A Conversation with Joseph Denny


Joseph Denny

By Lindsay Andarakis

After the Paumanok Path, a hiking trail that stretches 123 miles from Rocky Point to Montauk Point, was finalized in 2016, Joseph Denny set out last July to be the first hiker to do a full hike trail of the Paumanok. In six days, not without their challenges, he reached his goal and went on to create a 24-minute short film by shooting a few seconds every half-mile throughout the trail. He later condensed it into a raw footage, short film called “Point to Point,” which will be showed next week in Southampton.

What inspired you to create this film?

Well, I’ve always loved the trail and I always said as soon as it was done, I’m going to hike the whole thing, so it was probably like a 20 year wait until it was finally done. As soon as the opportunity allowed, I just went out and did it. As far as I knew, I was the first person since the trail was actually completed to actually hike it. I also wanted to promote the trail; I’m big into nature conservation. I live on Shelter Island, am a member of the two percent committee and also run a trail-clearing group here. I wanted to give a name to the Paumanok and bring attention to the fact that it’s there and we have this awesome resource right in our backyards.

What do people need to know before they hike Paumanok?

I would definitely scout it out, figure out where you need to stash stuff because you don’t really have access to a lot of things, especially in the Western section. You’re pretty far removed, so I would definitely stash things that you need along the way, like water especially, as there’s not a lot of water resources throughout the whole trail. Travel light, and I would try to avoid camping. I guess you’re probably not supposed to anyway, but anyone who grew up out here just does it. Try to figure out if you’re near somebody’s house that you know and try to get picked up at end of day, it just makes it a lot easier. And guard for ticks, because there’s tons of ticks naturally.

You wrote the music that accompanies the film?

“Point to Point” is the name of the actual performance that I’m going to do at 230 Down in Southampton. I play guitar alongside of the video footage being played…I have an opening act as well, her name is Carma, she sings and plays guitar.

What wildlife can hikers expect to find on Paumanok?

Tons of deer, foxes, all sorts of birds, you can see turkey vultures, you’ll see osprey; I didn’t see any eagles but I know that people do spot them sometimes out here. There are groundhogs, all sorts of odd things and a wide variety of forest too. That’s the cool thing on the trail, you’re always transitioning from hickory to oak to cedar, it’s like endless transitions of forest the whole way, it’s really cool.

Any pro hiking tips for those that want to hike for days straight through? Or is it better to take breaks?

I mean, it’s definitely a lot easier. You’ve really got to be into it to do what I did. It definitely wasn’t easy, especially at the end of the third day I was really in a lot of pain because I wasn’t used to doing that many miles and I only had so much time to do it…To make it a more enjoyable experience, spread it out, definitely, and just take it like a day or two at a time. I was on a mission, I had to get something done, and I wanted the footage to be consecutive as well; that was an important part, basically documenting six consecutive days is what I was going for.

I read about the deterioration of certain parts of the trail due to natural erosion, man made activities, and the only maintenance being volunteered. Do you think this has to change?

I think it would be a good idea, definitely. I know that Southampton Trails [Preservation Society] has hired Ken Kindler to manage the whole trail, but that’s still a volunteer group. I think it wouldn’t be bad at all for each of the towns involved in it to put some sort of money into it… Land just gets beat up, and we really need it to be preserved, to preserve our quality of life. I would say, definitely put something into because it’s ‘Long Island’s Appalachia,’ it could be like a cultural thing out here.”

Joseph Denny’s Paumanok Path film, “Point to Point,” will be shown on Monday, July 17 at 7 p.m. at 230 Down on 230 Elm Street in Southampton, as an opening act of “The Ryan Show,” a podcast that’s broadcast every Monday at 9 p.m. For more information, please visit 230Elm.com.

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