Forward Living: Getting high on the North Fork

02/22/2011 8:00 AM |

School’s closed — winter vacation. It’s that time of year when lots of North Forkers think about getting high. Can’t say I blame ’em. Some of my most thrilling moments occurred when I was high.

Like in Colorado’s mountains where my daughter was married way back in the 1980s. Or, with my son, looking down on the City of Light from atop the Arc de Triomphe. And now, closer to home, at home, really — making it to the top of the cellar stairs with a basket of laundry under one arm and a couple of cans of tomatoes under the other. Wearing slippers old and floppy.

Actually the high so many North Forkers concern themselves with this winter week is a skiing high, as in the mountains. That usually involves travel. Anywhere from the Alps to the Adirondacks. (Me? I vote for the Adirondacks.)
For a while there, North Forkers thought they might do some skiing much closer to home. But it appears the Riverhead Resorts project won’t see the light of a winter’s day. On the former Grumman property in Riverhead there’ll be no 2,200 hotel rooms, no convention center, no horse resort (though a resort for horses seems excessive, I think) and no 35-story indoor ski mountain.

Something, anything, 35 stories high on the North Fork would be mighty unusual and get lots of attention. Kind of exciting. Oh, well. North Forkers know how to react to a change in plans. They ski forward in another direction.

We could start by recognizing the hills, not quite mountains, we already have. I admit the North Fork can’t boast of the highest hill on Long Island. That’s Jayne’s Hill in Melville — about 400 feet above sea level. And I used to live near another big hill. Bald Hill in Farmingville.

But we do have respectable hills. Hills that could become ski slopes. For example, there’s Little Peconic Bay Road in Nassau Point. That hilly road would provide ideal slopes for beginners and intermediate skiers. It twists and turns and even has winter water views.

Skiers could park their cars in Nassau Point Beach parking lot and a shuttle bus could take them and their gear to Little Peconic Bay Road. There’s lots of vacant land adjacent to the road, perfect for a grandstand or two. True, there are SLOW signs on the road right now, but they could be removed.

Perhaps our skiers would prefer a gentler hill. There’s just the spot in Mattituck. Across the road from Mattituck High School there’s a lovely open field sloping to Marratooka Pond. Indeed, it would be a short run. But perfect for the novice. Matter of fact, I’m thinking the high school might add ski instruction to its physical education curriculum. It’s a shame to waste such a perfect natural resource.

And note this. Immediately west of the high school is the office of Dr. J. Hinsch, chiropractor. I don’t know Dr. Hinsch, but I think we’d be lucky to have a guy right there to straighten out our kinks after a day on the Mattituck slopes.

Travel just a bit west of Mattituck to a potentially perfect ski area — Laurel Lake Preserve, north of Main Road in Laurel, of course. In summer this place is a treasure. Meet up with woodchucks, deer, turtles, hawks and all their friends. Hike on hundreds of acres shaded by beech, aspen and red maples. Check out the dozens of hills just fine for skiing. Even an abandoned sand mine provides a hill ready for snow. We’ve got a real undiscovered winter wonderland here.

Now to bigger hills. West again to Hallock State Park Preserve in Jamesport. This place has undergone a few name changes (KeySpan property, then Jamesport State Park), but the hills are constant. Waiting for snow and skiers. True, Hallock is designated for passive recreation such as hiking and horseback riding. I confess not knowing whether skiing is a passive sport. Maybe if you ski slowly?

Think of it this way. What’s the difference between putting your feet on skis or your fanny in a saddle? I say ski Hallock.

Yes, there are gentle slopes and steep hills all over this fork. A careful search suggests we’ll make do without an indoor ski mountain. And we’ll need no costly plane tickets to Switzerland. We’ll ski high outdoors, right here on the North Fork, thank you. Well, we may come inside for a cup of hot cocoa, but that’s all.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.