Lily Pond County Park

Location: Nesconset, NY

Size: 90 acres

Date of hike: June 8, 2014

Lily Pond County Park is one of those spots I like so much that I hesitate to even talk about it.  If I like a spot, you’d think I’d be excited to sing its praises.  But this park is such a little-known location that if I do so, it could potentially attract more people – and it'll cease to be little-known.  Talk about a conundrum.  Or, in this case, a "pond-undrum," for my readers that appreciate a cheesy play on words.
 
I couldn't find much historical information about Lily Pond online, but as a Lake Ronkonkoma native I must’ve passed this park hundreds of times – perhaps even thousands.  Its entrance is located on Smithtown Boulevard directly across from the recently razed Bavarian Inn, and just a stone’s throw from Lake Ronkonkoma itself.  There is not much parking available, just a short dirt patch that fits two or three cars.  If the park attracts more visitors than that, they would have to park a block away at a shopping center on the street’s north side.  They also have the option of using the nearby parking lot for Lake Ronkonkoma County Park.  Either place is two minutes by foot to the entrance of Lily Pond.  A short walk for a great hike.

After reaching the entrance, I went down the dirt path until I hit a locked gate that looked like it hadn’t been opened in a while considering the thick overgrowth behind it.  At first, I thought the pond might be off-limits to the public.  But my friend Chris, a geocaching enthusiast who had recommended the park, told me it isn't off limits at all.  That was when I noticed a small path off to the side that went around a fence.  Within a few seconds, there it was: Lily Pond.  My initial impression was it felt like a lil' Lake Ronkonkoma, which is fitting as the two seem to be connected beneath the boulevard.  But more on that later.  Now, it was time to explore.

To set the mood, I grabbed my iPod and loaded the latest addition: IQ’s The Road of Bones.  It’s a neo-progressive rock album released the month before, and it instantly rocketed to the top of the genre’s rankings on ProgArchives.com.  Its dark and emotional tunes were perfect accompaniment for a little trail time.  After inserting my ear buds, I had a choice of following the trail left or right.  When faced with forks, I'll usually pick right.  So I did just that.  I found it hard to believe the main road was less than a quarter-mile away.  It all felt so secluded.    

Since it was summer,  the branches and bushes were all filled out making for a narrow path.  It made me nervous to think ticks might have easy access to me, and I constantly stopped to check my legs and arms.  Every 20 yards or so, short side paths would lead to the pond.  I stopped at each one, taking in the views.  I passed one guy fishing and one with a kayak.  Other than that, it was people free.  Just how I like it.  A little slice of nature all to myself.

It didn’t take long to realize why the pond was named Lily Pond.  It had to be the lily pads.  There were stretches of reflective water dotted with bright green pads floating in the middle.  It made me feel the energy of the indians that roamed there long ago.  I could picture them drifting in canoes.  I could see them fishing on the shore.  I could feel them all around me.

After leaving, I walked over to Lake Ronkonkoma, which was filled with families.  I imagined the active lake likely looked a lot like the calm pond years ago, before the human element.  In that instant, I felt like I just experienced the ol' lake for the first time – over at Lily Pond.

Video: Lily Pond County Park (360-degree view)

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