Cathedral Pines County Park

Location: Middle Island, NY

Size: 320 acres
Date of hike: July 11, 2014

If you like to bike, you'll certainly like Cathedral Pines County Park.  It was suggested to me by a cable repairman who visited my home earlier this week and saw my old mountain bike.  Without hesitation, he began praising the biking trails at Cathedral Pines.  Needless to say, I listened.  And within 48 hours, I was there.  But despite having a bike, I chose to hike.

Cathedral Pines County Park is situated along the headwaters of the 10-mile Carmans River, according to the Suffolk County Parks Department's website.  The park's entrance is located on Yaphank Middle Island Road just south of Middle County Road (NY Route 25).  It is open to camping, hiking, biking and picnicking and has 10 sites with water and electric hookup.  The park also includes a roughly six-mile mountain biking trail that is maintained by CLIMB (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists), according to Discover Long Island's website.  Cross-country skiing is permissible as weather allows and leashed dogs are welcome too.  Most importantly, a biking trail map is available on the county's website.  "For safety and prevention of erosion, trail is one way," it said.  "A bicycle helmet is required for all riders."

After entering the park's gate, I slowly drove around the whole perimeter to get a feel for what Cathedral Pines has to offer.  It features a series of large open fields surrounded by woodland for biking and hiking.  It's clearly a popular camping spot, with over a dozen campers parked there on this day and tents in each wooded nook.  I began with a trail close to the entrance, and it didn’t take long to realize why Cathedral Pines is so loved amongst bike enthusiasts.  Zigzagging paths made their way through tall pines with roots serving as occasional ramps.  Within minutes, I was intoxicated by the scent and sight.  The countless needles that had fallen from above also acted as a sort-of natural carpet beneath my feet.  I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, I didn't glimpse any of the Carmans River, despite having traversed a majority of the park's trails.  There were several helpful trail maps posted on trees, but it was one of those afternoons when I wanted to just wander around and see where my instincts led me.  At one point, I thought of my good friend Jesse, who also recommended Cathedral Pines.  She's a fellow writer, and I couldn't help but imagine how the beautiful environment might inspire her work.  For me, the pines inspired a deep reflection about my life's many paths.  "Sometimes the right path isn't the easiest," I introspected, recalling a saying I once heard.

The very best thing about Cathedral Pines was its profound peace.  I focused on the feeling, making sure to soak it in.  Then I pulled up Anathema's Distant Satellites album, which was just released last month.  Their emotional progressive rock music always seems to go well with the wilderness.  The highlight was "The Lost Song, Part 2."  "The feeling is more than I’ve ever known; I can't believe it was just an illusion," Lee Douglas sang.  I sang with her.
When my iPod died and my feet began to burn, I returned to my car.  But first, I checked my limbs for insects.  To my dismay, the first thing I found was a tiny tick with a white dot on its back on my left arm.  An adult female, I later learned.  Then, I spotted two on my right arm. 

The tick trio freaked me out, of course.  But it couldn't ruin the deep peace I felt in the park.  Deep peace isn't easy to achieve.  But on this summer's day, I achieved it among the pines. 

(Updated: July 6, 2018)

Video: Cathedral Pines County Park (360-degree view)  


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