Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nine States, Five Sounds

photo credit: NOAA Archives

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stony Creek

"Like a section of the Maine Coast, drifted into Long Island Sound" *
Thimble Islands Tours & Cruises Volsunga IV Sea Mist The Islander STONY CREEK IN JANUARY: WebAlbum Map *Connecticut: A Guide To Its Roads, Lore And People American Guide Series, WPA 1938 Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Gamecock Cottage In Stony Brook

There are only a few, small inlets interrupting the long, gradual curve of Smithtown Bay. Stony Brook Harbor, located in the southeast corner of the bay, is the largest. Eleven miles east of Eatons Neck, the harbor consists of a series of creeks that merge before entering the Sound.

Just steps from the village center is Stony Brook Beach (or Sand Street Beach), which includes sitting areas, and a concrete walkway providing views of the harbor. There are interpretive signs near the walkway leading visitors on a southwestern course along the harbor, but I was interested in what lay in the opposite direction. In the distance I could see a small cottage or boathouse standing by itself on a strip of land surrounded by water. I decided to forgo the Harbor Walk and get a better look at the structure.

The beach was a combination of harbor ice fragments and fresh snow, which made walking a complicated task. I zigzagged my way between the high water mark and the trees lining the beach. Mallards paddled a similar path, swimming away from the shore, only to return once I had passed. Before reaching the cottage, I discovered that a creek separated it from me, and I would have to view it from a distance. I continued walking, eventually reaching a spot which was as close as I was going to get.

 I learned from a longtime resident that the building is known as the Gamecock Cottage. The peninsula once had over 80 cottages which were demolished about five years ago. This was a well publicized, divisive story involving leases on public land. The Gamecock Cottage (built in 1864) was spared, but there has been disagreement over its future role.

Everything around me was silent and still. There was no wind in the air, or current in the water. The recent snowfall silenced any sounds in the distance. The small strip of land that had been the focus of so much heated debate, stood desolate and quiet.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Five Mile Point Lighthouse

Five Mile Point Lighthouse (aka New Haven Light), January 2009 First Lit: 1847 Discontinued: 1877 FIVE MILE POINT LIGHTHOUSE: WebAlbum Lighthouse Friends New England Lighthouses New Haven Parks & Recreation

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here Comes The Ferry

The Grand Republic arrives in Port Jefferson on Sunday morning at 10:15 AM. Right on schedule! Bridgeport/Port Jefferson Ferry website

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Boardwalk At Sunken Meadow

After a week or so of temperatures in the teens, yesterday's thermometer reaching 30 degrees seemed like a warm spell. I took advantage of the "heat wave" by visiting Al Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park in Smithtown. This is a LARGE park, both in acreage and waterfront. It originally opened as a 520 acre park in 1930, and has expanded to over 1,200 acres through the acquisition of adjacent properties. In 1992, the name of the park was changed to honor former Governor Alfred E. Smith, who played a vital role in the creation of many New York metropolitan area parks.

 I focused my visit on the three-mile beach area which includes a boardwalk that lines a portion of the beach. Despite the morning snowfall, there were a considerable number of people walking the 3/4-mile deck that was free of snow and ice. Smithtown Bay was silent, with barely a ripple on the surface. The sky had a low, gray layer that thwarted any long distance visibility. The only landmark I could see was a foggy and blurry Crane Neck, several miles to the northeast. A few gulls used their beaks as icepicks, digging through the snow and ice to reach the shells and sand below. Several Canadian Geese got some much needed rest and relaxation, after a busy week of sabotaging departing jets at LaGuardia Airport. Like many state parks, there is a certain generic quality to the architecture here. Most of the buildings and structures are nearly identical to those found at other state parks in the Adirondacks and Hudson Valley. Even the railings along the boardwalk looked familiar. This however, is really a small complaint that rests more in a quirky pet-peeve of mine, than in any legitimate criticism. The state park system is so extensive that creating and maintaining unique, locally influenced structures would not be cost effective. In the end, it is the park itself that matters, not the refreshment stands.

I reached the end of the boardwalk, and continued walking westward along the beach. At this point, there were no footprints in the snow, and everything seemed silent. The glacier-formed bluffs rose in the distance, blocking from sight the four stacks of the Keyspan Power Station in Northport. I have seen those stacks from as far away as New Haven, CT, and Westchester County, NY. I found it amazing to be so close to them, yet unable to see them. Sometimes, "not seeing the forest for the trees" is an admirable quality.

I reached an area of the beach that was quite icy and dangerous, so I turned around, and made my way back. I came upon a friendly couple who were taking a break from their cross-country skiing. They were quite familiar with the park, and were able to describe some trails, and a marshland area that I was not aware of. This is the type of park where one can visit many times, and still find new places to explore. There is too much here to discover on one Sunday afternoon in January.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Little Bay Park

It began in 1883 when the Brooklyn Bridge spanned the East River, connecting lower Manhattan with Brooklyn. In the years that followed, each decade seemed to produce a new span that linked Manhattan and the Bronx, with Brooklyn and Queens. By 1961, there were eight bridges and more than a dozen tunnels traversing the divide of the river. 48 years ago this week, in a sort of golden spike moment, the Throgs Neck Bridge opened. From the Battery Tunnel to Long Island Sound, the East River had been conquered from both above and below. To the best of my knowledge, that is not exactly how the opening of the Throgs Neck Bridge was viewed. Newspaper articles of the day reported it as one more link of a bigger plan that would continue eastward. Throgs Neck was built to ease traffic congestion on the Whitestone Bridge, and there would be future bridges across the Sound to ease the traffic of the Throgs Neck. There were already plans in the works by Robert Moses for a Rye-Oyster Bay Bridge, a New Haven-Shoreham Bridge, and an Orient Point-Rhode Island Bridge. Each project promising to solve the traffic congestion created by the previous bridge. Obviously, these bridges and tunnels were never built. But every so often, the issue is resurrected again as a cure-all for our traffic problems. The latest version is a tunnel extending from Interstate 287 to Oyster Bay. This project has most likely been shelved due to the current fiscal crisis, but it will reappear when prosperity returns. Little Bay Park is a thin parcel of land wedged between the Cross Island Parkway, Fort Totten, and the Throgs Neck Bridge. When I visited recently, there were many joggers, as well as people walking their dogs. A few visitors just sat in their cars, looking out at Little Bay, and the traffic jam on the bridge that marks the entry to the East River from Long Island Sound. Map

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Old Mill Beach In Westport

If I had the motivation, I could put together a collection of the mill ponds that border Long Island Sound. I would not be at a loss for material. The ponds are a common feature along many of the harbors and coves I have visited, and each is unique in its setting, history, and design. Despite their abundance, they often remain an uncelebrated sight, tucked away on some remote and leafy residential peninsula. Situated between Compo Beach and Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, is Sherwood Island Mill Pond and Old Mill Beach. The low tide at Old Mill allowed me to walk a great distance out on the flats, but I was more interested in the view to the north. The waters of the pond made their way down some falls, before following a tidal strait that divided the beach. A pair of wooden footbridges spanned the falls, and created the rare situation where I spent most of my visit with my back to the Sound. OLD MILL BEACH: WebAlbum Map

Friday, January 9, 2009

Norwalk Oyster Plant

Walking around a desolate waterfront in the dark of January is probably not the smartest thing to do. I kept thinking that at any moment, a Lee J Cobb type character was going to grab me by the collar and introduce me to the garbage dumpster. A more realistic danger rested in the fact that an unfamiliar, dark, cold, and empty waterfront leaves little margin for error. Stumbling, or slipping on the ice could result in disastrous consequences. As I downloaded these pictures, I gave myself a stern lecture about using a bit more common sense in my future waterfront explorations. My original intention was innocent enough. I was in South Norwalk for the day, and wanted to stop by the Norwalk Seaport Association before heading home. It was late in the day, but I thought it would be beneficial to locate the headquarters and find out their winter hours. Unfortunately I arrived at the Water Street location too late to find anyone present. I was surprised however, to discover that the headquarters are located on the top floor of the Tallmadge Brothers Shellfish Company. The building is no Hunts Point cinder block and aluminum warehouse, but rather a replica of the 19th century Radel Oyster House. The oyster industry on Long Island Sound has seen its share of rise and fall. Through it all, Tallmadge Brothers has been a fixture in Norwalk for over a century. I will visit again during safer hours, and hopefully learn more about the building, the oyster, and the boats in Norwalk. Until then, Tom Andersen's blog, This Sphere, as well as his book This Fine Piece Of Water, provides excellent insight into the history, and the present day concerns facing the oyster in Long Island Sound NORWALK OYSTER BOAT: WebAlbum Map

Monday, January 5, 2009

Marshlands Conservancy

Marshlands Conservancy in Rye is such an unspoiled piece of shoreline that I almost hesitate before writing about it. The 173 acres of meadow and salt marsh extend from Boston Post Road to Milton Harbor, and provide the only public access to a salt marsh in Westchester County. I have visited here regularly for about a decade, and I never grow tired of it. Each visit seems to offer a different shade of light and color that remains unique.

 Despite my familiarity with Marshlands, I am always a bit confused when I start out on a walk there. The woods behind the visitors center are not clearly marked, and the first part of my walk is usually a blind ramble, until I reach a footbridge that crosses over to a meadow that borders the Jay Heritage Center. From there, the walk becomes straight forward as the meadow leads to a sloped trail that overlooks the marshes and harbor. At the bottom of the slope, a causeway divides the marshes and leads to an island that contains the ruins of a house which was destroyed by the 1938 Hurricane, and eventually a fire.

When I visited in October, the sky was steel blue and contrasted beautifully with the oranges and browns of the autumn foliage. Several New York City buildings were visible on the distant horizon, while Hen Island sat close and quiet, despite the recent political uproar. I circumvented the island, eventually reaching a shaded area with rock outcroppings that meet the beach. Two young children and their nanny searched the shore for shells and small rocks, while an elderly woman with a large hat quietly painted the shoreline scene. This appears to be a popular spot for artists, and I have often stumbled upon them when visiting. One of these days I will try to put together a post featuring some of the paintings.

 I continued walking the shoreline that switched several times from sandy beach, to marshy mud. Although the walk here is an easy one, good footwear is needed for some of the pathways that are often quite wet. I started my way back, taking one last look at Milton Point and the thinning, late season mooring field of the American Yacht Club.

When I reached the wooded area near the entrance, a deer stood in silence watching my every move. I stopped walking and slowly reached for my camera (see WebAlbum below). I took two shots before trying to zoom in closer, but it was too late. He turned his back to my camera, before letting out a snorting sound and running for the woods.

NYNJ Trail Conference: Marshlands Conservancy Map

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Sunrise east of Falkner Island