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Hunter Island Trail
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mini location map2021-01-17
26 by photographer avatarroaminghiker
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Hunter Island TrailSouthern, NY
Southern, NY
Hiking avatar Jan 17 2021
Hiking6.26 Miles 859 AEG
Hiking6.26 Miles   4 Hrs   25 Mns   1.58 mph
859 ft AEG      27 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Orchard Beach. Had not considered it for hiking. Orchard Beach does offer many things, good things – a nice sandy beach, picnicking, basketball courts, a driving range, tennis courts, a golf course, swimming, a play ground – a very enjoyable place. But not necessarily for hiking and scenery.

But luck proved me wrong on the hiking and scenery part. How? As I was exploring around in the Garmin Basecamp app, I chanced across Orchard Beach. What did I see? That Orchard Beach was laced with trails. And a quick check of a Google aerial view showed the trails lead lots of scenic stuff, things like rugged coastlines and jutting peninsulas and boulder-filled outcroppings. Totally surprising.

So I went. Just a 15 minute drive. And as it was winter, likely few crowds, so while nothing wrong with crowds, hiking in quiet solitude does allow a nice connection with nature.

I started out early, an hour before sunrise, with a head lamp. I wanted to be in position to catch the sunrise over a section of rocky shore. And while Orchard Beach offered convenient parking, that parking was closed, actually barricaded, for winter. So I needed to catch street parking in an adjoining neighborhood, and hike in.

Getting around was easily. The main trails run smoothly, offering wide dirt paths, with essentially no rocks or roots, and basically level, as the highest point in the area might be 50 feet up. Short and frequent side spurs run right out to the shoreline, with the shoreline a mixture of weathered rocks, coastal forest, high grassland and sandy beach. Easily traversed. Except for an occasional bit of estuary marsh. Not traversable. At the first step, you, and I did on occasion, sink immediately six inches into the gooey muck, and then find your foot just keeps slowly sinking.

The scenery did not disappoint. Gnarled and weathered expanses of rock ran along the shoreline, slick in places with green slime, carved in others by water into twisted ribs. Isolated trees, standing separate or in small clusters, made dark and barren by winter, contrasted against the blue of the sky and the earth tones of the rocks and sand. And strangely, in several spots, good-size boulders sat balanced up and distinct above the rock expanse on which they rested. Did they arise as the rock around them weathered away, or did some glacier carry them there, or did somehow ocean forces lift them up?

I found the northern most part of the area notably intriguing. Peninsulas stick out on the north, separated by inlets. Geology and ocean action have separated off edges of these peninsulas, creating a variety of semi- and permanently isolated islands, which have developed in the own mix of forest, rock, sand, grassland and terrain. And in one place a set of jetties cut across one of the inlets, with a narrow cut between the jetties through which bay water can flow. At my visit, the water level, aka the tide, had dropped enough that I could cross the cut, but I imagine at other times higher water would block such a crossing.

Wildlife abounded. Birds especially. Birds flying, feeding, perching. Alone, or in flocks. And able to rest gracefully on the slick rocks, or their jagged edges. Good that this area exists in which the birds can, be appearances, thrive. And also deer. Several together at times. Prancing away gracefully as the noise of my footsteps alerted them.

Not too many people, in fact hardly any at all. Certainly the cold air and cutting wind kept people away. But likely also the barricaded parking. But the place was not devoid of others. Of note, I saw a good number of treasure prospectors with metal detectors. In cases they waded waste deep right into the cold water. I suspect the low tide drew them out, as the low tide revealed more land, and allowed the prospectors to venture even further out if they braved the water. And I passed a wildlife watcher, at least I surmised that such watching was this person’s avocation that day, given the nice pair of binoculars he used.

I brought neither metal detector or sophisticated binoculars, just my camera. And a warm set of gloves, recommended for photography, since the index and thumbs can fold back to help operate the camera. And I brought a desire to enjoy a unexpected scenic gem uncovered by chance.

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