Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hiking The Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail

This morning I finally had the opportunity to do something I have been meaning to do for quite some time, to hike a portion of Trail View State Park, which is itself part of the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, which extends from Massapequa Lake near the South Shore, up to Cold Spring Harbor on the North Shore. (No jokes about Argentine mistresses, please!)

I accessed the trail from the parking lot on Jericho Turnpike and headed north. To my surprise, and pleasure, I had the hiking portion of the trail virtually to myself. To the left, about 50 feet, is a trail for bikers, and every now and then I would see one of them heading south on the trail. Early on in my walk, I encountered an elderly couple coming from the opposite direction, and then afterwards a younger guy jogging, also heading southwards.

The trail itself starts off deceptively easy. For about the first third to half a mile, the ground is mostly flat, with occasional rises and dips. But after half a mile or so, the terrain becomes noticeably more hilly. The trail itself is quite narrow, and at times, looking to either side, you can see houses or other buildings through breaks in the tree cover. In spite of it, the trail was rather quiet, broken only by the calls of the various birds who inhabit the park. A number of times I paused to listen to and watch the birds, including one very noisy gray catbird. I also spotted a couple of
Eastern Chipmunks, which are distinguishable from field mice by the stripes on their backs.

But by far, the most unusual thing I encountered on the trail was the remains of an automobile. The chassis was gone, and all that was left was the interior. Given that the part of the trail where it sits is rather secluded and hilly, I must confess I am baffled as to how it got there. The next time I hike the trail I will bring my camera with me and take a picture of it.

Being that this is suburban Long Island, it is impossible to completely avoid civilization while hiking the trail. After about three quarters of a mile, I emerged at the intersection of Syosset and Woodbury Road. You have to cross the road, looking both ways of course, and pick up the trail again on the other side. The beginning part of this section of the trail winds up a rise in the ground before becoming straight again. It was here that I stopped again, as this section of the trail seemed to be a gathering place for a multitude of birds of different species emitting their calls as they flitted about from one tree branch to another. There were cardinals, gray catbirds (who were rather ubiquitous in the park), robins, blue jays, and one or two others that I did not recognize.

After another quarter mile, I finally saw what had been the goal I set for myself, a section of the Long Island Rail Road's Huntington line. I was on a hill overlooking the tracks, and it was here that the trail became confusing, as it wasn't clear to me whether the bike trail and the foot trail came together. As I wound my way down the hill towards the track, I found myself walking on trails that had visible tire tracks. Fortunately though, no bikers came by at the moment, and I gradually descended down to a private gravel road called Whitney Lane. A section of the road continued underneath the rail road track, and led to the driveways of two houses that were themselves out of view. I thought to myself, "Now these are people who must really cherish their seclusion."

I crossed to the other side of Whitney Lane and followed a path that led right up to the rail road tracks. It was quiet and the tree cover mostly blocked out the backyards of the houses on either side. Standing there, I couldn't help but think of the movie Stand By Me.

Having reached my objective, I still found myself wanting to press on a little further. I walked back down to Whitney Road and went underneath the elevated portion of the track and turned left to where the trail picks up again. Almost immediately upon entering this part of the trail I found to my surprise a stand of bamboo. For a brief moment, I felt as though I was in some bamboo forest in China.

Passing through the bamboo stand, the trail then zigzagged its way up another steep hill. I decided I would make my way to the top of the hill and call it a day. Not only did I have a family obligation in the afternoon that I had to get back home and get ready for, my water supply was running low and I was beginning to feel fatigued.

When I made it back down to Whitney Road, I saw a man up ahead walking his dog, a large white poodle. The man was ahead of the dog, which had stopped to look at me and would not move. The man turned back to see why his dog wasn't moving and saw me. The dog became rather animated as I approached, so I let it sniff and lick my hand for a moment.

I then began the arduous journey back the way I had came. As this section was rather hilly, every walk uphill felt physically draining. I encountered another couple, probably in their fifties, heading in the direction from which I had come. I declared to them, "The trip back really knocks the wind out of you" or something like that, to which they chuckled in reply.

The walk back was like playing back the hike in reverse, only faster, as this time I was not pausing to listen to or observe my surroundings. I began to notice familiar landmarks from earlier, the derelict automobile, a fallen tree, an open area where there was little tree cover and one could feel the hot rays of the sun. Rather than drinking what was left of the water in my bottle, I instead liberally pressed the button to spray my face with mist. The ground eventually became level again and I could see the parking lot. All in all, I hiked about two and a half miles round trip in a little more than an hour and a half. It was an invigorating walk and I look forward to my next outing.


tina FCD said...

I wanna go!

Anonymous said...

Do you know where the trail continues north of Washington Ave, Plainview? I was unable to find the entrance once I came out on Washington Ave. walking north.

Tommykey said...

I haven't hiked that portion of the trail yet. Another option would be to hike it south from Jericho Turnpike until you get to Washington Avenue. I might try that section tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

When you emerge on Washington Ave heading north, you can pick up the trail by making a right onto Washington Ave, go under the overpass, and enter through the opening in the fence on the north side of the street

Tommykey said...

Thanks Anon #2. Interestingly, I did that section yesterday evening for the first time. There was a lot of blue jay activity in the stretch between Washington Avenue and the Northern State Parkway.

Murf said...

You need to make a right onto Washington Avenue and walk a couple of blocks. Cross at the traffic light (there is a trail marker on the pole), go right and the trail picks up again on the left.