As The Doors once lamented in song, “Summer’s Almost Gone.” Rather than sit around and sulk about oncoming cold weather (I hear we have another snow-heavy season ahead in the Northeast), I decided to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of what warm sunshine remains in 2015. And what better way to do that than to lace up a good pair of walking shoes, and hit my favorite trail?
It should come as no surprise that yet another Touro College librarian loves to hike; readers of this blog may recall our staff walking everywhere from city streets to national parks to wildlife preserves to nature trails. Add me to the list of TCL hikers.
Back in 1990, a good friend asked me if I wanted to hike The Mashomack Preserve, a land area on Shelter Island maintained by The Nature Conservancy. It only took about 15-20 seconds of her describing the rustic beauty and peaceful serenity before I was on board. Since then, I’ve returned many times.
After a long drive east from NYC, a short ferry ride and a quick spin on the island is all that separates you from awesome hiking.
Shelter Island is located between the north and south forks of Long Island, 100 miles east of Manhattan. Visitors from NYC can expect an all-day affair, including three hours’ travel in each direction. This means a lengthy drive or LIRR trip to Greenport, followed by a 15-minute ferry ride to the Island and finally, a 10 minute drive to the trail head (located on the southern end of Shelter Island, Mashomack is also accessible via a south ferry which runs from North Haven).
A small garden of native plants (complete with winged security guard) and a beautiful visitors center greet new arrivals at the entrance.
In 1990, we parked our car in a fairly unspectacular clearing near a small forest ranger’s shack with a single small lavatory and a water fountain. Today, the preserve receives guests with a spacious parking lot and impressive gardens of native flora. Added onto the original shack is a modern visitors’ center, with a gift shop, educational exhibits, two large restrooms (using environmentally friendly fixtures) and plenty of literature on the trail and the island in general. One nice feature for bird watchers like my wife is a sitting area by a bay window which affords perfect views of feeders attracting various species as they migrate through the area.
Hikers may select four different routes, from 1 to 11 miles. And that nice gently sloped ramp at right is NOT the start of the trail…
…THIS not-so-gentle uphill is. At least they provided some slats to give you a leg up.
The preserve covers over 2000 acres, with four trails of 1, 3, 5 or 11 miles, and options to switch distances along the way. There are tree-lined corridors, wide open meadows and beautiful views of Gardiners Bay and Shelter Island Sound.
Views of Gardiners Bay; the image at left was taken from inside a gazebo (seen below). I have no clue what the structure seen below at right is; we just thought it looked cool.
While experienced hikers would call Mashomack a very easy trail in terms of challenging terrain, when I first did it in 1990, it did require some balance (as you hopped onto rocks to cross a small stream), agility (as you slid down sandy slopes) and strong legs (the better to climb steep inclines with).
A trip to Mashomack will give you both the birds and the bees.
Pastoral views from a cozy bird blind.
At left, one of many benches to give your feet a little rest. At right…one of the quaint little mysteries of the Mashomack.
Over the years, the trail has been civilized with creature comforts such as benches and gazebos, a wooden foot bridge over the stream and step risers and hand rails along the steep sections. This made the trail accessible for more people, but also took a bit of the natural charm away. It also appears to have shortened the trail considerably; in 1990, it was approximately 13 miles long, while signage states the current longest loop is only 11 miles long. Our Garmin computers and smartphone mappers concurred that, in actual fact we only walked just over 8 miles in 2015. So much for our guilt-free post-hike carbo-loading…
Hmmm…back to the visitors’ center? Or a few more miles along the green trail? It all depends on how your legs are feeling…and how much you want to eat after the hike!
If you decide to go, check out the reviews here and here. And remember to bring protection against deer ticks, which sometimes are very active. We lucked out; after a post-hike self-check, we found no sign of little guests on our persons. In previous years, we’ve spent several minutes brushing unwelcome passengers off in the parking lot!
Till next time…
All photos ©2015 by Archivist Phil (except the nicer, more artistic ones, which were probably taken by Mrs. Archivist Phil).