Heckscher State Park in East Islip not only serves as a natural area on the Great South Bay – it’s also the starting point of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail, a roughly 33-mile hiking path that stretches from the South to North Shore.
The 32-mile route – deemed “intermediate” by crowd-sourced internet hiking guide, Hiking Project – weaves through various parks, streets and nature preserves along the course. It concludes at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park.
Last month, Ronkonkoma resident Jeremy Marino decided he was ready to take the challenge.
A passionate hiker and explorer, Marino said he loves immersing himself in unfamiliar places and cultures. In January 2020, the 23-year-old visited Europe and was forced to stay overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions. By the time he returned home to Long Island in August 2020, he was itching for a new adventure.
“I was thinking, Now that I’m back on Long Island, how can I get out of my comfort zone again?” he recalled.
After conducting some research, Marino discovered the Greenbelt Trail. It would be the longest hike he’d tackle (his previous longest route was his climb up Mount Vesuvius in Italy, the volcano responsible for the destruction of Pompeii), but it was the challenge he was seeking.
“My first thought was, Perfect, this is exactly what I want to do,” he recalled.
Though he received various responses from friends once he told them about his planned venture, Marino said that all were very supportive. Most of them just reminded him to beware of ticks.
Marino, who has operated a YouTube channel under his own name for roughly six years, opted to vlog his journey from south to north. He said his other content mainly focuses on travel, personal growth, and finance.
Before he set out on his adventure, Marino said he took two test laps, each roughly 10 miles within trail boundaries, to familiarize himself with the route.
On the morning of April 26, Marino, his backpack loaded with salty snacks, lots of water, collagen powder and more, set out on the trail from Heckscher State Park. He tracked his distance using Strava.
But it wasn’t without its challenges. Marino said at mile 17, the fatigue hit him. For the next four miles, he really struggled to push himself.
“I hit a wall where I wasn’t sure if I could complete it,” he said. After a quick meal break and technological and mental recharge, he stepped back onto the trail.
It continued to push him. “Those last three miles were probably one of the most difficult physical challenges of my life,” he laughed. “It was really hard.”
With one meal break, his full trip took about 11 hours, Marino said.
The lengthy path offered Marino greater appreciation of his local environment, he said.
“There were a few parts of the trail where I didn’t even know that terrain like this existed on Long Island,” he said.
“If you looked at the frame of the video [I took], you could think you were in Colorado… there were some areas that if you saw, you’d never think it was Long Island.”
As for his next hiking adventure, Marino said he’s training to complete a bike ride across Long Island from east to west – from Montauk to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens.
To watch Marino’s journey from the South to North Shore, visit his YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zFyI6TPf-g&lc=UgzXcsB30IbiDTR2TPt4AaABAg.