Cathedral Pines County Park

The weather report stated cloudy all day with no rain until evening so we headed out to Cathedral Pines Park in Middle Island. starflowerI remember walking through this park years ago on trails blanketed with the pine needles that had fallen from the trees lining the path. Since those days, a biking trail has been put through the park and though the trails are well maintained by the local biking group and each group respects the other, the hiking experience is just not the same. Even the Suffolk County government seemed to emphasize the biking use of this park by providing a biking trail map on the county website. The biking trails are all marked but there ae no trail blazes for hikers. In fact, the county website goes on to say that there is a nature preserve next door that is a popular site for hikers.ladyslipper But having said all this, we still found some unique little gems during our walk.

We started out walking a wide pine needle covered path from the parking field. Just a short distance from where we began we found clusters of delicate seven pointed starflowers. I had to be careful taking this photo since poison ivy was interspersed with these flowers. A little further on we found a Lady Slipper in full bloom. This was the only one we found in bloom, although there was evidence of numerous flowers to come. During our travels we discovered patches of the tell tale leaves of the Lady Slipper peeking through the ground cover.

In ayellowiris short while this trail intersected with another wide path. We could see that if we turned left we would be leaving the park and end up on the road, however we decided to head  towards the road in order to investigate the headwaters of the Carman’s River. Here we found some yellow iris plants growing in the water. According to the U.S. plant database this plant is considered an invasive species in about 46 states.cathedralpinestree

We turned around and continued straight on the wide trail. This section of the park is mostly an old growth pine forest with some beautiful examples of long standing pines. One tree in particular reminded me of Tolkien’s Ents. If you look closely you can almost see a face in the middle of the tree between the two branches that are raised like arms on either side of the trunk.

Shortly after this, the trail started to backtrack and snake around, possibly to make the biking trails longer, but without trail markers it did get rather confusing. In fact, we had to assist a group of adolescents who had gotten so turned around they could not find their way back to to the campground and their parents.cathedralpines_carmensriver

We continued on and found ourselves following another section of the Carmen’s River. We had to descend a rather steep hill in order to reach the bank of the river. Needless to say, I gingerly made my way down and back up since I was nervous about falling.

After contemplating the calming atmosphere of the river, we made our way back to the parking lot.  As we finished our 2 hour, 3 mile walk it began to rain. A satisfying walk with lots of hidden treasures for those who take the time to observe the world around them.cathedralpinesbench

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