Sunday, November 26, 2017

Escape from Black Friday 2017 - Dead Horse Bay aka "Bottle Beach"

Let's escape down this lacy tunnel of trees! 

Then through the phragmites

and on to the shore - they'll never find us here!

This year's Escape from Black Friday was a pretty laid-back one. The "sample escape route" shown in the last post can be found in Sleeping Giant State Park, a favorite hiking location for TQ and me, but one that's far enough away from NYC that we mostly only go when we're staying in CT (where TQ's mom lives) overnight for a holiday. This year, we made a day trip of our Thanksgiving, returning to Brooklyn after a wonderful dinner with his mom and other family from the area.

We weren't very quick to get going the next day; we briefly mulled over the idea of doing a little exploratory trip for a hike on the Staten Island Greenbelt Trail, a hike that might be quite suitable for one of Sebago's off-season hikes, but with sunset now being at 4:30 in the afternoon (blech), and us not knowing exactly where the trailheads are, we scratched that in favor of just running on out to our favorite old local hiking standby, Floyd Bennett Field, part of the Jamaica Bay unit of the National Park Service's wonderful Gateway Recreation Area.

We usually hit the North Forty Natural Area for short hikes like we had in mind, but I thought it would be a nice switch to do the Dead Horse Bay loop instead. I was guessing that the tide would be fairly close to low and although these days I pretty much have enough old bottles for the available windowsill space (although room can always be made when I find something that's particularly eye-catching, as of course usually happens), I always enjoy beachcombing here, there's just so much weird and interesting stuff to look at if you've got the time, which we did.

Dead Horse Bay got its name from the horse rendering plants that were the main industry in this part of NYC back when the horse was the city's main means of transportation; after a horse carcass was broken down for its useful components, the chopped-up bones were dumped in the bay (sorry to all the horse lovers out there, I'm rather fond of 'em myself and I know that's not a pleasant picture). After the adoption of motor vehicles rendered the rendering industry obsolete, the city began using the area for a landfill; the landfill was capped at some point but the cap broke and now decades of early 20th century garbage steadily leaks out onto the beach.* Bottles, shoes, celluloid toys, knick-knacks, china and pottery, bits of hexagonal tile floors, all sorts of stuff. People love to come here to see what they can find - some people just look, some people bring bags to take treasures home, some people enjoy making little or not-so-little arrangements for others to enjoy.

We've usually come here by kayak, but it was kind of interesting coming by land and walking a bit more of the beach - TQ spotted an eroded bank which was full of the debris that eventually ends up on the beach, and he also spotted a point in the bank where the breach in the landfill just ends and the bank is suddenly clean, pale sand (you can see that in the last photo).

All in all a very pleasant, low-key Escape from Black Friday on a very beautiful day. Click on any photo for a slideshow!

*Atlas Obscura has a good article about Dead Horse Bay - I basically knew the history of the area, other Sebago paddlers have told me the story behind the name and why all the bottles and stuff are there, but I did do a little googling just to make sure I'd heard it right. 


Haralee Sleepwear said...

Very cool pictures but I want to get out there and clean it up! I do love the history of places that reflect the name because more than not it is true like your area. Knowing that I never wanted to ski down runs named "widow maker" or "dead man's slolem"!

bonnie said...

Oh, gosh, you and TQ both! He works for the NYC Parks Department and finds untidy beaches distressing. He was musing over what could be done to make this one friendlier to more traditional beach uses, but I think the beachcombers who love the place would actually be very upset if any sort of rehabilitation effort were to be undertaken. There were a number of people there with us and we were the only ones who weren't carrying sturdy bags for our finds!

There are some nice non-open-air-junk-shop beaches in the vicinity, I think they can leave this one be.

Alana said...

Fascinating. Future archaeologists will have great fun there, if all the artifacts aren't taken by then. You can learn so much about a culture from its garbage. (I wonder what they will learn about us moderns).

Jeff K said...

Here is a great ABC documentary about Dead Horse Bay from a couple of years ago. It discusses the questions you raise, including whether taking bottles from there makes you a thief of city property, or, maybe a beach cleanup volunteer! Is it history or trash, or both?

bonnie said...

Thanks, Jeff! Wow, that is a great documentary - seems much more complete than the stories I'd heard, none of which mentioned Robert Moses. Fascinating.

And fun seeing Ranger Lincoln, who led the tour of the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project we joined last summer!