Daniel R. Davis Sanctuary

Location: Coram, NY

Size: 66 acres

Date of hike: March 22, 2015

Daniel R. Davis Sanctuary offers a secluded hike through the woods just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of Middle Country Road in Coram.  I had first stopped by the sanctuary last month, but its unplowed parking area forced me to postpone my plans.  We received an absurd amount of snow this winter and it seemed that the region's smaller parks didn't get much love from the plows.  Daniel R. Davis and Kempf Preserve at Wading River, which are both under the jurisdiction of the Nature Conservancy, were two parks I'd tried to visit without much luck.  However, with warmer weather arriving, the snow had melted just enough for me to navigate the access road to Daniel R. Davis.

Before exploring, I researched the sanctuary to familiar myself with its history and habitatsApparently, it came to be when the "last great ice sheet" retreated 8,000-10,000 years ago, causing melted water and winds to carry fine pulverized rock to the region, according to the Nature Conservancy's website.  "The result is an acidic nutrient-poor soil that extends well below the tree roots," the website said.  "Since the rain drains quickly, the area is dry and has been scorched by wildfires through the years, with little plant life able to withstand its conditions."  Pitch pines produce flammable oils, waxes and resins that can help trigger fires, the website said, as evidenced by charred bark that can be found in some spots.  Regarding ownership, John G. Erhardt and his bother Charles J.R. David donated the property's first 40 acres in 1964, and Daniel Davis Erhardt gave a final parcel in 1988.

The sanctuary's entrance is located on Mount Sinai-Coram Road, just a stone's throw north of Middle Country Road (NY Route 25), and the parking area is big enough to fit three cars.  There were no other tire marks upon arrival, telling me I was the first person to visit it in at least a week.  The other thing I noticed is how easy it is not to notice the sanctuary at all.  Despite having GPS, I drove past it twice because the sanctuary's sign is set so far back.  You can miss the sign completely if you aren't specifically looking for it, and I wouldn't be surprised if hundreds of people pass it daily without knowing it's there.  I only knew of the sanctuary's existence after researching spots under the Nature Conservancy's jurisdiction.  Their quaint preserves continuously impress me and I had begun to check them off my list.

After parking, I stopped at a kiosk displaying a map of the trails.  It consisted of a loop trail with a second loop starting about halfway through the first loop.  There was some snow on the trails that had yet to fall victim to the sun, likely due to the canopy of branches above, and I savored it by marching in the slush whenever possible.  The trails were well-marked, but for some reason I couldn't seem to find my sense of direction.  There are no identifiable landmarks or waterways in the sanctuary, and it's all relatively flat terrain.  This inspired me to lay branches in the shape of an "X" at each intersection so I knew where I'd already been. 

I also looked for two things I'd read about online: 1) Boundary ditches made by 18th century settlers to mark property lines before the invention of surveying instruments; 2) Dirt mounds where small mammals and reptiles burrow to shelter themselves from the microclimate and wildfires.  However, you won't find too many birds.  Pine barren habitats lack the ecological variety to support a diverse bird population, the conservancy said.  This maintains a unique ecosystem, as the scarcity of birds dispersing seeds reduces the likelihood of new plants.

My music of choice was Steven Wilson's Hand. Cannot. Erase, which came out last month.  It's a concept album inspired by the case of an English woman named Joyce Carol Vincent, who passed away in 2003 but remained undiscovered for nearly three years.  It's a powerful album that is definitely one of the year's best, and it was perfect company for my nice hike.

The entire hike probably lasted an hour.  Personally, I prefer a little more diversity of habitats in my hikes, but I'd certainly recommend the sanctuary for those living nearby and craving a quick little escape.  After all, we all need an escape sometimes.  We all need a sanctuary.



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