Location: Bayport, NY
Size: 316 acres
Date of hike: Oct. 4, 2015
Sans Souci County Park was next on my list after having hiked most of the other county parks in western and central Suffolk County. I targeted it by pulling up Google Maps and looking for a patch of green I'd yet to explore. With Hurricane Joaquin tracking east and the Mets playing a meaningless game in preparation for the playoffs, it was an ideal day to sink my teeth into Sans Souci. The blue skies were calling, and I'm certainly not one to quibble with a beautiful blue sky.
I parked in the entrance area on Broadway Avenue just east of the building that was formerly the Attias Flea Market. It's now a shiny new Target, which shows how long it's been since I was last in Bayport. The parking lot for Sans Souci was quite tiny – big enough to fit five or six cars. But, if past experience is any indication, the parks with the smallest parking area sometimes have my favorite trails. Calverton Ponds Preserve and David Weld Sanctuary in Nissequogue are prime examples of that. As I exited my car, I spotted a map outlining the park's array of trails. There are three marked trails in Sans Souci: yellow, white and orange. Basically, the yellow leads to the white loop, which is 1.4 miles long and stays in the park's northern section. The white loop leads to the orange loop, which is one mile long and dips into the park's southern section that runs parallel to a Girl Scout camp, the map indicated.
The first thing I saw before reaching the yellow access trail was dog walkers. Luckily, they pretty much seemed to stay within a half-mile of the park's entrance and didn’t venture into the deeper bowels of the park. Before disappearing into the bowels myself, I pulled out my phone to do some quick geocaching. Turns out a cache was stashed within 150 feet of me on the very first trail, near a fence bordering the Sayville Fire Department. I located it easily, signing my name to the log. The container wouldn't stay closed, but I did my best to seal it. After failing to find any caches on my recent handful of hikes, it felt good to uncover this one without issue. I rewarded myself by popping on my iPod and proceeding to follow the dots.
The park seemed to have two different personalities. The northern section had a labyrinth of hilly trails with ethereal rays of sunlight peeking through the trees and a soundtrack of noisy trucks rumbling by on nearby Sunrise Highway. At one point, as the road noise grew louder, I began to imagine myself slowly heading towards hell. I kept walking north until I could see a colorful blur of vehicles on Sunrise. The southern section was the park's other personality, with much more secluded trails and a string of a dozen stunning lakes. I followed the trails south as they took me across a dam set between two of the lily pad-filled bodies of water.
According the county's website, Sans Souci consisted of one continuous lake until the mid 1800s when small dams were erected to turn the land into a cranberry farm. As I continued south, I crossed back and forth to the lakes' eastern and western sides on thin land bridges, until a Girl Scout security guy told me that side is off limits. Just north of the string of lakes, I came across one of the park's most unique features: a long broken concrete pipe that sits inside a swampy area. Of course, I couldn't help but hop atop the tube to test my balance.
My music of choice was Threshold's 2007 album Dead Reckoning, which I purchased a few weeks earlier as I continue to explore the band’s back catalog. I listened to it start to finish three times. Needless to say, it totally spoke to me. I also found myself deeply pondering why I created this blog. I came to the conclusion that my hope is hikers will find my blog – whether it's today, tomorrow or decades from now – and are drawn to explore one new spot.
In closing, I can easily say I'd recommend Sans Souci, which is French for "without worry." Appropriately enough, I found myself without worry the entire hike, which is the feeling you want to achieve as you explore the outdoors. A man without worry is a man I strive to be. And Sans Souci helped me to be that man, if just for one day before baseball's playoffs.
Video: Sans Souci County Park (360-degree view)