Last weekend we decided to do a morning walk before the chores of the day whittled away at the daylight, robbing us of the chance to get our therapeutic time in the outdoors. We headed over to the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, to see what nature had to offer.
The Wertheim Wildlife Refuge is located on the South Shore of Long Island. Here, the lower portion of the Carmens River runs through the refuge before emptying into the Great South Bay. The land was originally owned by Cecile and Maureen Wertheim who used it as a private hunting reserve until they donated the land to the government in 1974. My “Hiking Long Island” book, which is over ten years old, describes only one trail (the White Oak Trail) on one side of the Carmens River and states that one side of the refuge was closed due to vandalism. However, in 2012 a new Welcome Center opened and a second trail has been opened on the opposite side of the river from the White Oak Trail.
We headed down the connector trail to our left which would take us to the White Oak Trail. On our way to the trail-head, we stopped to admire a cluster of Lanceleaf Tickseed still in bloom on this lovely October morning.
Continuing on this trail, we crossed over the Carmen’s River. Looking out towards the Great South Bay, there seemed to be only a hint of autumn color. Along the bridge however, there was plenty of Goldenrod in full bloom and bright red berries on the trees. On the north side of the trail, Montauk Highway crossed over the river with enough space for river travelers to paddle under the highway.
At the White Oak Trail was a kiosk mapping out the trail. The map indicated that the full trail was about 2 miles but there was an optional connector which would shorten the trail to about a mile. All along the short loop were piles of wood chips evenly spaced along the trail. These were placed for volunteers to spread along the trail during an event scheduled the following weekend.
Shortly after we set out on the White Oak Trail, I heard the hard disturbance of the leaves on the ground. I was able to detect the direction of the sound and called out to my hiking partner that there were deer running across the path behind us. We turned back to watch several deer leaping through the woods. After they had disappeared, a runner appeared before us. She commented about all the “scary sounds” in the woods. I am not sure what she considered scary; the sound of the deer, the chirping of the late summer insects, or the birds calling from the tree tops. It is always interesting to discover that people who live in suburban or urban areas are so disconnected from nature that they actually fear the outside world.
During our journey, we saw several marked side trails. These trails were intentionally set up so that the explorer could observe different habitations without causing too much disturbance to the wildlife. One side trail had a sign designating a “meadow view”. Further along, we took a side trail marked “marsh view” and walked up on a platform to observe the marsh. From the platform, we saw an osprey soaring overhead and watched as a heron took flight from behind the marsh grasses.
We continued along the loop, stopping on a bridge to look at a dozen turtles resting on a log. After about 2 hours we arrived back at the Welcome Center. On the opposite side of the parking lot, I found some Cardinal Flowers. We had found some along the trail but this particular batch presented a better pose for photographs.
It had been a lovely morning for such a worthwhile excursion. Hopefully, we will be back soon to explore the second trail.