Pipe Stave Hollow
Location: Mount Sinai, NY
Size: 40 acres
Date of hike: March 27, 2016
It's safe to say that not many
people have hiked Pipe Stave Hollow. In fact, I had to do some research
just to figure out what the piece of land is even called. I found it while driving along Long Island's north shore and using Google Maps to target the closest
patch of green for a quick hike. Minutes later, I'd arrived. However, there were no signs reading "Pipe Stave Hollow" or
any parking areas with an entrance to the land, which borders Mount
Sinai Harbor. It was just kinda… there.
My first glimpse of the land came after I turned onto Pipe Stave Hollow Road. Unfortunately, it took me a
little while to find an entrance. There were none along Pipe Stave Hollow Road,
which sits parallel to the parcel, and none on the other two streets that seemed to
border it: North Country Road and Sea View Lane. I ultimately spotted a pedestrian gate and a small Suffolk County Parks sign at the dead end
of Waters Edge Lane, which features a series of ritzy homes and well-manicured
lawns. I felt weird parking in front of such luxurious houses, but as
far as I could tell it was the only way in. Later on though, I discovered another gated entrance in a cemetery behind the Mt. Sinai United Church of
Christ. While the hike to the harbor is a little longer from the
cemetery entrance, I advise visitors to use it instead of the gates on Waters
Edge Lane, as the parking situation is a lot better on the church grounds.
Before exploring, I tried
to find some online information about the site. The first clue came when I
noticed that Google Maps identifies the land's easternmost section that includes a small stream as Pipe Stave Hollow. From there, I came upon a few webpages that called Pipe Stave Hollow "a valley in Suffolk County" that is nearby to Cedar Beach,
Miller Place Beach and Crystal Brook Hollow.
I also found a 1996 article in The New York Times that called it "a forested freshwater drainage swale that requires cleanup and control of
exotic species." The best info came from the Mount Sinai School District's website, which said Pipe Stave Hollow's name is said to be "derived from the many wooden staves which were cut in the area to be used to make large 'staves' that were used to construct wooden pipes."
Upon entering the gate
on Waters Edge Lane, I hiked my way down to the beach area for a top-notch view of Mount Sinai Harbor. The water
was also among the calmest and clearest I've seen on Long Island, evoking some memories of Indian Island County Park in Riverhead. Also similar to Indian
Island was the handful of waterfront homes that were visible in various directions. I couldn't help but smile knowing that I'd found a secret gem. Behind the beach was a slight bluff that could be
accessed from the trails. I hiked to the top to enjoy an even better view of the harbor from that elevation. There was a tiny bit of
litter around, but not as much as I would've expected, proving to me that the
spot is mostly unknown to the locals.
After having my fill of the harbor
views, I followed the trail away from the water to assess the rest of the land. The trails were unmarked and branched off a lot, so I
just wandered around and picked whatever path caught my eye. Utility poles and phone lines were mixed into the forest, serving as a reminder
of how close I was to adjacent homes. Other oddities
included a bricked hole alongside a trail with a piece of wood partly covering
the top. It was likely an old well, but looked more like a
backwoods booby trap. There was also a set of steps in a hillside that led to nowhere and the foundation of a nonexistent home
that was graffiti-filled.
There were no geocaches hidden in Pipe
Stave Hollow, which was another sign that it's not frequently hiked.
However, my subsequent research revealed that a few artifacts have
been discovered on the site, according to the University of Pennsylvania's
Museum of Archeology and Anthropology's website. One was a large whelk
that had been fashioned into a pendant and, upon cleaning, revealed incised
lines and what seemed to be tally marks. The second item was said to be a
small well-worn piece of deer bone that bore similar incised markings.
My musical accompaniment was
Riverside's 2015 album Love, Fear and the Time Machine. I've been getting
into the Polish progressive metal band a lot more in recent months, having
purchased their entire discography following the tragic passing of guitarist Piotr Grudziński.
The tender tunes really hit the spot, helping me explore my
life's paths as I simultaneously explored the paths of Pipe Stave Hollow. No
path remained unexplored by the hike's end.
All in all, I wouldn't recommend traveling a long distance to visit the sliver of land known as Pipe Stave
Hollow. But if you live in the general vicinity and are seeking a quick little hike, check it out. For a site with "hollow" in its name, the land is filled with all sorts of beauty.