Location: Smithtown, NY
Size: 21 acres
Date of hike: Jan. 9, 2016
Millers Pond County Park is certainly the smallest spot I've hiked on Long Island. I passed through it once before when I traversed the 34-mile-long Long Island Greenbelt Trail in 2014, but it was time to hike it properly. Since the pond is less than 10 minutes from my home, it seemed like the perfect pick with only two hours of daylight left on this wintry Saturday.
Before setting out, I searched for some information online about Millers Pond County Park, but I couldn't find much of anything. It doesn't seem to be listed on the Suffolk County Park Department's website, which I didn't understand at all. The only information I could find was on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's website, which said the pond is home to a typical warmwater fish community – including largemouth bass, bullhead, perch, and sunfish. The website also described the park as being a "neighborhood fishing hole," with experienced bass anglers enjoying high catch rates and the occasional lunker bass over the last decade. I really need to keep a cheap fishing pole in my car's trunk.
The park's awkward entrance is found along the east side of Maple Avenue in Smithtown, with a dirt patch wide enough to accommodate five or six vehicles acting as a "parking lot." To my surprise, there's no barrier of any kind between the parked cars and the pond itself. Several were literally sitting a few feet from the water's edge. Call me crazy, but I couldn't help but envision an inexperienced driver stopping by to enjoy the view on a snowy evening and having his car slide right into the water. However, I quickly realized there is little room available between the pond and nearby homes and roads, which is likely why the parking situation is the way it is. It's what I call a pond-undrum (a conundrum involving a pond).
After parking, I headed a stone's throw north to a cement overpass that bordered the pond and helped direct a small stream of water beneath Maple Avenue. It seemed like an ideal location to do some fishing, and I actually recalled seeing people fish here when I'd hiked through the park two years earlier. There were no fishermen to be seen this time though, since the temperature was cold enough to freeze a majority of the pond. I watched a tiny bird tiptoe across the ice right in front of me. After a minute, I continued north only to find that the trail abruptly ends just a short distance later. Remember, this park is super small.
With Maple Avenue being a two-lane road with double yellow lines, this was definitely not a quiet hike. This meant my iPod was essential. My music of choice was Darkwater's 2010 album, Where Stories End, which I'd stumbled across only a few weeks earlier on YouTube. Sometimes I listen to random progressive metal music to see if anything grabs me and this fell into that category. I'm looking forward to further sinking my teeth into its riffs and words.
With an hour of daylight left, I reversed course and hiked the trail on the opposite side of the parking area. It was easy to spot and follow the white markers, which indicated I was on the Greenbelt Trail. I took the trail all the way around the pond, stopping at each opening in the brush that allowed me to approach the water. Eventually, the trail led me to NY Route 111, which is where I turned around to make sure I'd reach my car before darkness descended.
While Millers Pond County Park is on the tiny side, it offers a quick escape into nature that is vital to hikers. Let's face it, we don’t always have full days to dedicate to the outdoors – and days like that are made for Millers Pond. Even a small park can leave a large impact.
Video: Millers Pond County Park (360-degree view)