Froelich Farms Nature Preserve
Location: Huntington, NY
Size: 310 acres
Date of hike: May 4, 2018

Froelich Farms Nature Preserve is the second spot I've visited after deciding to go on quick hikes after work every Friday.  It's only about 15 minutes from my job – and it's small – so it fit the bill.  For those wondering, the goal of my Friday night hikes is to wash away the work week's stress and kick off my weekend on a peaceful note, especially now that it's staying light out later.  And Froelich Farms totally got the job done.

Before exploring, I researched the land's history and habitats to prepare for Froelich Farms.  For starters, the preserve – which consists of portions of what were once the Froelich and Wicks Farms – is currently under the stewardship of the Friends of Huntington Farmland, according to an online trail guide posted by the Town of Huntington.  Local early settlers apparently used the area for timber and farming in the late 17 century, with a variety of monoculture crops – including corn, cauliflower and potatoes – grown there since the mid-19th century.  "The earth at the site is prime agricultural soil," the trail guide said.  Today, the land is undergoing the second stage of ecological succession, leading to a "dense tangle" of red cedar, crab apple and other vegetation.  The Friends of Huntington Farmland also created an organic community garden, a grove of fruit trees, and a butterfly garden and apiary – with 100 percent of the fruits and vegetables donated to those in need.  As for hiking, the preserve features a winding 1.4-mile loop trail.  Leashed dogs are allowed.

The preserve's main entrance is located on West Rogues Path, just west of Oakwood Road, with parking available on a vast grass field.  The online trail map indicated the preserve is on both the north and south sides of West Rogues Path, with the loop trail located on the road's north side.  When I arrived, there was just one other vehicle in the grass field and it belonged to a man who was strolling toward the trailhead with two unleashed dogs.  Clearly, he chose to ignore a sign that stated "all pets must be leashed," but I tried not to let it affect my hike.  Anyway, I must praise the Friends of Huntington Farmland for posting a series of trail maps throughout the preserve, complete with "you are here" markers.  However, those trail maps seemed to be very different from a map found in the town's online guide.  I'm not sure why that's the case, but it threw me a loop (pun intended).  I opted to follow the on-site maps.

The first thing I verified while hiking was the trail guide's description of the preserve having a "dense tangle" of vegetation.  In fact, some sections were so thick that I imagined the trail's creators having to use farm equipment just to forge a basic path.  I quickly encountered the preserve's organic garden – or should I say "gardens."  They were well kept and surrounded with wire fencing to help keep out curious onlookers.  The fruit trees were also a nice treat.  Other trees you might find in the preserve include black oak, huckleberry and pitch pines, according to the town's trail guide.  Meanwhile, wildlife ranges from white-tailed deer to ring-necked pheasants to eastern cottontail the latter of which I saw several times.

Despite the maps, it was confusing to keep track of my whereabouts.  I resorted to drawing lines in the dirt at each intersection to tell myself where I'd already explored.  I think I hiked out of the preserve at one point, because I started to pass increasing amounts of trash and something that looked like an encampment with a big blue tarpI didn't investigate though, as my previous research indicated that a woman's body was found in the preserve in 2013.  After the loop, I visited a trail on the south side of West Rogues Path, but it faded out fast.    

My music of choice was the new album by progressive metal band Valis Ablaze.  I had never heard of them until a few weeks ago when I read a review about the release, titled Boundless, in Prog magazineMy go-to tune is probably the closer, "Reflections."  "My guide, all along was inside, it was I," sings vocalist Phil Owen.  This band has a bright future ahead of them.

All in all, Froelich Farms Nature Preserve is certainly pretty, but I wouldn't travel far to visit it.  Most importantly, it succeeded in helping me to de-stress.  And, for that, I'm a Froelich fan.

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