Smithtown and its surrounding areas seem to be effectively hiding small pockets of soothing wilderness, sparkling lakes, and and rarely trodden pathways leading to lush meadows and tranquil forests.
In the months of summer, countless drivers travel directly past one such place without giving it a passing glance, as its nondescript entrance is all but hidden, just a small gate on the side of the narrow road, accessing a muddy parking lot with space for just eight cars.
A sign proclaims this the entrance to the David Weld Sanctuary, but the sign is also easily missed, as most drivers are focused on their destination, Short Beach which lies just a minute further down the road.
Located in Nissequogue, this little-known preserve boasts several ecological diversities, allowing for a full range of natural progressions and scenic landscapes.
Upon your entrance to the sanctuary, you will see vast open fields to either side of you, with the beginnings of an eager forest brimming on the horizon shortly in the distance.
Though the sanctuary is not large by other preserve standards, it is still nonetheless eager to please and welcome you to its trails. The fields glow golden in the sunlight, and the contrast of green ahead is like a generous swath of paint, providing a rich, inviting atmosphere. It is very likely to see the immediate denizens of the fields scampering across your path, happy rabbits and a multitude of chattering birds. The field and the forest teems with life, and a woodpecker’s tree-knocking is a distant echo, growing closer as you head toward the woods.
As you enter the forest, the green canopy overhead provides shade and comfort, and glistening sunlight streams through the open areas. An occasional butterfly dances before your eyes.
The hiking trails begin here, offering a few options. To the left, a path winds about a small area of marshland, thick with reeds and growth. Ahead, the rustling forest whispers and beckons you explore its mysteries. To the right, an odd mixture of forest and fields.
Traveling around the marshland, the path continues through the forest, which shortly opens gloriously into an open area rife with sunlight and the fresh scent of saltwater riding on the breeze. A grassy knoll exists here, atop the bluffs overlooking the beach and Long Island Sound. On a clear day, you can see Connecticut cutting into the horizon.
The clearing here is ideal for picnics or relaxation, offering peace, solitude, and scenery, and the warm sunlight and cool breeze is the perfect comfort zone.
Nearly hidden by the undergrowth, a small trails winds its way through the brush down to the beach, where you can stroll casually along the shoreline, an ample distance away from the crowded public areas of the beach.
Although these are the most commonly-explored areas of the preserve, the other paths lead to additional bygone eras. Steep embankments and glacier-strewn boulders dot the landscape, remnants of the slowly changing coastline.
A fantastic place for short hiking or to bring the kids for a day of exploration, the David Weld Sanctuary is one of those little hidden pockets of nature waiting patiently to be discovered.