Quogue. The last utterance of a dying duck? The lament of an unamused bull frog? A putrid, incurable disease? None of the above. Rather, Quogue is a village in a Hamptons sandwich – the Tofurkey between West Hampton and Hampton Bays. Whether or not is a “Hampton” is worth pondering.
It was far too glorious a day to care about labels. Warm air on the backside of hurricane Jose had pushed tropical weather across the East End in late September, and Quogue’s Wildlife Refuge has a few miles of wooded trails that beckoned. Although I wasn’t convinced that my old sneakers had that much life in them, I was hoping this would be their sendoff. They should have made it to 500 miles, and at this point it was probably over a 1000. A sanctuary was the place for a fitting goodbye.
Setting off, the trail head offered a shadowy view of a small lake. Silhouettes of ducks floated by on a glassy surface so reflective it was hard to tell where water met sky. Bob Ross would have approved of these happy clouds. Much of the trail ran along the sanctuary’s fence. Protecting these animals from the outside world seemed logical since the sanctuary was banked against a local airstrip and the southern most railway line of the LIRR. It did seem a bit claustrophobic, but eventually the trail veered off into sandier soil and it started to appear less like the Hunger Games. The fallen pine needles now stood out in deep contrast to the white, powdery turf. The pine trees in the barrens became increasingly dwarfed, until I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she took too big of a bite of that cake.
After the trail looped around, I slowed upon reaching a meadow with a lone bench, just shy of pond. The sun soaked through the tall earth-toned grasses which brought me back down to size. Monarch butterflies sailed in flocks in the now placid breeze until they dropped from the draft to visit yellow wildflowers. Thinking about Alice, I was relieved to find that there wasn’t a hookah-smoking blue caterpillar to be found. I was pleased not to have to answer the imperious question “who are you”? I may have gone many miles in these shoes past the nutria of the banks of the Arno river in Florence, to the stoop in Bed-Sty where Biggie wrote his first lyrics, and through the alligator filled swamps of central Florida, but I wasn’t yet sure how to answer. Pulling their now dilapidated frames from my feet, I enjoyed the give of the sand under my socks. I left the tattered sneakers in a weather-beaten trash can. I looked back down the trail once remembering Alice’s reply – “I hardly know, Sir, just at present-at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”
Off to the next 100 miles, and enough with the bursque questions.