Lakeland County Park

Location: Islandia, NY

Size: 70 acres

Date of hike: Feb. 8, 2014

Lakeland County Park is like a second home to me.  Growing up just a quick bike ride from a secret entrance, my friends and I would escape to its trails as often as possible.  It didn't matter what the temperature was, as long as it wasn't pouring of course.  Looking back, it's safe to say this place served as my introduction to the outdoors.  Even today, I'll stop in for a visit when nostalgia strikes.

As a boy, I'd access Lakeland Park through a hole in a chain-link fence on a dead-end road in my neighborhood.  Then I'd pedal through a sketchy train underpass that led into the park. The coolest thing about Lakeland is a boardwalk that takes visitors through the wetland and over the headwaters of the Connetquot River.  There's no denying the boardwalk has had its better days.  From what I can tell, it's the same wood that's been there since I started going there nearly 30 years ago – with the exception of a plank here and there.  There's also a fair share of vandalism, such as names and dates written on the wood.  But to me, that makes up the charm of the place.  That makes this Lakeland County Park.  I love seeing a couple that carved their names many years earlier.  I can't help but wonder where they are today.

For those looking for relaxation, the park has a picnic area, gazebo, and basketball courts.  But my top spot is the boardwalk, particularly the pond at the end of it: Honeysuckle Pond.  I've spotted a giant turtle in there once or twice.  It was frozen and desolate during my hike, like life had stopped there for a short whileBeautifully creepy is a nice way to describe it.  Next, I reached the train underpass and memories came flooding back.  It had more graffiti than I remembered, but it made for an extremely unique sight.  The bright colors stood out powerfully against the fresh snow.  Nature and spray paint combined to make a work of art.

Speaking of snow, the entire park was coated with a couple inches.  I love a nice white hikeSometimes the snow crunching beneath your feet makes for a more enjoyable experience, and the white-lined trees bolsters the beauty.  That's how I felt about the park on this visit.  Slowly I wandered the boardwalk, taking time to sit at each bench and admire the views.  Nobody else was around due to the wintry conditions, except for me Just how I like it.   

After a while, I retrieved my iPod and selected Tesseract's Altered State, which was one of the best progressive metal releases of 2013.  The music's aggression helped me to stomp through the snow without tiring.  I highly recommend this album if you haven't heard it yet.

While this park isn't as majestic as some others on Long Island, it's definitely worth a stop.  Even after all these years, the boardwalks still call to me.  And I'm sure they always will. 

Video: Lakeland County Park (360-degree view)   

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