Location: Melville, NY
Size: 175 acres
Date of hike: Nov. 3, 2018
Once I learned of the haunted history at Mount Misery Nature Preserve, I knew I had to hike it. From what I read, a young woman murdered her family with a hatchet in these woods, but we'll get into that a little later. For starters, I should note that I never knew of the creepy preserve until I'd poked around some of the trail guides on the Town of Huntington's website. Needless to say, the word "misery" quickly caught my eye. And within weeks, I was there.
Mount Misery Nature Preserve is considered the "much quieter and less-visited portion" of West Hills County Park found between Old Country Road and the Northern State Parkway, according to the town's online trail guide. The land has canopies of oak trees, understories of low bush blueberry and huckleberry, and thick stands of pine trees. "One can walk here all morning without seeing another person," the guide stated. "Unlike most of Long Island, this land was not suitable for farming and has been relatively uninhabited." There are also legends about ghosts and spirits haunting the property that date back to Native Americans. Some involve stories and sightings of "fantastic creatures" or "strange lights," but the most famous tale portrays a woman who is said to have slayed her family and taken her own life. "Following the gruesome murders, her house sank into the ground, leaving nothing but the chimney," the guide said. "Hatchet Mary's ghost is said to still haunt these woods today."
The preserve's entrance is on Mount Misery Road near the intersection with Hilltop Drive, with a second entrance on Sweet Hollow Road just south of the Northern State Parkway. The second entrance was the one I used, parking along the roadside behind another car. Upon entering the preserve, I had a choice to go left or right. I went right. Unfortunately, aside from a few yellow markers that I stumbled across here and there, the trails are not marked and are very maze-like. So be careful. I probably couldn't have navigated them without a copy of the trail guide and my geocaching app. Also, I mapped out the path I planned to take before exploring in order to cover as much as the preserve as possible. Overall, I'd say that I hiked about 85 percent of the trails over the course of two hours.
For those wondering, I didn't see any fantastic creatures, strange lights, or hatchet-holding ghosts. Nor did I detect the remnants of a chimney from a house that sunk into the ground. However, I did see a few unusual things including a makeshift teepee made out of branches, an abandoned car bumper, and a series of benches likely used for lessons or performances. The preserve's southernmost portion also passed the Presbyterian Church of Sweet Hollow, which was supposedly built in 1829. "The oldest part of this building was originally located down the road," according to the guide. "It was moved to its current location in the 1970s."
With regard to wildlife, you'll see everything from American robins to downy woodpeckers to red-tailed hawks. With regard to plant and tree life, you'll see everything from black locusts to red cedars to tulip trees. My music of choice was Leprous, which is a progressive metal from Norway. I was scheduled to see them the next night in New York City, and I prepared for the performance by playing their 2017 album, Malina. The title track is pure gold, man.
All in all, I'd say Mount Misery Nature Preserve is worth a visit, especially if you take time to also explore the rest of West Hills County Park. I didn't have any supernatural experiences, but I did have a super nature experience. And that's what is truly important to me anyway.
Video: Mount Misery Nature Preserve (360-degree view)