The map I picked up at the Long Pond Greenbelt booth at the Long Island Natural History Conference was enough to convince me that I’ve got to go. Dai Dayton, president of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt has created a fantastic map. Dai generously put me up at her house in 2004 when I traversed the entire Paumanok Path over the Thanksgiving week. I remember the 3 bacon, tomato, and lettuce sandwiches she packed for me that day when I hiked with companion Bob all the way to Amagansett – 35 miles!
The 800 acre natural area has a total of 16 miles of trails, 13 ponds, two museums, a nature center, and one bench. All the trails are well marked. The map is oriented north-south, colored coded, and with helpful details. Made of Tyvack, a fibrous plastic material that doesn’t tear and is waterproof, can be folded countless times and holds up nicely. One side is the north section, the other, south. Here is a list of what’s on the map: houses roads trails water bodies Sag Harbor boundary bay to ocean footpath protected land street names distances power lines parking locations cemetery two museums scale Long Pond Nature Center side trails Paumanok Path Mashashimuet Park
The Friends have two brochures which are also very helpful. One on ticks is the best I’ve seen. The other contains general information such as:
“Stretching six miles from Sag Harbor to Sagaponic, the Long Pond Greenbelt, encompassing over 800 preserved acres, is one of the East Ends most unique natural areas, featuring rare coastal plain ponds, freshwater swamps, wetlands, and woodlands.”
The names of the main ones are all invitations to come and see:
Deer Drink Black Pond
Round Pond Little Paxabogue Pond
Mosquito Pond Paxabogue Pond
Lily Pond Long Pond
Little Lily Pond Crooked Pond
Deers Hole Sag Pond
The 90 trip from Babylon Village is worth it if I spent the whole day and walked the entire 7 mile greenbelt. However, after reading this sentence, I could not resist:
“Its most splendid feature consists of a chain of thirteen coastal plain ponds: Long Pond, Poxabogue Pond, and Crooked Pond being the largest.”
I started my hike in the middle. Just 400 feet north of Scuttle Hole Road, an unpaved Nature Conservancy driveway ends in a parking lot and another driveway to the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center and reading room – open Sat-Sun 10 – 2PM May to October.
The trail is elevated because the old shuttle rail line from Bridgehampton the Sag Harbor has been removed. The trail has remnants – bits of coal and black rail bed fill. I peeked at my map many times during my trip up to Sag Harbor. The first view of Crooked Pond has me stop for a picture. It has a convoluted shoreline which, for me, was to be the most interesting of all the ponds. I’ve been on many hikes with only a single pond. For me, this is “pond overload.”
I yanked my camera out again when I came to a small patch of violets along the edge. BIRDS FOOT VIOLET ! I crouched, framed and clicked. The deeply indented leaves look like bird toes. The petals are a light lavender. I was astounded. These flowers once covered the Hempstead Plains in Nassau County. In a single word…charming.
I came across tree labels on posts – the William B. Sickles Tree Identification Trail. Mountain Laurel, Sassasfras, Tall Blueberry, pignut hickory, white and black oak etc.
The name of the trail I was on is called the Bay to Bridgehampton Footpath. Attractive oval blazes mark the way. Foliage was just starting to pop out so I had many views of Long Pond. Sometimes a short side tail brought me directly to pond edge. The quiet was only punctuated by two sea planes passing over.
I came across a photographic gem – a vernal pond reflecting tree trunks. Overhead clouds meant perfect conditions for some photos. The pond is temporary and perhaps by August will be dry. I did see quick rushes along the edge which may have been fish.
Where Long Pond I found the only bench on my 3 mile trek with more great views. From here the scenic aspect of the train diminished. This time the railroad spur was in a trough with mounds on either side. It straight arrowed my path directly past the Sag Harbor Village park Mashashimuet Park and onto Bridgehampton – Sag Harbor Turnpike.
The Long Pond Greenbelt is the result of glacial pouroff. This means melt water exited a tunnel in the ice and emptied water onto the outwash plain. The Ronkonkoma Moraine has a notch in this location allowed flowing water to scour this outwash plain creating a shallow valley. This sluiceway, with water table close to the surface had pieces of ice that formed depressions – the ponds we see today. Geologists call a linear chain of ponds paternoster ponds like the beads on a rosary.
It is obvious that the public using these trails cares. I found no litter. I only spotted the backs of less than a half dozen houses. For me, who has been on outings all over Long Island, this greenbelt is at the top of the list, all because of one tiny clump of violets.