Prosser Pines Nature Preserve
Location: Middle Island, NY
Size: 56 acres
Date of hike: April 30, 2016
I’ll probably never see a
pine tree again without thinking of Prosser Pines Nature Preserve. It's just one of those places I loved from
the moment I set foot on the trail. For
me, it doesn't get any better than walking under a canopy of towering
pines. And, when it comes to towering
pines, Prosser Pines is one of the top spots I have seen so far on Long Island.
Before exploring, I did a little
homework on the preserve to better understand the land I was about to hike. According
to the Suffolk County Parks Department's website, Prosser
Pines is comprised of "a majestic stand of white pines planted in 1812." The preserve's seedlings apparently came from a neighbor's farm and
were brought from Quebec in 1759 by an officer in the French and Indian War. The land is named after the Prosser family,
which owned the property from the early 1900s, with the county ultimately purchasing
the grove in the 1960s. The South Shore
Estuary Reserve Council’s website said the only known woodland on the South Shore that is more ancient is Sunken Forest on Fire Island. Prosser Pines is also one of the current oldest
surviving pine plantations in the eastern U.S., the website said.
With the red-hot Mets playing
a late afternoon game at 4 p.m., I had some time to squeeze in a nice hike on
a lovely afternoon. The first spot I thought of was the small Prosser Pines, which my geocaching-obsessed friend Chris suggested to me a while back. Its
entrance is probably a quarter-mile from
Cathedral Pines County Park on Yaphank Middle Island Road. The parking
area consists of a dirt patch big enough to fit a dozen cars or so, but
only two other cars were there when I arrived.
That's a good sign for me, since I like the solitude of
empty trails as opposed to more heavily-trafficked ones. The parcel is also open to dogs, with the
first thing I glimpsed after parking being a dog walker through a sea of tall trees.
As I said earlier, I was amazed
from the moment I set foot on the trail.
I felt like I had been transported into some sort of glorious "pine cathedral,"
and I couldn't resist spinning myself around to take it all in. A little red bench sat off to the side of the
trailhead with a small red sign indicating the route and shape of the looping
trail, which was probably not more than a mile in length. The preserve was teeny enough that I decided
not to follow the loop though. Instead,
I hiked wherever my legs took me. I started south and parallel to Yaphank Middle Island Road until I
hit a fence, then east and north. My peace increased with every step.
The preserve had a few makeshift teepees created out of
fallen tree limbs, which
was sweet. I went inside each one
and admired the effort it took to make it. One was located alongside the trail,
while another was deep in the preserve's bowels. Another cool sight was adjacent farmland big enough to probably fit dozens of football fields with the only occupant being an irrigation system
that seemed to go on and on. I also took
a quick try at some geocaching, but with no luck.
In total, there were around half a dozen or so caches inside the
My music of choice was Haken,
a London-based progressive metal group founded in 2007. Their new album, Affinity, was released the
previous day, but my pre-order had yet to arrive. In anticipation, I
listened to the band's 2013 masterpiece, The Mountain, and their 2014 EP,
Restoration – the latter of which contains the 20-minute epic, "Crystallised." What a song.
Without a doubt, I
recommend Prosser Pines Nature Preserve to anyone looking for a little hike
that packs a big punch. And don’t be
surprised if you start to have pine tree dreams following your visit to Prosser Pines. They certainly haven't
left my mind since my visit.