Tag Archive | Brookhaven State Park

Brookhaven State Park – Blue Trail

Two inches of fresh snow had fallen over President’s Day Weekend, so we decided to dust off our snowshoes and head over to Brookhaven State Park. Knowing that it would be more BrookhavenWinterShadowof an effort to traverse the trails in snowshoes, we opted to stay on the blue trail. The blue trail runs with the longer green trail most of the way but then cuts across the park to create a shorter ramble of 1.7 miles.

I have learned, in this year of sharpening my observation skills, that winter has its own unique character, waiting to be discovered. As we walked along the first portion of the trail, I noticed the patterns left in the fresh snow from the wintery debris that had fallen from the trees. BrookhavenWinterPineI admired the arrangement of shadows created by both the twigs of undergrowth dormant for the winter and the small pine twigs cast off from the parent, towering above.

Entering the park, we decided to walk the trail in the reverse of our normal direction, so upon entering through the gate we veered on to the green trail immediately to our right. Shortly into our ramble, my husband observed that I seemed to be struggling due to the depth I was BrookhavenWinterPatternsinking into the fresh snow. Alas, that middle aged weight gain that it so impossible to get off had caused me to reach the ideal limit for my current shoes. But as mentioned in a previous post, my partner believes in the proper equipment for any hobby. Needless to say,  I had a new pair of snowshoes before the week was out.

Despite the handicap of inappropriate snowshoes, we continued on. The trail soon turned left and to our dismay we found that the fresh snow had been destroyed by tire tracks. Whoever came through made it difficult for us and cross country skiers to maneuver through the rough terrain.BrookhavenWinterHunting

Despite the difficulties, we were still able to enjoy our time outdoors and seek out the artistry created by winter. Several times we came across circular patterns in the snow. We soon discovered that this design had been created when a leaf stuck in the snow was twirled around by the arctic wind.BrookhavenWinterSun

When we reached the cutoff that would take the blue trail back towards the main path, we left the snow disrupting vehicle tracks behind. It was with some amusement that we noticed the conflicting signs at this turnoff. I wasn’t sure if we should don our blaze orange vests or proceed with the confidence that we would not be mistaken for deer. Normally, this park is a non-hunting area so we went with the thought that we would be safe and proceeded on.

As we reached the woodland road leading back towards the entrance, we observed the long shadows cast by the late afternoon sun. Despite the difficult snow conditions it had been another rewarding walk.


Brookhaven State Park – Green Trail

BrookhavenWintergreenAfter accomplishing some hikes that actually gained elevation, I decided that it was time to try and add distance to our relatively flat hikes. We decided to hike the green trail in Brookhaven State Park, which is the longest of the three trails located there. Somehow, I keep forgetting that hiking in the pine barren area of Long Island means hiking on trails that consist of sand, and hiking over 5 miles on sand was a bit ambitious. Sections of this trail where so sandy that at one point my hiking partner commented that maybe I should have put the snow cups on my hiking poles; this on top of adding weight to the leg press and hip machines the day before. BrookhavenGoldenRodNeedless to say this generated all sorts of complaints from my leg muscles for days following this hike.

As we walked along the first half of the trail, we noticed that the ground cover of ferns that were so green (with the occasional brown fern) back in June were now completely brown; the ferns declaring the season over for another year.  The weather this year must have been conducive for Wintergreen and Indian Pipe growth because they were everywhere. I have never seen so many groups of Indian Pipes in one area!BrookhavenTarkill A little further on we came upon an interesting yellow flower, which after going back and forth at a number of my favorite identification sites, I think is some kind of golden rod.

About an hour into our walk we reached the first of three ponds that are located in the park. The first was Lake Panamoka, just visible through the trees. The late afternoon sunlight and some dead trees partially obstructing our view, gave the lake a ghostly appearance. We continued on and passed an un-named pond that sits under the high tension wires before arriving at Tarkill Pond. We commented that the water level looked a bit low yet I don’t recall this being an exceptionally dry summer.BrookhavenFoxglove

Once we passed the ponds, we entered an area consisting of short densely packed scrub oaks. The trail was lower here than the surrounding area and with the dense vegetation on either side of the trail I couldn’t help but feel a little claustrophobic. Despite the starkness of the trail itself, we still found some wildflowers in bloom which added some beauty to the area. We located some late summer flowers which I believe were Fern Leaved False Foxgloves. As in the beginning of our hike with the Indian Pipes, once we came across a specific type flower we would notice an abundance of them as we traveled on.

BrookhavenAsterWhen the trail changed from sand to hard dirt and the Scrub Oak thinned out we located some Late Purple American Aster, which has less flower petals than a New England American Aster. Unfortunately the picture does not do justice to the deep purple color of this flower. It was a pleasure to see so many flowers in bloom this late in the season. I guess this is another lesson on being aware of my surroundings; to realize that plants do not stop blooming at the end of summer but continue bringing pleasure to our lives well  into the fall season.

The beauty I saw on this walk more than made of for the  2.5 hour arduous 5.3 mile walk through some sandy conditions.

Brookhaven State Park – Red Trail

BrookhavenMapWe waited a day for the trails to dry after the torrential rain, before setting out for Brookhaven State Park in Wading River. We seem to visit this park quite often, possibly because it is easy enough to get to after work and provides several hiking opportunities. During World Wars I and II, this land was part of military training facility known as Camp Upton. Camp Upton later became Brookhaven National BrookhavenFernLaboratory. The lab deeded roughly 1600 acres to the state around 1971 and finally became a  maintained park around 2004.

The gate to the parking lot closes at 4pm but there is enough room to park off the road and walk through a pedestrian cut-out in the fence after hours. Once inside, we stopped at the kiosk to examine the trail map and decided to hike the red trail which, a distance of about 3.7 miles. The first part of the trail is a wide woodland road and there are some indications that this was a continuation of the existing paved roads/highways outside the park. In fact, these “roads” inside the park are actually named on MapQuest.

The BrookhavenFowlersToadfirst section of the hike was through a wooded area of oaks and other deciduous trees, with an undergrowth of blueberry bushes and ferns. I noticed that here and there was the occasional fern that had turned yellow and brown. Summer had not even begun so they could not be turning color due to the end of the season! I wondered if it was from to too much rain, poor soil, disease or insect infestation but found it odd the quite often the yellowing specimen was in the middle of other healthier plants.

The character of the woods changed as we entered a section that was more in the pine barrens, with an undergrowth of sapling scrub oak. Here, the path became sandy which seems to be a common feature of many of the trails located in central and eastern Long Island.  I detected a movement at the side of the trail and stopped to investigate. If we had not stopped to search for the cause of movement we would have easily overlooked the Fowlers Toad as he blended in with the dead leaves.BrookhavenPiedmontStaggerbush

Eventually, we reached the far north end of the park and proceeded on the trail that ran along the perimeter of the park. We still enjoyed a sense of being connected with nature, since the land on the opposite side of the fence was also designated as a town preserve. In fact, there was the occasional cut in the fence so that hikers could explore the trails on the other side.

As we reached the yellow Brookhaven Trail, which cuts through the middle of the park, we found our first floweringBrookhavenBranch bush. The flowers were very similar to blueberry flowers but it could have been a Piedmont Staggerbush. This plant was taller than the blueberry plants and it’s flowers were larger.

Shortly after this find, the trail headed south. This portion of the red trail was not as pleasant since it was adjacent to the highway and we had to put up with the road noise. But even here, there were surprises in store. I discovered a fallen branch that rose from the BrookhavenMeadowunderbrush like a ghostly hand pointing the way. Further on, the landscape changed for a third time as the underbrush gave way to a grassy meadow and we left the pine barrens behind.

After 2 hours, the red trail joined the wide woodland road once more.