BY JOHN HANC, Newsday.com, link to original article
Hidden in plain sight. That’s one way to describe about 200 miles of hiking trails on Long Island. They’re out there, but, as Tom Casey, the vice president of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference says, “a lot of people don’t know it.”
Now you do – and just in time for the best days of the year to hike. To discover the natural wonders that are just over the suburban hedge, we asked local hike leaders to pick their favorite little-known trails, the “Hidden Hikes” of Long Island. Most of these can be explored on your own, but to find out when guided hikes will be conducted, and for a master schedule of other hikes, visit hike-li.com. (http://www.hike-li.org/)
Walking Dunes Nature Trail, Napeague
Where to find it: End of Napeague Harbor Road
What it offers: Traverse the edge of a 40-foot-tall dune that is still advancing (or “walking” – meaning that it’s driven by northwesterly winds) from the shoreline of Napeague Harbor and into the adjacent forest and marsh. “Even a hiker with absolutely no interest in nature will be struck by the stunning vistas here,” says veteran East End hiker and author Mike Bottini, who calls this 3/4-mile trail “arguably the most incredible spot on Long Island.”
Tiffany Creek Preserve, Oyster Bay
Where to find it: Sandy Hill Road, south of Meadowlark Lane
What it offers: Pieced together from parts of three estates, this 197-acre preserve is a peaceful place in the midst of a busy part of Nassau County. It’s also a diverse mix of ecological communities: Hardwood forest, wet meadow, glacially formed ravines. “If you’re looking for a short but pretty walk in the woods, this is it,” Casey says.
David Weld Sanctuary, Nissequogue
Where to find it: Boney Short Beach Road
What it offers: “It has woods, a meadow with lots of bunnies, nice trails and a great destination … a beach on the Long Island Sound!” says Ken Kindler of the Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition, extolling the virtues of the David Weld Sanctuary. You can walk the main, 1/2-mile trail or fan out and explore all 124 acres. Because this trail has some twists and turns, Kindler recommends bringing along a map, which you can get at the Nature Conservancy kiosk, located near the entrance, or by going to http://www.eserc.stonybrook.edu/brentwood/1998 /weld/weldmap.html.
Vineyard Field, Bridgehampton
Where to find it: Adjacent to South Fork Natural History Museum on Bridgehampton Turnpike, north of the railroad tracks
What it offers: This 40- acre parcel, once part of the Bridgehampton Vineyard and Winery, is a little-known section of the 600-acre Long Pond Greenbelt. The grassy fields attract all manner of birds, including great blue herons and red-tailed hawks. Follow the long-horn-owl-shaped blazes around the pond, says Dai Dayton of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, and “you’ll enjoy a very peaceful lunch hour.”
If you have a really, really long lunch break, she says, the Vineyard Field trail intersects the 125-mile Paumanok Path, so “you can hike all the way to Montauk.”
What to expect:
You don’t need to be equipped like a Polar explorer to enjoy the trails of Nassau-Suffolk. “On Long Island, there are no serious changes in elevation, so the beginning hiker will not be surprised by unexpected steeps or rock scrambles,” says Lee McAllister of Ridge, author of “Hiking Long Island: A Comprehensive Guide to Parks and Trails” (2005, New York- New Jersey Trail Conference).
That said, McAllister notes, “being in good shape will greatly add to the enjoyment,” and will help avoid sore legs. So start with shorter hikes, like some of those listed here, making sure to stretch before and after you walk.
What to bring:
Insect repellent, sun block, a first-aid kit, food and water are among the essentials. But the most important piece of equipment for a hiker here or anywhere is footwear. A pair of lightweight day-hiking boots with strong treaded soles “will do best for our sandy or uneven trails,” McAllister says.