Where: Dennis Paulson Warbler Woods, Yaphank and Prosser Pines, Middle Island
What: Hike (trail, unpaved)
Snacks: Coffee Booths, Selden
Let’s begin! I used to think Dennis Paulson was a gorgeous, unloved stretch of trail. Truly, I romanticized it before I ever stepped foot in it. Now, having gone a handful of times, I rescind the romance.
Do you have those hikes where you’re uncomfortable the entire time? I don’t know if it is the lattice work of unmarked trails, the thorny overgrowth, the mosquitos that defy repellent, the scattered hunting perches or the abundance of debris (chip bags, broken glass etc.) -Dennis Paulson is always uncomfortable. It felt a little like I was auditioning for a horror movie.
The park is unfriendly right off the bat with its fallen trees, natural trail blockades and thorns. It’s almost like Suffolk County wants nature to reclaim the trials.
Things start off difficult because the trail head isn’t an easy find. Addresses are strewn across the internet but your best bet is to use the address for the Middle Island Country Club. Keep your eyes peeled, if you’re coming from the south look right after the cemetery in the Yaphank Historic District. You’ll see a small break in the trees that opens to a small parking lot. Two cars would fit comfortably, three cars might mean someone gets blocked in. I’m always the only car.
Once you’re away from the noise of the road, it is so quiet here that every time a twig snapped I was expecting a Little Red Riding Hood scenario. Big bad wolves love weary travelers. My GPS thought it would be a great idea not to map my route so getting back out through the lattice work of trails took some finessing. The trail splits and splits again. Without maps or markers it is incredibly easy to get lost. All in all, over a couple of visits I spent about three hours wandering; each time choosing a different trail combination. Each time feeling uneasy.
I should have brought bread crumbs. If you veer left through the trail network, you’ll eventually end up behind the Middle Island Country Club. Veer heavily right and you end up in someone’s backyard. Part of the trail runs parallel to Shannon Boulevard and there are connecting trails into the neighborhood. You know a hike isn’t great when your favorite part is accidentally trespassing.
Bug bites sustained: 17
If you fear getting lost, definitely bring a friend and a tracker. If you have time to meander with no desire for views beyond the woods this might be the place for you. Wear plenty of bug spray and wear clothing that you don’t mind getting snagged. Bring a bag to help collect garbage and watch out for the random patches of broken glass that cover the trail. I don’t know how such an empty place can have so much litter.
Try hiking in colder months. There should be fewer defiant mosquitos and less lively thorns.
Onward from Dennis Paulson, I stopped at Prosser Pines. Make a right out of the parking lot and follow RT 21. Prosser Pines will be roughly a mile north on your right. If you reach Longwood Schools you’ve gone too far. The parking lot is significantly larger than Dennis Paulson.
There are always people milling around the parking lot. It seems like a better tailgate spot than a hiking trail. Frequent police cars as well. But, go in, breath in the pines. Stroll around. There isn’t a true trail here, between tree removal over time and fallen branches it is a free for all. A small map (not pictured) at the trail indicates a loop. If you get lost and end up in the backyard of the adjacent home, just apologize. They share a driveway with the park parking lot, so I’m sure they’re used to it.
A rough hike day calls for a mega snack. I present to you, Coffee Booths. Local coffee shop that feels like you’re walking into someone’s living room. The shop is always lively and the owners are super friendly. Cash only. My snickers latte had a better time outside today than I did.
See you on the trails!