Kaler's Pond Park

Location: Center Moriches, NY:

Size: 13 acres

Date of hike: Jan. 6, 2018

It was the coldest day of the winter so far when I decided to hike Kaler's Pond Park.  The temperature didn't even exceed single digits, if I correctly recall.  It was also the first Saturday of 2018, which played a role in my decision to go outdoors.  I had made a New Year's resolution to start my Saturdays with a solo hike to help relieve the week's stress and start my weekend in a peaceful place, mentally and physically.  And I wouldn't be stopped by a little cold weather and leftover snow from the "bomb cyclone," as they called it, that descended two days earlier upon Long Island.  It was single-digit time.

Prior to hiking, I turned to my phone for some background information on Kaler's Pond Park.  It seems Kaler's Pond is also called Mill Pond and is maintained by the Town of Brookhaven, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  Kaler's, or Mill, Pond has a maximum depth of six feet and is located on the north side of Montauk Highway across from Terrell River County Park.  The park land, which was once the site of a grist mill, was donated to the town by the Kaler family, who had owned a farm there.  In 2015, the park underwent a $500,000 renovation that included new handicap-accessible paths, storm-water drainage upgrades, and removal of vegetation to improve views, according to Newsday.  Also, the renovated park has restrooms, a playground and a memorial for victims of the TWA Flight 800 crash in 1996.  The pond's fishlife includes largemouth bass, pumpkinseed and sunfish – with trout being stocked there in the spring and fall – and a plaque states a fisherman named David Romeo set a world record there catching 3,001 largemouth bass over 77 days in 1984.

I'd been to Kaler's Pond Park twice before, but both visits consisted of just meeting a friend who lives nearby to shoot the breeze after dark.  This visit was my opportunity to really sink my teeth into the park.  I should note I intentionally picked Kaler’s Pond due to its tiny size, because if I was going to tire myself out in the cold and snow it made sense to pick a park I'd finish quickly.  There was only one car in the parking lot when I arrived, and it seemed to belong to a group of teens sledding down the hill just west of the pond.  It actually felt good knowing I wasn't alone in my single-digit craziness.  I followed an adorable boardwalk to the snow-covered beach and tiptoed onto the frozen pond.  It was solid as a rock.  Interestingly, the snow seemed to be cleared off the pond in one section and I soon realized why when I spotted another group of teens approaching with skates, sticks and a net.  Pond hockey!

Seeking solitude, I trudged toward a sign reading "Gilbert S. Raynor Interpretive Nature Trail," just to the right of the barn-like building for the Moriches Bay Audubon Society.  There were no snowy footprints, meaning that I'd be the first hiker on the trail since the "bomb cyclone."  There were also no trail markers, so I did my best to guess the turns based on the spacing between trees.  Within a minute or two, I guessed incorrectly and encountered a dead end, forcing me to make my own path.  But before long, I had entirely explored the frozen shore and retreated deeper into woods until I reached the park's border with Chet Sweezey Road and Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, a camp for children with physical and developmental disabilities.

My music of choice was The Neal Morse Band's two-disc progressive rock concept album, The Similitude of a Dream, which was released in 2016.  The amazing album has continued to grow on me over the past year, and I'm now at the point where I'm tempted to make room for it among my top 10 all-time favorite albums.  I figured there was no better way to kick off the year than to let myself get entranced by this introspective masterpiece.  And I must say, despite the freezing weather, I left feeling exceptionally refreshed.  Thank you, Neal Morse.

In summary, I'd definitely recommend Kaler's Pond Park for a stroll if you live in the vicinity.  It's a little small to warrant traveling far, but it could be a worthwhile drive if you incorporate Terrell River County Park, which I adore.  The two parks together pack a one-two punch of incredible beauty.  A one-two punch that would even make a 1980s-era Mike Tyson proud. 

Video: Kaler's Pond Park (360-degree view)

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