With the forecast for the next several days dialed into crisp and bright autumn weather, it’s a great time to get out on foot or on a bike and see the spectacular fall foliage gracing Shelter Island.
And if you’re one of those people who tend to avoid walks in the woods on sketchy paths — every step could be one that contains a twisted ankle from a rock or fallen branch — and don’t feel like preparing for an overland trek, then we have just the thing. It’s about a 1.5-mile walk on a paved road that contains some off the best autumn scenery on the Island.
Start where Crescent Beach ends, past the Pridwin Hotel at Camp Quinipet’s bright red barn and walk up toward Nostrand Parkway (a grand name for simple two-lane road). Before you make the turn onto Nostrand you will already be enveloped in the season’s majesty, with the branches of tall trees still full of vermillion, gold and auburn leaves almost touching above you.
Once on quiet Nostrand, you’ll have the impression of walking in deep woods, even as you make your way on the smooth, the perfectly graded road. Here the way through dips and rises; it’s like walking through a tunnel of foliage. Light shifts in the undisturbed woods on both sides. inviting you to put aside your fears of getting too much in touch with nature and wander off the road for a little bit.
These days only the (very) occasional passing car will disturb you and most drivers and/or passengers will most likely give you a wave, a delightful Island tradition bestowed on strangers or friends alike.
Once you reach Belvedere Avenue (another important-sounding name for what turns out to be a little lane), the view will open out as you pass great estates — now almost all mothballed for the season — looming high over Peconic Bay. You’ll be able to glimpse the water glinting through the trees.
Farther on, though, is a great chance to meet the Bay properly by turning right on Bootleggers Alley, which gets its name for being the little road where rum runners off-loaded hooch during the Prohibition era.
At the end of Bootleggers the wide bay is mostly empty these days, with just the passing gull in full cry overhead to keep you company. The 1.5-mile walk or ride back is just as easy and rewarding, returning you to Crescent Beach through autumn’s tunnel.