The Thirteenth Paumanok Path Inventory Hike
The final installment of the Paumanok Path Inventory Hike was on Wednesday, June 17. Carolina, Bob, Jim, and I met at 10:00 am in the Montauk State Park Lighthouse parking lot, located at the eastern end of Route 27. The parking fee is $8.00. The fee is waived for seniors. After we arrived, Jim drove us to the Shadmoor parking area. It is approximately a 9-mile hike back to the lighthouse parking area.
After Jim parked in the Shadmoor parking area we crossed Montauk Highway to South Fox Street. It has been my experience that the next couple of miles of the Paumanok Path along Montauk Highway is marshy and grows in at an overwhelming pace, even given the enormous energy of the EHTPS maintenance crew. It will be no news to them that they need to revisit the area with loppers, pruners, and mowers. I admire this organization for the wonderful job they did installing all those bog bridges. I remember when you couldn’t walk this section of trail without having soggy sneakers.
These last few miles of the Paumanok Path has a few places with blazing issues, but blazing issues can be easily addressed. On the east side of West Lake Drive we couldn’t see the blaze because new growth is hiding the flexi-stake. Passing by the horse farm the three of us were uneasy about where the trail was. More blazes on the utility line poles facing directly out towards the trail would be helpful. A flexi-stake where the trail veers to the right is also necessary. At the turn, and after it, the trail is almost totally grown in. It took a long time for us to find a single blaze to reassure us that we were following the path. There is a tendency to instead follow the mushy well-worn equestrian trail that eventually diverges from the PP.
The trail can’t be followed where it is pushed out onto Montauk Highway by Crane Creek near Old West Lake Drive. When crossing over East Lake Drive the blazing leads straight ahead when actually, the trail is offset to the left.
Where the Paumanok Path begins to veer away from the Highway ROW the PP blazing is missing - replaced by some blue blazes. After that the blazes are too few and poorly placed. One multi-trunk tree actually had two white blazes, each one facing into a different trail. With the four of us walking in different directions we were eventually able to rediscover the trail. My knowledge of where the trail was going to eventually lead, gave me the unfair advantage.
As we approach the meadow by Third House we found the blaze on the barbeque very helpful. The lack of trees in this picnic area presents a blazing challenge. It seems that if the grounds keepers are willing to cut around the barbeque, they can also cut around a few posts that could be placed there for blazes. Where the trail circumvents the pasture, more blazes on the fence posts (in both directions) would be reassuring to the hiker. As we worked our way through the excellent kissing gate, and around the enclosure, we noted a few places that could be cut back, and a few places where an extra blaze would be helpful.
The trail leading up to Signal Hill is a beautifully engineered side slope trail, but it could use a DR cutter right now. The view from the summit of Oyster Pond with the wide expanse of Block Island Sound beyond it should be included in the Registry of National Scenic Landmarks – it is breathtaking. The check step project leading down from the hill has stabilized the slope and it is obvious that hikers are walking alongside it. At present the trail tread is stable. If a ravine begins to form, I suggest a couple of water bars be added. Where the Paumanok Path takes a right turn across the equestrian trail, the installation of a post with a turn blaze on the right side of the trail is necessary. I’m embarrassed to admit that all four of us continued to walk one mile past that turn and ended up by Oyster Pond Bend, where I nearly stumbled into an oncoming horse and rider. That whole disturbing experience could have been avoided with one well placed blaze.
Heading around the south side of Oyster Pond on the Ogdens Brook Trail, we all appreciated the well implemented bog bridges that kept our feet dry (thank you Tom Dess). We noted that poison ivy is growing robustly on the Ogdens Brook Bridge and will soon need to be attended to. We passed the Seal Haulout Trail, and soon found ourselves at the edge of Montauk Highway.
I have always felt that a crosswalk and signs should be installed where the Paumanok Path accesses the Point Woods Trail on the other side of Montauk Highway. In Mike Bottini’s Trail Guide to the South Fork, he humbly states that Group for the South Fork (now Group for the East End) designed this trail. It has been slightly modified to visit boulder and bunker, but the original design is Mike’s. If you want to study how good trails are supposed to be built, check out this one.
The huge holly, tupelo, black birch, and humongous mountain laurel attest to the fact that by some quirk of fate, Point Woods has been left almost totally untouched by man. The beautiful brooks and vernal ponds are visual treats. In addition, it’s obvious that East Hampton Trails Preservation Society has taken their stewardship of this treasure very seriously. This section of trail has been meticulously maintained.
A short distance after coming out onto the Old Montauk Hwy, the part of the trail that leads to the scenic overlook needs to be better blazed. Bob’s fiancé Marge, joined us for this final section of trail. After the trail returns to the Old Montauk Highway some reassuring blazes are necessary. Not every hiker will understand that this road is the Paumanok Path. The blazing east and west of Turtle Cove needs work. The five of us were continually taking off in different directions looking for the next blaze. Some of the rebar on the check steps needs to be pounded down and the trail needs to be clipped.
The blazing on the rocks around the Lighthouse is well done.
Now that we have a comprehensive list of the issues along the Paumanok Path I look forward to getting out there and working with all of you to make this trail even more beautiful.