After the warm weather that first weekend in February, the temperatures dropped again for the first weekend in March. It was cold enough for the snow to develop a hard, crusty layer on the surface; strong enough to support my weight in most places but not so for my husband who kept sinking through this crystallized white stuff. It was not easy going as we made our way around Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Sweetbriar provides natural science education for Long Island residents and also serves as a wildlife rehabilitation center. We soon discovered that the winter / spring season was not the best time to trek around the farm, but then again, we had the same experience last weekend at Wertheim. It just may be the the melt/freeze cycle that comes in March is not ideal hiking weather.
A map at the kiosk indicated that there were 3 trails to be explored; a short yellow trail to the east, a red loop that skirted the Nissequogue River to the South and a blue trail that cut some travel time off the red trail. After wandering around the rehabilitation area to observe the residents, we headed for the Red Trail connector located behind the cages. Here we observed a great many woodpeckers flitting about overhead or making their way up tree trunks in search of food. We also discovered raccoon prints and the markings of a much smaller creature (a mouse perhaps?) in the snow.
The connecting trail led us to a field, where trail markings began to get dicey. The map at the kiosk, which was dated 2002, did not match the sparse trail markings along the way. At the field, what should have been a red marker was yellow, but since our goal was to be outdoors it really didn’t matter which route we were on, so we bravely went on to the yellow trail.
After struggling through the crusty snow in the field, we entered the woods once more. Here we discovered that we were now on the blue trail! Somehow, what should have been a small loop trail blazed in yellow had turned blue. The two yellow blazes we found in the area came to a dead end. The blue trail however,was dotted with small posts which told the story of a day in the life of a chipmunk; a fun, informative little story for young children to enjoy during their short hike. At the beginning of this byway was a signpost listing distances to Montauk Point, Yosemite, the Everglades and the Adirondacks. Another fun device for educating visitors.
Making our way back to the road, we headed down towards the river where we found the red trail again. We left the snow behind to follow the muddy path along the river. As the path looped back uphill, we lost the red blazes once more reaching another dead end. We had to retrace our steps locating another route that had intersected with the river path, creating a U-turn. After losing the trail once more, but able to see our ultimate destination we gave up on trying to follow markers and cut through the woods ending our adventure.