As Francis’ visit on Long Island was coming to an end, we decided to do some geocaching on the Eastern end of Long Island. The weather reports for Saturday looked rather gloomy, but since we haven’t geocached together in a while we were determined to go rain or shine. I put together a pretty busy itinerary of almost 30 geocaches in the Maple Swamp County Park as well as in the Hubbard County Park, close to Riverhead, on the south fork of Long Island.
The ride over to the park entrance didn’t do much to alleviate our weather-related pessimism, as it was raining, quite heavily at times. After we passed Riverhead, the weather calmed down a bit and by the time we hit the trailhead on Pleasure Drive (no joke) off of CR 104 there was no sign of rain.
We found the first few geocaches that were pretty much on the Paumanok Path and actually started to enjoy the place. The trails were devoid of people, which no doubt was in part due to the weather but I still think this park receives significantly less visitors than its more well-known counterparts. Which is a good thing, I don’t really people all that much anyway.
When we got to the northern part of the park we realized this place must have been burned down recently. All deciduous trees were dead while all the pines around then flourished – either as seedlings or as survivors. The lack of people combined with the mostly dead forest and an unusually gloomy sky created an interesting atmosphere, one of serenity and solitude.
Sure, there were some first spring flowers but they didn’t really fit into this whole image. It didn’t really matter because shortly we after started to head back south, the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard started what I assume were some sort of airborne exercises from their local Gabreski Airport base. I guess it goes without saying that the loud noises of low-flying HC-130N Hercules cargo planes and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters did not add to the serene image very much either. I am not sure what was going on but it seemed like they took off, circled around once or twice and landed. And over and over again.
The weather seemed to be taking a turn for the worse, so we headed south, back to the power lines. We decided not to bushwhack to the last cache in the area, but rather use the north-south running fire roads and walk the extra mile or so. The topography here is surprisingly diverse, who would have thought the glacier-shaped morphology can have such steep hills. In general though, only the southern part of the park is rather hilly, the north is pretty flat. We followed the power lines back to the car and picked up another two caches.
At this point we have already picked up 15 or so caches and racked up almost 9 miles. Not bad but we were still not completely exhausted and moved to the northern part of the park. There were still three caches left and seemingly easily accessible from the trailhead close to the Owl Pond. The weather improved all of a sudden and made the extra two or so miles little less tiresome. Essentially, we looped around the Own Pond partly on the Paumanok Path and partly on a trail marked by light-yellow blazes, which brought us back to CR24 and had to walk back to the trailhead on a shoulder. All in all an unpleasant ending.
There is still more caches in the area, especially the two multis along the Spinney Road, that could be nicely done on bicycles, plus one DNF and one out-of-the-way cache we left alone. From here we moved into the Hubbard County Park, which lies just north of this trailhead, across CR24.