Makamah Nature Preserve

Location: Fort Salonga, NY
Size: 160 acres
Date of hike: July 17, 2015

I found Makamah Nature Preserve by typing "Suffolk County, NY" into Google Maps and zooming in to see what local parks and preserves I might have overlooked.  Parks and preserves are shaded green in Google Maps, so it's pretty simple to pinpoint them that way.  My eyes instinctively drifted to Long Island's North Shore, which is where some of my favorite trails are located – and one of the first green areas that I glimpsed was Makamah.  Strangely, I'd never seen the preserve mentioned online anywhere.  But I'm not one to question instincts, so I used my day off to visit this mysterious preserve.
The entrance to Makamah is located along the northern side of heavily-trafficked Route 25A.  It is bordered on the west by Crab Meadow Golf Course and on the east by Makamah Road.  The first thing I noticed upon arrival was a Suffolk County Parks sign featuring the names of County Executive Steve Bellone and Commissioner Greg Dawson – indicating that the tiny preserve is under the jurisdiction of Suffolk County.  However, the preserve isn't included on the county's online list of parks and preserves.  If it were listed, I would've hiked it long ago.  Perhaps it's an oversight, I thought.  To make matters more confusing, a Google search of Makamah Nature Preserve yields a Town of Huntington PDF that offers a brief summary of the preserve and a trail map.  So, perhaps it's a town preserve, I thought.  But no, the PDF stated the preserve was acquired by the county in 1973.  Whatever the case, the preserve deserves a proper online home.  I can't be the only one who was unaware of its existence.

After parking my car all alone at the pebbly entrance, I quickly began following a yellow trail that seemed to switch to white dots after a quarter mile or so.  I wasn't sure if I'd mistakenly strayed onto a neighboring trail, so I backtracked a bit to assess the markers more closely.  Turns out I didn't stray.  Apparently, the dot color just inexplicably went from yellow to white.  Continuing on, I instantly fell in love with the preserve's hilly landscape.  It's rare to find such ups and downs in a Long Island park, so I embraced every second.  The town PDF said the preserve has "heavily wooded hills," with one rising 60 feet in its center and others 100 feet.  The park's eastern portion is also a valley that drains the surrounding area, the PDF stated.  This valley includes a main stream once dammed to create two ponds and feeder streams, some spring-fed.  Other areas of the preserve contain dry and wet woodlands and a marsh.
It was easy to enjoy the Makamah hike with its highs and lows and occasional fallen trees obstructing the trails, requiring me to climb over or duck under them.  The highlight, though, had to be the marsh area along the preserve's northern section.  The trail cozies right up to the marsh, with openings in the high grass giving hikers easy access to the marsh's edges.  I'd decided to do some geocaching by one of the marsh's openings, but I was unable to find the cache despite being within eight feet of it.  One of my friends Chris, whose geocaching username is ZeppelinDT, had found that particular cache last year, according to the logs in the geocaching app.  I flat out could not find it, but that's okay.  My purpose for being there was to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and that mission was accomplished.
My music of choice on this day was Threshold's 2001 album Hypothetical, which I'd bought last year but have only started to appreciate recently.  "Every time I try to climb a mountain, all I find are steeper ones ahead," sang Andrew McDermott on the fifth tune, "Oceanbound."  Sometimes it can take a while for progressive music to click with listeners.  If that happens, toss it aside and revisit it with fresh ears.  Sometimes it'll take a month, sometimes a year.  This album fell into that category for me.  It's a big-time grower.  In fact, it might even place within my list of top 10 favorite albums of all-time – and that's no small feat.  Believe me. 

It took a couple hours to hike the preserve's loop trail and return to the Route 25A entrance.  The PDF said the area has 94 species of birds and is a hotspot for owls and woodpeckers, which I didn't see unfortunately. Toward the end of my hike, though, I noticed the preserve links with Fuchs Pond Preserve, sitting just to its west.  But I decided I'd hike those trails another day, as it was hot out and I didn't want to overexert myself.  No reason to rush it.

Looking back, I'd estimate I hiked about 80 percent of Makamah's trails.  It's hard to know which I hiked and which I hadn't, as unmarked trails seemed to shoot off without warning.  But I enjoyed the trails I did hike and I'd recommend the preserve for other lovers of hills.

Video: Makamah Nature Preserve (360-degree view)



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