Project Spotlight – Autumn 2020

We rolled out a new series this fall called “Hike Long Island” where the goal was for our students to explore new trails from the North Shore to the South Shore. We’ve spotted evidence of glacial erratic and deposits from the last ice age, compared other meadow habitats, talked about succession and the forest environments, looked at watersheds, seen deer rub and observed wildlife! All while socially distanced and wearing masks of course.

Our third hike in the four-part event took place at Uplands Farm Sanctuary and Cold Spring Harbor State Park. The Uplands Farm Sanctuary managed by the Nature Conservancy, has a unique history of being a dairy farm back in 1920-1962. Before then, it was thought that sheep ranching for wool was taking place. We met right near the silos and began our hike around the quiet meadows (formerly cattle trails) of the Daniel P. Davison trail and the West Loop. Our students led the way as they practiced reading the blazes and trail markers. Upon reaching the eastern end of the loop, we took a connecting trail into Cold Spring Harbor State Park.

The Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt trail extends about 21 miles to Massapequa, which is pretty crazy. We stuck to just the Cold Spring Harbor portion, a little over 5 miles to go out and back. After entering from the trailhead, we quickly experienced the hilly terrain. Up and down, up and down, just like a rollercoaster. On this beautiful day that was rather warm for the time of year, we got some fresh air and hiked in a new place. We chose to do a sit spot at the highest point, a perfect scenic overlook of the brackish Cold Spring Harbor. The water was like glass- so calm and quiet. During these sit spots, we spend about 10 minutes just taking it all in. Often times when we are walking and there is a lot of hustle and bustle, we may not notice but the wildlife have already spotted us and altered their behavior. Birds might stop singing, deer may retreat to the woods, squirrels might race up a tree. The idea is become a part of nature rather than just being in it (something I learned from our friend George Bumann in Yellowstone). Some of us jotted or sketched in our journals, others just sat still and looked out on the water; everyone had their own unique way of feeling connected to nature at that very moment.

We had a vote to follow the trail along St. Johns Pond on our way back. We explored the same trail from a different perspective- I thought it was much harder and hillier from this side!

While we were climbing up a steep hill, or I should say while the students were waiting for me to catch up, one of our volunteers flipped over a rock and low and behold there was a red-backed salamander! How cool since this was a more acidic, dry, mesic environment. You never know what you may find and it was such a fun day! We even got a new president elect while we were hiking in the outdoors away from the screen!