Last weekend had the appearance of a raw, gray, late autumn day but the weather forecast promised sun for the afternoon, so we waited before setting out to explore Butler Huntington Woods in Nissequogue. And we waited. And we waited. Finally, we decided to just go for it and hoped it wouldn’t rain during our adventure.
Butler Huntington Woods, donated to the Nature Conservancy by the Huntington brothers in 1961, is located on the north shore of Long Island. According to the Nature Conservancy, this area is part of the Harbor Hills moraine. The result of this geological feature is a beautiful wooded area with paths that take the hiker up ridges and down to ravines. In fact, our journey began by heading in a downhill direction.
Once we reached the bottom of the hill we followed the Conservancy trail markers to the left. As we walked along the ravine, we noticed that the slopes on either side of us were covered with Mountain Laurel. I must remember to come back when the Laurels have put on their spring finery. For now, we did find plenty of white wood aster still displaying white petals with centers that had already turned purple.
Meandering along I thought how the flora of any given area can change within just a few short miles. Our walks in the Pine Barrens of central and eastern Long Island take us through woods of scrub oaks and pines. But here, near the North Shore, we found ourselves walking through a forest of maples, beeches, hickories and even some sapling chestnuts.
During autumn, the oaks of the Pine Barrens put on a muted rust attire, shutting down long before the cold winds of winter remove the last lingering leaves. But the mix of trees in Butler Huntington Woods lightens the mood with a festive display of color. As we climb the slope towards the ridge we witness the yellows of beeches, the reds of maples and the brilliant display of red, orange, yellow and green of one maple that can’t decide which color to wear! Not to be outdone by the colors above, a large fungus at the base of a tree shows off its bright orange attire.
Although the trail continued straight, we followed the Conservancy markers to the right which took us up to the ridge. Once on the top of the ridge we could look down to the ravines on either side. The slope down towards the second ravine was a little steep and slippery. Wood was placed along the slope as steps, braced into the side with short pieces of pipe. The pipes looked a little ominous but we made it down without incident.
During our explorations, we found a tree sporting the perfect entryway for a troll or fairy home. We let the residents slumber, continuing on our walk. The trail loop eventually brought us back to the first ravine and the final slope back towards the car.
It had been a very pleasant way to spend an hour and a half of a late autumn afternoon.