Temperatures were rising and snow was melting the first weekend in February, inspiring us to head outdoors in search of artistic designs created by nature. With two more storms predicted for the week ahead we decided to head over to the David Weld Sanctuary in Nissequogue before fresh snow and ice made the trails difficult to travel. Allowing the wanderer to pass through several ecological regions, this preserve is one of my favorite places to hike. The sanctuary, located on the North Shore of Long Island was donated to the Nature Conservancy by the Welds between 1969 and 1979.
The first portion of the trail is surrounded by fields. I would not call this an open, grassland type of field. It is more of an open area covered with low vegetation; sticker type vines and bushes thick enough to provide protection for the small birds and animals living in the area. Here, the explorer can chose to continue straight towards the Sound, or veer off on the first trail to the left. The trails do eventually converge, but the trail to the left adds a little more distance to the walk and provides excellent views of the water through the trees.
As we headed off to the left, the first canvas we discovered was a cluster of delicate, lacy milkweed seeds caught in a frame of bare branches. This was soon followed by the thin stalks of some unknown plant with the tops of each plant displaying a different artistic angle.
Eventually, the fields gave way to woodlands. Strolling through the woods, we heard the constant chatter of birds. I was able to discern the distinct “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call of that little feathered creature and spied them flitting among the trees. We also heard the angry call of the blue jays, already returning from their winter destinations.
The trail meandered around a swamp but the turtles and other wetland critters were still hidden away in their winter slumber. At the edge of the swamp, we had a choice to continue straight or turn left towards the Sound. We opted to head towards the beach area. On the bluff overlooking the water, we had an excellent view of the snow covered erratic (boulders deposited by the receding glaciers) sitting not far from the shoreline.
We enjoyed the view for a short time and then turned to continue on. Not far from the trail leading towards the bluff was another trail turning off to our left. It was easier traversing this route during the quiet months of winter, before the new growth on the sticker bushes could grab at the passerby. Along this way we headed downhill into kettle holes and passed by several erratic boulders.
After a time, we found ourselves back in the meadow area. There we found our final piece of artwork in this nature museum, a sculpture as fine as any other. The twist and pattern of what remained of this tree was a wonder to behold.