing the large pines.  As we grew close to Sunrise Highway we found ourselves looking down on a mature tree canopy.

After following a trail running east, parallel to the State DOT wire fence about a quarter mile we found a woods road opening to our left. This is an extension of the DEC red trail.  It intersects with the Paumanok Path on its way to the DEC red loop a couple of miles north of here.  We followed this trail a short distance and turned left onto Main Trail.  We could now see the dome of the radar tower 1 mile away. It sits at an elevation of 250 feet.  There are remains of a small trail system that took hikers to several vistas in that area.  Mature trees now block these vistas, and the trails are either overgrown or badly churned up by ATVs.

Main Trail crosses over OWH a half mile north of where MLTP intersected it.  From here the trail angles directly west.  To our right we pass several faintly defined trails running north to the Hampton Hills Golf Course.  A mile further we passed the opening to a barely discernable trail leading north, to the old vistas.  About 400 feet after passing the opening to the vista access trail we turned left and headed south on the same unnamed boundary trail we had cut across earlier.

Once again we came to a transition area; mature woods on one side, an area of regrowth on the other. Once again we saw the dense ribbon of trees bordered by a mound of earth.  We were intersecting the firebreak west of where we had earlier. Bill and I continued south, turned right onto MLTP and soon found our cars parked along Speonk Riverhead Road.

It was interesting to see how effective the firebreak was, but what I found most fascinating was its transformation.

 

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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
Phone:(631) 563-4354

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