Saturday, November 1, 2014

A quick trip to Long Island

Before my September trip to Long Island, I created a long list of to-dos for the area, based on recommendations and reviews from TripAdvisor and Fodor's. Well, "the best laid plans...." as they say. I didn't get to much on my list, for various reasons, but here's what I did get to do:

1. Brooklyn Flea Market (see this post).

2. The Big Duck
The Big Duck, a National Landmark, in Flanders, NY

This is a local landmark featuring a giant fiberglass duck that used to be the sign for a Long Island duck farm, of which there used to be many, but now there is only one. Currently, it is part of a growing museum project and houses a very nicely-stocked, but tiny, gift shop. It is right by the side of the road in the town of Flanders, and very easy to find. There is a renovated barn which houses a variety of events, along with an old wishing well. I went with my Aunt and her granddaughter, and everyone loved it. Worth a stop, just for the photo ops alone.

3. Sunken Forest at Sailors Haven, Fire Island
Sailors Haven was on my list because of the rare type of forest there, and the solitude of one of the less-built-up areas on the island. I had gone to Fire Island for a cousin's wedding a few years ago and thought it was so beautiful, I couldn't wait to get back. After September 5th, the ferry only runs on weekends. My aunt and I took a short ferry ride from the town of Sayville.

Resting shore birds seen on the ferry ride to Fire Island

Wild nature on the barrier islands.

I was a little disappointed that there was no seating on the deck of the ferry. Below deck was a dingy seating area with mostly closed, dirty windows. There were only about six other riders! Once it's off-season, apparently visitors to this part of the island are dramatically reduced. In my opinion, this would be the best time for a visit, but that's just me ...

The little concession stand on the dock at Sailors Haven, closing down for the season.

Anyway, we arrived at the dock and saw a covered, cedar deck area, which housed the concession stand and gift shop. Both places were out of almost everything. I fantasized about how I would expand the gift shop and concession area and really make them snazzy, to entice visitors to Sailors Haven all year long. But the concessioners considered this the end of the season, and would not restock until late spring of next year.

Heading into the Sunken Forest.
 My aunt and I had hot dogs and fries, and bottled water, then went on a leisurely walk along a boardwalk that twisted through the maritime ivy forest, one of only five existing in the world.
The boardwalk brings you into the dunes.
That took us to the edge of the dunes, and out to the beach. The beach was deserted, except for one young couple, even though it was a hot Friday afternoon. It was very clean. The surf was moderately strong, churning up stoney grey-blue waves and white froth onto the shore.

The Beach at Sailors Haven
The water was brisk. I believe I saw lots of clear blobs of gelatinous stuff on the sand - jellyfish? After a quick dip, we walked back to the dock to catch the ferry back to Sayville.
Mosquitoes swarmed the path which lies in a valley between the dunes.
On the walk back, we stayed parallel to the shore on a cement path. This was a mistake because the mosquitoes were swarming something fierce in this hot, humid valley of sand between the dunes - a swarm like I've never experienced before! Worse than summer in the Everglades, or the boat ride through the bayou outside of New Orleans. It was crazy bad.
The boardwalk, coming back to the dock.

But we finally made it back to the grey, cedar plank bathrooms and showers, set a little ways away from the dock. I wish I'd had more time here. Away from the towns, the natural setting is just gorgeous, and (apart from the mosquitoes) so relaxing.

From within the Sunken Forest, looking out to the dock.
4. Heckscher Park, Huntington
This was on my list of places to visit because it was a favorite haunt from my childhood. I have, in particular, one really strong sense/memory of the smell of pine trees, that I associate with happy days playing in the sun at this park. My memories include a HUGE pond where my family would feed a variety of species of ducks, gorgeous and giant weeping willow trees surrounding the pond, large expanses of lawn to run free on, lots of aromatic pine trees, and a picturesque, old building where I took a children's art class one summer. My aunt and I visited the park September 4th and I was a little heartbroken to see the disrepair the park was in. Gone were the ducks. Like so many other places, the Canada geese have completely taken over. No ducks, anywhere in sight, but you couldn't take a step without meeting a goose, and worse - the goose's poop. The shabby, sparse grass around the pond was crusty with goose droppings, embedded with lost feathers. The water of the pond was green with sludgy murk and foam, looking stagnant and uncared for. There was a tiny art museum on the property (three small rooms), which we enjoyed visiting, and some playground equipment toward one end. But the majesty and beauty I remember were gone. Litter and disrepair made the whole park seem rundown and forgotten. Made me wonder if there was a "Friends of Heckscher Park" association, and if I could donate money to them. Sometimes, I guess it's better to let fond childhood memories lie, undisturbed in your recollections by modern day reality.
(public domain photo - I didn't take this one.) It looks beautiful in this photo!
5. Good restaurants
While I was there, my relatives treated me to several wonderful lunches and dinners. Places I can definitely recommend for delicious food and nice atmosphere include:
Branchinelli's in Hauppauge (delicious Italian food, great family restaurant, takeout counter)
Tony's Sushi in East Moriches (table top grilling, Japanese-style, good for families)
The View in Oakdale (beautiful waterside location, yummy food)
LaTavola in Sayville (a really cute town to browse around in)

All in all, my trip to Long Island was lovely, but it left me wanting to go back and check off a few more things off my travel to-do list.
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