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Napeague

Napeague Harbor Road

 

 

There are so many places from which to take lovely hikes along Napeague Harbor Road that  I’m surprised that the road is not overcrowded or posted with “No Parking” signs.  To get here, head east on Montauk Highway, continue .5 miles past where Route 27 splits into Old Montauk Highway and Montauk Highway.  Turn left when you see the Sea Crest Condominiums on the right side of the highway and the Hither Hills Racquet Club at the corner of Route 27 and Napeague Harbor Road. 

At the end of Napeague Harbor Road is the Hither Hills State Park Walking Dunes Trail where there is a self-guided nature trail.  To access this trail, park near the end of the road on the shoulder.  Do not block the access to the beach and be careful not to park where the shoulder is pure sand, because your car could get stuck.  These spectacular dunes reach a height of 80 feet.  The dunes are called walking dunes because strong prevailing winter winds cause them to move in a SE direction by about three and a half feet each year.  As they "walk" they bury everything in their way.  At one point along this .75-mile loop-trail there is a great view of Napeague Harbor atop a ridge of a walking dune, at another point there is a freshwater wetland or bog.  Follow the arrows and look for the trail markers. I always try to stay on the trail; this area is a natural wonder and deceptively fragile.  You may wish to call State Parks for a trail guide (631) 669-1000.  When you reach the beach instead of turning left to get back to your car, you can turn right for a 2.5-mile walk north along the Harbor. This is a great place to hunt for seashells or watch the plentiful and varied shore birds

For another hike, follow Napeague Harbor Road north from Route 27, across the train tracks and look for a semi-paved road that looks like a driveway on the left and a white rectangular trail blaze on a utility pole on the right about .4-mile north of the highway.  This is where the Paumanok Path (PP) crosses Napeague Harbor Road.  Again, there is informal parking on the shoulder of the road.  If you head east, the trail gradually rises onto a ridge.  From the road it’s a 10-minute walk to a spur trail branching off the PP to the right that takes you to Nominick’s Overlook.  Here you have a panoramic view of the Atlantic shoreline.  If you continue east on the PP it will take you to Fresh Pond and Napeague Bay after only a couple of miles.

On a recent EHTPS mid-week hike, Nancy Kane a hike leader for East Hampton Trails Preservation Society (EHTPS), led us west from Napeague Harbor Road on the semi-paved road I mentioned earlier.  I noticed a faded white PP blaze on a utility pole on the left side of the road after a short distance.  The PP follows the road.  Be alert for the occasional white blaze on flexible stakes embedded in the ground.  We turned left when we arrived at the Napeague Harbor shoreline, and continued walking along the shore in a westerly direction.  A flex stake just in front of the shallow primary dune led us to the left, up an embankment. Be alert for poison ivy; it is plentiful on this path.  EHTPS built two bridges that cross the outlets from the saltwater marsh into Napeague Harbor.  After crossing the first bridge we continued along the shore and saw a huge radio tower and the Art Barge in the near distance.

I had passed The Art Barge many times while hiking the PP and had assumed (incorrectly) that it was not accessible to the public.  As part of this hike Anne Seelback, fellow EHTPS member, provided a tour of the barge, a relic from WWI.  Anne is an instructor at The Victor D’Amico Institute of Art housed in the barge, now called The Art Barge.  Anne also works in the Main Office of the Institute at Lazy Point.  The Institute is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit institution that espouses the philosophy of Victor D’Amico who believed “that arts are a humanizing force and that their major function is to vitalize living.”

Next time you pass by the Art Barge, pick up a brochure that describes its intriguing history and a catalogue that describes its classes and philosophy.  Look for the sign that says “Office” and walk up the stairs to the right side of the barge.  Or you may call 631-267-3172 for more information.

Take a ride to Napeague Harbor Road and do some exploring on your own!

I needed to get away so I walked north from the end of Napeague Harbor Road towards Goff Point.  I didn’t walk the inland grassy trails (too many ticks) and instead walked along the shore.  It had stopped raining, there was a mist in the air, and the wind was whipping up sand.  I saw people windsurfing and across the harbor, The Art Barge. The patterns in the sand caused by different weight mineral particles separated by the wind were fascinating.  Scallop shells had blown up against the berm crest and were held in place by exposed roots.  The sand here doesn’t compact at the water’s edge; it sucks your feet in.  The sand grains are abraded smooth and round.  At the point, the spit of land turns south, facing into the wind.  The shoreline is mottled with many small stones; anything that is light here gets blown landward.  There was a land bridge to Hicks Island, which is normally separated by a narrow expanse of water.  I was considering continuing my walk when several least terns popped into the air shouting “zreep, zreep” (stay away from our nests).  I always try to by a considerate guest, and since I was visiting their home, I was sensitive to their request.  Instead of walking to Hick’s Island, I walked back a bit to where the water was deeper and better for swimming.  There’s nothing like a day a Napeague to restore calm.

 

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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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