April 24, 2016 – Long Island, NY
Length: approximately 5 miles
Muttontown Preserve is comprised of 550 acres of fields, woodlands, ponds and estate grounds, Muttontown is Nassau County’s largest nature preserve. King Zog, the last monarch in Albania, remains one of the preserve’s curiosities. Zog, who fled Albania after the Italian invasion of 1939 and lived in England, Egypt and France in the years after, acquired the 150-acre Knollwood Estate at Muttontown in 1951. The estate included a magnificent 60-room granite mansion originally built for Wall Street investor Charles Hudson in the early 20th century. But Zog never moved to the U.S. and sold the estate in 1955 to Lansdell Christie (Zog died in France in 1961). As the mansion lay abandoned, rumors began to spread about riches King Zog had hidden in the mansion’s walls, with the natural result that vandals soon descended on the property. The Christie family had the mansion demolished in 1959.
I read about this place while researching hikes that included ruins. I was intrigued and decided to give it a go. Now granted, although there is plenty of information to be found online about King Zog and his estate, there weren’t many details to be had about finding them. From all that I read it seemed that most hikers got lost, never found the ruins or both. The only trail map I could find online was one from 2009 and it was hand drawn. My understanding was that there were so many trails both blazed and unblazed, with missing blazes on the marked trails, that a map wouldn’t do much good anyway.
So off we went, not knowing if we would wander aimlessly in the woods or discover what many have before us. Well, I have to say that we did both. The trails were confusing to say the least. Luckily we ran into some local birders that pointed us in the general direction. My compass came in handy that day as well as I had to refer to it frequently to avoid walking in circles which we did several times. We came upon this manhole which was uncovered inside the walled garden, I was tempted to go in, but then decided against it.
The woods were relatively quiet that day with very few people to be seen. There was a father and son following us until we told them to not bother because we didn’t know exactly where to go. I guess they got the message when we started bushwacking through the woods.
Finally we stumbled upon the ruins we were looking for. I was excited and relieved at the same time.
After hanging out at the ruins for awhile, we headed on our way. I was disappointed that we couldn’t find the ruins that had rooms in them. After returning home I found an old photograph of the estate online and as it turns out we were very close to them. I guess next time will have to do.
On our way back we basically hiked the perimeter of the grounds and found our way back to the parking lot. While in the preserve there was an abundance of birds chirping away and I saw 3 Garter snakes which were much too quick for my lens. I enjoyed the hike and now that I sort of know my way around, I would visit again.