Last weekend, on an unusually warm November Day, we decided to explore the Laurel Ridge Setauket Woods Preserve in Setauket. We set out on the trails with some trepidation, since this preserve is more known for mountain biking than hiking. In fact, the trails are operated as a partnership between the Town of Brookhaven Parks and Recreation, Suffolk County Parks, and C.L.I.M.B. (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists). After our hike earlier in the year at Cathedral Pines, where the trails were unsuitable for hiking due to extensive damage caused by continuous biking, we did not hold out too much hope for exploring this preserve.
According to an old Brookhaven town news item, the name “Laurel Ridge” comes from the fact that the preserve is situated on the Harbor Hill Terminal Moraine. The woodlands on the preserve are dominated by a mixture of pine and oak trees, typical of much of the wooded areas on Long Island. Perhaps, due to the time of year and the leaf cover, we were pleasantly surprised to find an actual trail instead of the hard-pan so prominent at Cathedral Pines. But then, we only walked a short loop to the high tension lines and back, so we never really reached the black diamond bike trails.
The small section we did hike, consisted almost entirely of oaks. Under the leafy ground cover, we discovered that the area was covered with ground pines. These miniature replicas of their taller cousins, along with the occasional greenery of the Mountain Laurel, were the only variation from the brown hue of late autumn.
Finishing up this short 1 mile loop, we found a lone holly tree, standing tall and resolute; the stranger determined to stay in an area where it seemed so out of place.
All too soon, we returned to our car to complete the necessary weekend errands, leaving further exploration for another day.