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Back by popular demand .... the East Hampton Trail Maps!


Holding Back the Tide
The Thirty-Five Year Struggle to Save Montauk

Sometime in late 2002, I was asked by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk (CCOM) to gather information from some of its founders and interview others regarding their activities and views of the group's achievements.  It didn't take long for me to become commissioned to write a book.  It took a total of about 21/2 years and became a source of great fascination with the ability of a few determined people to harness their energies and become pro-active in saving open space. It is a story of great drama. The beauty of this part of Long Island with its many trails is a testament to their work and will hopefully stand as a primer on how to achieve it. There is a preface by playwright Edward Albee, a strong supporter of the organization.

CCOM website:  http://www.ccom-montauk.org/


"Holding Back The Tide," is currently available at the Barnacle Book Store in Montauk, and is also being distributed for CCOM by Ed Porco who may be contacted at: 631-668-2093.  Pre-publication price is $15.00 for non-members of CCOM, $10 for members plus $3.00 shipping.  All monies will go to CCOM, a not for profit organization.

                                    Joan Powers Porco

My Love Affair With Hiking

Iím a late bloomer. With the exception of my first marriage at the age of nineteen, most of the major life changes I have made have been far later than the norm. That includes obtaining my Masters Degree at forty-three, finishing a post-graduate psychology program when I was fifty-eight, beginning a new career in writing at sixty-four. And so it is with hiking.

On my first date with the man who would eventually become my second husband, we went to see the great ballet dancer Nureyev at Lincoln Center. As I recall, it was Romeo and Juliet, which completely charmed us. Our second date was somewhat different. We climbed Schunemunk Mountain in Orange County one crisp October day. Some time later I discovered that it had been rated a class A hike (most difficult) by the Nassau Hiking Association. Itís important to note that my previous hiking experience had consisted of walking a mile to the nearest drug store to get an ice cream cone as a youngster. But what did that forty-five year old hiking novice know when, out of a trusting ignorance, I enthusiastically responded to the invitation. "Sure, it sounds like fun," I gaily said. Fun does not describe the arduous experience. I often tease my husband that he was testing me, and if I failed he probably would have just left me up there as the Spartans used to do with their unwanted babies.

After about an hour and a half and several stops for a too brief water break, we reached the summit. I must admit I was more than a bit breathless. As I stood at the crest and looked out toward the Hudson River and beyond that peerless afternoon, I was moved to tears. A 360-degree panoramic view of gold and reddened trees surrounded me. As if to underscore the experience, several hawks above us performed a silent ballet as they caught the gentle currents. I was hooked.

For many years after that, we used our vacation times to explore hiking in many parts of the world, having mostly forsaken the attraction of trips to cathedrals and museums in foreign cities for this new passion. My trusty hiking stick and sturdy inelegant boots have made a connection to the chalky soil of the Lake District and the muck of the English moors. Theyíve supported me in the agonizing triumph of reaching the top of Mount Snowdon in Wales. Iíve had the joys of climbing several peaks in Scotland and also the challenging Picos de Europa and the Pyrenees in Spain. One August despite the unbelievable heat, we trekked up the Luberon in Provence. Closer to home, Iíve ventured on hikes into Denali Park in Alaska and the glacier fields in British Columbia. Theyíve all been notable adventures.

It has been thirty years since my original hiking initiation, and I now have the great blessing of being retired and able to avail myself of traversing the many beautiful trails of East Hampton on a frequent basis. I donít have to wait for a vacation from work or a major plan to do it. Every day holds the possibility of becoming a new adventure. Frequently Ed and I hike with the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, which offers free twice weekly hikes every week of the year. Those hikes are often a social experience. Itís great fun to be with people who share the same kind of hiking enjoyment.

The many miles of trails in the East Hampton system are unique. And, each trail has its own character. For example Laurel Canyon is abloom with a canopy of delicate, pink blossoms in the spring. When walking the Hither Woods section of the Paumanok Path in Montauk you can not only enjoy a cliffside view of Fort Pond Bay stretching before you, but also come upon the remnants of tar shacks, part of old tar works whose origins I have yet to discover. Another historical remnant on the trail at Flaggy Hole is the stone foundations of the home of native-American Stephen Talkhouse. His claim to fame was his ability to walk from Montauk to Brooklyn in a day.

There is a surprise that always attracts me to the Lost Boulder trail. It is an enormous glacial erratic dumped about 15,000 years ago. Chock full of glistening mica, quartz and other minerals, the boulder still holds an element of surprise for me when I come upon it.

I always mark the seasonal changes on the trails, whether itís noticing buds forming on the many oak trees or unfurling skunk cabbage in springtime, the running brooks to be crossed at the Seal Haulout trail in summer, the golden leaves crunching underfoot amid the rich smells of autumn in the Northwest, the thin layers of ice on the wetland areas of Big Reed Pond, or the stark outlines of the trees limned by snow or in silhouette on a winterís cold day under a sky of steel gray.

In between the times we hike with the Trails Society, my husband and I also share our own solitary hikes, which we often do on impulse, as we live close to many trails in Montauk. Those hikes offer a special kind of experience. Just recently in unconscious celebration of my thirty year anniversary as a dedicated hiker, we found ourselves in the woods at Napeague Meadows, which are contiguous to the famous Walking Dunes. Ed was checking out the condition of the trail where he was soon to lead a hike for the Trails Society.

We walked as we often do, in companionable silence.  At one point we both commented on the good condition of the trail and noted the sensual undulating Walking Dunes just north of us.  The topography was sometimes sandy and level and at other times led into gentle hills.  It made for an interesting, varied trail.

After hiking for about an hour, we paused at a turning sign, kissed goodbye and parted.  I had an appointment to keep and turned around to walk back to my car. Ed went on to complete his task.  I was now alone in the woods. In the space of mere moments, I began to feel uncomfortable.  If I had any hackles, they surely were aroused in a state of heightened alertness. I acknowledge later that it was a primitive fear of vulnerability that swept over me and had me catching my breath for a moment or two. Then, as I looked at the golden spectrum of trees surrounding me, heard the chirping of two birds in musical conversation and noted with comfort the well blazed tree trunk before me, I let out my breadth.  All at once as I abandoned myself to the sounds of silence, I was imbued with a feeling of joy. It was a sweet moment.

I know I'll probably go through the same process when I again go alone into the woods like Little Red Riding Hood. But I don't meet the wolf, I meet myself.  I've learned that when I don't hike, I feel emotionally and physically deprived.  When I do hike, I am open to new possibilities.  I guess the hiking bug has got me and I hope I will never be cured.

Joan Powers Porco


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