3 spots for outdoor winter fun on LI
Kids bouncing off the proverbial walls? Getting a little housebound yourself? Well, if the weather isn't too frightful, there are plenty of wintertime walks to take along some of Long Island's most beautiful and pastoral landscapes this weekend.
Nature lovers enjoy hiking in all seasons, and winter has its own charm. The cold weather, if walkers are dressed appropriately, can be invigorating. And the winter season, devoid of leaves on trees and with ponds frozen, gives hikers different views.
1. WALK ALONG BRIDGEHAMPTON GREENBELT
One of most undisturbed swaths of beauty on the East End is preserved land along Long Pond Greenbelt and beyond. In fact, the protected greenway stretches from Sag Harbor to Sagaponack.
This 2-mile walk, from Vineyard Field to the grassland of Poxabogue County Park, is on flat land and an easy pace, says Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt President Dai Dayton.
"We'll see two beautiful ponds; Poxabogue Pond and Little Poxabogue Pond," she says. "We'll go by a fox den. It doesn't mean we will see a fox, but we will see the fox den."
The walk is rain or shine, so dress appropriately and bring binoculars and water. It will be called off in case of ice -- but not snow, Dayton says. "It's so nice to see in the snow. It looks totally different."
WHEN|WHERE 10-11:30 a.m. Sunday at South Fork Natural History Society Museum, 377 Bridgehampton Tpke., Bridgehampton. Call to confirm date and time.
INFO 631-745-0689, longpondgreenbelt.org
2. A WALK THROUGH NATURE
Quogue Wildlife Refuge, in the pine barrens, offers a place to walk at your own leisure, with more than 7 miles of trails with ponds, bogs and dwarf pines.
"It's very peaceful in the winter," says Marisa Nelson, assistant director at the refuge. "Very quiet and still."
People come to cross-country ski or snowshoe (the refuge rents snowshoes,) or just walk the trails.
An outdoor shelter that houses injured wildlife shares space with falcons, red fox and an imposing bald eagle. The indoor refuge center gives respite from the cold. Visitors can peer out the big picture windows at all sorts of ducks swimming in the pond.
Quogue resident Ashley Lueck was visiting with her two sons and dad on a recent cold but crisp day. "They get a little stir-crazy," she says of her two young sons. "It's a good place to do a lap around the pond."
WHEN|WHERE Trails are open each day sunrise to sunset. Nature center open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays. 3 Old Country Rd., Quogue (Use Quogue, not East Quogue for GPS)
INFO 631-653-4771, quoguewildliferefuge.org
3. SEAL WATCHING
Seems our coastal waters are a favorite hangout for harbor seals starting around November until about May, according to Arthur Kopelman, president of Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island, which organizes seal watches from Westhampton Beach.
Seal watchers "get to see stuff in the wild that some have never seen before," says Kopelman, who in addition to his role at CRESLI, is a specialist in population ecology of marine mammals. "They get to observe things they have just read about."
The 3/4-mile walk takes observers to a place where they can see (a 98 percent chance, says Kopelman) seals frolic on land or sea. Telescopes are set up for a closer look. There can be as few as two seals or as many as 200, Kopelman says.
In addition to harbor seals, there's the occasional gray seal and rare glimpses of arctic seals, too.
WHEN|WHERE 9 a.m. tomorrow and 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Cupsogue Beach County Park, west end of Dune Road in Westhampton Beach. Arrive 15 minutes early. Also takes place on other weekends through April. Call for changes due to weather or other conditions. Must register online.
INFO 631-244-3352, cresli.org
ADMISSION $5 ($3 ages 5-18)