Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I woke up yesterday to a dreary, January Monday and decided to put off my to-do list and go for a drive. I set out for Greenport after hearing it was one of the North Fork of Long Island's cutest towns. I hopped in the car, hit the defrost button, tuned the radio to Hot 97 and got going. As long as I can remember, nothing has felt better than a solo drive on a rainy day.
I expected to find a ghost town when I got to Greenport. It's off season right now and a lot of local businesses go into hibernation (or renovation) this time of year. Sure enough, everything was closed. All the restaurants that did happen to be open were cash only and at this point in my life and career, things are mostly credit these days. But I had driven far enough that walking around some quiet town was not going to be worth it. I remembered seeing signs for a place called Orient Point, so I re-routed the map on my phone and headed further east.
The drive from Greenport to Orient Beach is an eight mile stretch of pastoral beauty. You will pass a handful of wineries set back from the road and surrounded by grape vines. It was particularly pretty on my visit because all the vineyards were blanketed in snow. Orient Beach State Park feels like it's at the end of the universe. Once you pass through its entrance you will drive down a long windy road that is lined with cedar trees on both sides and past the cedar trees - marsh and ocean. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to stop in your car to take pictures, so I have no evidence of this strange alien scene, but take my word for it - it feels like somewhere Luke Skywalker might have visited. The park's website calls it a "maritime forest."
I know this sounds weird but the only take-away I had from the movie Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind was the fact that there is such thing as a snowy beach. In the Pacific Northwest, we don't really get snow anywhere but the mountains (this season excluded) - so what a treat it is to get it on a beach!
Orient Beach is pebbly but then there is a shift and the browns and yellows transform into reds and pinks. As you get closer you realize this is because closer to shore, the beach is made entirely of shells:
Even though I made it here for the day - I would recommend going for the weekend. I saw so many little towns and shops where I wanted to stop, but for the sake of time, just kept on driving. Towns like Mattituck and Southold seemed like particularly cute spots to pull over. Next time!
New York State Route 25 is the road I took out there and I noticed many sections of it were bike friendly. I can't think of a better trip to start planning than a summer Long Island winery bike posse with some friends, so I know I will definitely be back in a few months. In the meantime head out there with a warm jacket that has big pockets for some brisk weather and epic beach combing.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
With so many natural attractions, Harriman feels like the Disneyland of State Parks. It is enormous - with 31 lakes and 200 miles of hiking trails and is very well maintained. Arriving at Harriman is a little overwhelming as you don't really know where to begin.
Start by taking Seven Lakes Drive from Sloatsburg. This scenic parkway winds through the park's acreage and gives you quite the tour. If you don't feel like hiking - the drive alone is enough for you to take in a big dose of nature.
Harriman is particularly beautiful right now - its golden winterized look will have you taking off your gloves to snap photos every few feet:
Another plus about visiting now is you will have the place to yourself - for the most part:
Its lakes are largely frozen which makes for good entertainment. There are signs marking where ice is safe to walk on (six inches or more) and where it isn't so you can venture out on to the lakes in designated areas. We spent quite some time skipping rocks across the ice which makes an eerie whistling sound.
Being from the temperate Pacific Northwest, I haven't seen a lot of ice in my time and I couldn't stop taking pictures of the frozen patterns:
The bad news is there are several seasonal closures right now and it's a little frustrating to be told 'do not enter' by so many signs. But this is by no means a deal breaker. Go anyway and recreate - most of the trails are still open.
I imagine Harriman is quite the scene in the summer. Located only an hour north of the city, I'm certain it is teeming with nature-going New Yorkers from June onwards. Walking around outside in the winter isn't for everyone, but I promise Harriman is worth it. Like I said before it's like an enormous theme park but if you go right now, you will avoid the crowds.