The ConnetquotFeb16.2Saturday of our New York visit was a beautiful day to get outside. With no commitments until the evening we could get in a nice long walk. Hoping the Connetquot State Park would finally be open after being turned away two days before, we headed over to East Islip to try again. This time we met with success.

As we approached the park entrance, I noticed an egret resting near the river just inside the gate. Unfortunately, the best view was from the highway so we thought better of backtracking for a more advantageous view. Once inside the park, we spent some time planning our route. Although the gatekeeperConnetquotFeb16.1 had given us a sketched trail map, I had printed a more detailed map before our trip. After studying this map, we decided to follow the blue/red trail to where the blue trail made a sharp left. From there we would continue straight in order to make our return trip on the Greenbelt Trail.

In order to access the trails, we needed to pass the old hunting club built in the 1800s. The club catered to wealthy men of the Gold Coast Era, such as Vanderbilt, Bayard Cutting, Belmont and others. As we made our way towards the East side of the river, we paused to watch the swans and ducks floating on the pond. The ConnetquotFeb16.3combined red and blue trails kept close to the river at this point, and as we walked this section of the trail we found numerous skunk cabbage just peeking through the damp earth.

Wandering deeper into the park, we could hear the sound of chain saws in the distance, cleaning up the debris from the wind gusts of a few days ago. Perhaps, there had been enough debris down to justify closing the park . The trail we were on, definitely showed signs of recent clean-up work along the sides ConnetquotFeb16.4of the path.

Eventually, we followed the blue trail as it made the sharp left  indicated on our map. Continuing straight towards the white Greenbelt Trail we soon crossed Bunces Bridge. On the far side of the bridge we found a pussy willow in bloom. It wasn’t long before we approached the fish hatchery. Here we stopped to take in the serenity of the water views before completing our walk of approximately 6 or 7 miles.ConnetquotFeb16.5

The trails throughout the park were typical of the sandy soil found in the Pine Barrens and I had forgotten the difficulties of trying to hike such soft dirt.  But what was more disconcerting than sandy soil, was the fact that almost all of the Pitch Pines in the area seemed to be dead. Just a year or two ago, I had read that Southern Pine Beetles had made their way to Long Island, possibly as a result of warmer winters. A recent article this year estimated that about 75% of Pitch Pines in Connetquot State park alone, have been infested. Perhaps those early signs of Spring we encountered during this last week in February was not necessarily a good thing.


Heckscher State Park

Our HeckscherFeb16.1 first full day on Long Island was a bit blustery but we decided to spend some time in Connetquot State Park before our scheduled lunch date. When the gatekeeper at the tollbooth heard we were there for hiking we were a bit surprised to be turned away. Although there had been a wind advisory during the night it had not seemed that bad, but what was amusing was the way we were informed that the park was closed. I knew what the gatekeeper meant, but it did seem amusing that the park was closed because there were “sticks on the trails and it was dangerous”. Sticks!? Really? We have walked trails where we had to HeckscherFeb16.3 walk around or climb over trees that were down, so sticks didn’t seem to warrant closing a park.

Rather than debate the issue, we headed down the road towards Heckscher State Park. According to the NYS Parks website, Heckscher was bought by the State of New York using a donation by the affluent August Heckscher with strong opposition from wealthy local residents. It was one of Robert Moses’ most difficult fights to obtain land for public recreation on Long Island. So, thanks to Robert Moses we have this multi-use park right on the Great South Bay for all to enjoy.

Once HeckscherFeb16.2 we entered the park, we thought we would drive around the loop to Parking Field 7 or 8 and walk part of the Greenbelt Trail. Unfortunately, we soon learned that at least half of the parking fields were gated for the winter. After examining a park map, we settled on Parking Field 1 during our second time around, and decided to take a short walk to the Bay.

Out of the car at last, we walked across the picnic area towards the bike path that would lead us to the water. It wasn’t long before we discovered what appeared to be a hiking trail and decided to explore. On one side of the trail ran an inlet or canal, on the other a marshy woods. Along HeckscherFeb16.4 the way, we discovered some early signs of Spring denying the fact that it was still February.

We would have followed this trail a bit longer, but when we saw that the boards laid down to help the traveler across the boggy areas were submerged, we opted to return to the bike path and continue on to the Bay. As we crossed the park loop towards a parking field that was closer to the water, the wind picked up quite a bit. In fact, as we got closer to the Bay my husband had to run after his hat once or twice.

Soon we were standing on the beach taking in the wind, the waves, and the gulls. In the distance, I could make out the Robert Moses Causeway barely visible in the grayness of the day. We were running out of time and had to turn back, but the brief respite outdoors had left us invigorated for the day ahead.

Unexpected Events

As Pizza the end of February approached, we made arrangements to spend an extended weekend visiting friends back on Long Island but, little did we know that a few problems would be thrown our way. Given that it is an 8 hour trip door to door, our usual itinerary is to leave home around 5:30 in the morning, drive about 5.5 hours to the New London ferry, spend about 1.5 hours on the boat, and then another hour driving to our destination. We have made this trip so many times it has become a routine.

Unfortunately, the weather for February 24th was not going to cooperate. A storm was approaching that would change from snow to freezing rain just around the time we would be on the road. Driving on slick roads, especially while it was still dark had me a bit nervous, so I convinced my husband that we should leave Tuesday night and at least drive to the halfway point in New Hampshire. cedardunes This would allow us a later start in the morning, when the weather would be changing to all rain.

All went well for the remainder of our drive on Wednesday. In fact, making an earlier boat allowed us to arrive on Long Island around lunch time so we could enjoy a good New York style pizza; one of the things we truly miss in our new home state. I believe we split a whole pie between the two of us. Every bite was heaven. Once settled, we spent our time visiting former co-workers during the day or squeezing in a few hikes. The evenings were spent visiting friends who helped me celebrate the big 60th.

Sunday came and we were up in time to drive the 1.5 hours to catch the first ferry of the day, allowing time to BarrettView get a bagel along the way. I am sorry to say, we never did get that bagel on Sunday morning. We were barely an half hour into our trip when the car started to overheat. We were also on a stretch of road which was mostly agricultural with no service stations for miles. We threw the remains of our water in and hoped for the best but we did not get far. A park ranger who had been parked across the street at a park entrance, came over and did try to help but ultimately we knew we were not going to make that boat. We soon discovered that the worst time to have car trouble is at 6am on a Sunday morning; although we could get the car towed to a service station, no one would look at it until Monday morning.

The guy driving the tow truck was kind enough to drop us off at a nearby hotel but we still knew that we were stranded. Stranded on a main street that consisted of a Tanger Outlet, car dealer alley and a Panera restaurant within walking distance. We probably could have walked to the dealer where we had bought our last three cars if things got real bad.  We did spend some time walking around the outlets and ultimately decided on replacements for our everyday dishes of over 30 years . So I guess our extra time on Long Island was not totally wasted.

We set our sights on Monday with the thought that if the car was done by 4pm we could make the boat at 5 and still get home by midnight. Unfortunately, the service station did not receive the new radiator until 1pm and finished up the car by 5. We were there for one more night. Finally, we arrived home around 3 on Tuesday afternoon. A trip that should have taken 8 hours, took 3 days. The time spent with friends was great, the drive provided some new experiences,  but we were glad to be home.

A Spring Visit

Memorial BayardCuttingMay15.1Day weekend we returned to Long Island. This time it was the happy occasion of celebrating the wedding of our friends’ son. We also took the opportunity to touch base with other friends who are still close to our hearts, even though a physical distance now separates us. And of course, we found the time to walk.

It seemed fitting that we gravitated towards the Bayard Cutting Arboretum. It was the place I went to just before my hip replacement, the place I returned to on the anniversary of my surgery, BayardCuttingMay15.2and the place I brought my mother to when she was slowing down. Perhaps, there is some healing that goes on when I visit this place. I do know that it is a place where I always seem to really immerse myself in nature.

We began our walk on the wilder side of the park, where there would be few encounters with other visitors. Most people who come here, seem to stay close to the water or the manicured gardens, not bothering to BayardCuttingMay15.3explore the areas left in a more natural setting. Even the views of the water were different; glimpsed through the green curtain of the surrounding vegetation.

It is here, that we found Wild Sarsaparilla and Canada Mayflowers already in bloom. I practiced my photography skills on these delicate flowers, but as usual, I could not get them in focus and handed the camera over to my husband, who of course, got a nice clear shot. I should probably take the time to learn how the camera works but that requires patience and the desire to spend the time doing it. I suspect most of us have a problem slowing down and taking the timeBayardCuttingMay15.4 to really learn something.

As we crossed the channel towards the more populated area of the park, we watched an egret wading through the water. We studied this creatures majestic movements from the opposite shore as it glided through the channel hunting for food. From the yellow beak and black legs I guessed that this was a Great Egret.

We soon joined other visitors walking the more popular promenade near the water. I wondered if they noticed the yellow lily like flowers in the wet areas nearby. I suspect they didn’t even pause to wonder atBayardCuttingMay15.5 the cypress roots that always remind me of an army standing guard in the woods.

Heading towards another unpopulated section of the park, a butterfly landed on the ground just in front of us. It paused long enough for us to really study it and admire the markings on its wings. Later, I was happy to identify it as a Red Admiral. We soon discovered that the next section of the arboretum was closed for a nesting eagle. After spotting the nest across the channel, we looped back towards our starting point and went to meet up with a friend.

Winter Sorrows

MyWinterStorm husband and I have had one interesting ride during this last year. It is often said that life’s events make us stronger but within 13 months we lost his mother at the age of 92, sold her house and our house, relocated to another state, went from three jobs between the two of us to one and most recently lost my mother at the age of 92 and are in the process of selling her house. So far, we have survived all the storms of the previous year.

My mother was a strong, independent woman who was determined to live life her way. In fact, she lived in her own home until four weeks before she died. She was generous with her time to her family, her organizations and her causes. But perhaps they all meld into one, for she was a strong advocate of education and this is reflected in the committees she joined within her organizations and in the time spent encouraging her children and grandchildren to attain the goal of a college education.

My brother and I know that even if something was wrong she would not have told us, for she would not tolerate grief or pity. In fact, we are pretty sure that the three snowstorms we have experienced in one week’s time where orchestrated by mom. As we stood at the grave, a fierce cold wind began to blow, encouraging everyone to depart rather quickly. It was mom’s way of telling us all to stop grieving and get on with our lives. But I can still find some solace in a poem that she used when others lost loved ones:BarrettViolet

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.