This is the one in which I remember why I used to never go outside.
Welwyn Preserve stands on the north shore where the GPS gives out and across from a camp. Buses lined themselves up so that cars could not pass. The GPS flickered on to tell me to go elsewhere after I sat behind buses for ten minutes. I wound up exactly where I’d been, behind more buses. I texted the captain that I was about to give up. Then someone from the camp waved his arms dramatically, instructing cars to go around. I crept up and turned sharply in front of the front bus that was idling right in front of the entrance to the preserve.
Once in the preserve, there are no signs, so I careened around the woods, hoping that I was going the right way. Capt was waiting in the parking lot. When I got out of the car, the temperature had risen by about 20 degrees from when I’d left my house, which had been about an hour before. I offered some bug spray, and Capt was like, It’s a short walk so we won’t need it. I managed to spray my sunglasses with the gross stuff when I sprayed my backpack, and then used the other more natural kinds on my hair and skin.
We started to venture into what we thought was a path but didn’t know for sure. Then Capt was like, I need bugspray. I waited at the kind-of-trailhead, and already had some sweat happening along with bugs in my ears. Welcome to my lifelong nightmare.
This hike was, like, woodsy. Overgrown. Tangled vines. Dead ends that required backtracking. Canopies of spiderwebs. I had on pants, so I wasn’t concerned about ivy—and there was a lot of it—but then the narrow paths narrowed more, and getting through required head down, arms up shuffling. Bugs hovered around my ears and eyes. This was as bad as Lord of the Flies road in Caumsett. And worse because, it just was.
We came to a tiny clearing that seemed to be the ruins of something, but there wasn’t much. It was weird, for sure, but not much. Just a dog statue and some other concrete stuff in a space about 10 by 10. Then off onto another narrow path that really wasn’t a path. More doubling back. More eating and inhaling bugs.
We bumped into a woman and her dog in another tiny clearing where paths met, and she directed us to the beach. I was like, We are following her. We did, and in a few minutes, Capt was like, Do you see it? I was like, All I see in front of me is your back and plants. He leaned to the left. Oooh, I saw it. There was a wall and then the beach and then the water.
I do not know what used to be here, and I do not know how that woman and an entire family found their way to this beach without going through the dense flora we crawled through. It was weird. Still worth it. Maybe a boardwalk used to be there—benches and steps made of concrete still stood there, but it didn’t go anywhere. The wall went for a bit, and there were some other trees-cut-into-benches lying around. We got down onto the beach to walk, and we had to climb over boulders to walk the length of the beach. Basically, everywhere we went had an obstacle.
When we got towards the end of the beach, we saw the family clamming. The water seemed to be a brook coming from somewhere up in the woods and down into the sound. It got really low, and we tried to cross, but there wasn’t a span where our shoes wouldn’t get wet. We headed up a hill and found armies of fiddler crabs. Then we spotted a sign that indicated across the little brook was private property. The Capt’s dreams of climbing up on the pier in the distance were now dashed. Actually, he probably would have gone and done it if he were on his own.
On the way back towards civilization, we found a much wider path marked with red dots. Where was this path on the way towards the beach? We have no idea how we got there. You’d think that a wider path would mean fewer bugs, but no—this only gave them more room to swarm. We trudged our way up and found the road we’d driven on the way in. Then I looked right and was like, Hey there are the ruins. Visible by simply turning your head, there were a bunch of graffitied buildings on the grounds. A woman who used to work at the camp across the street found them at the same time we did. I told her about Zog’s legacy in Muttontown. I did not tell her about the shirtless ghost.
Then my shoe broke. Part of the sole detached itself from the other part of the sole. A sure sign that this hike was coming to a close. We went to use the bathrooms in the museum that shared the grounds, but they were open to only patrons. The nightmare continues. Would this be the day I break out the spout? Imagine that horror show—all swassed up and needing to peel off my pants to pee in the buggy forest. I may as well just pee my pants.
Back at the cars, Capt said he’d find a library for us as I changed out of my shoes into flipflops. Sure enough, a public library was nearby. Capt saves my bladder from uncertain UTI territory. Out of all the things I’ve learned about hiking and being in nature, the best lesson is to know where the closest library is. It’s genius. Simply genius.
We found the library, but the GPS didn’t want us to get there. It had us pass the parking lot and drive around the block. Capt wound up at the post office. I wound up finding the back entrance to the lot. Oh sweet heaven, air conditioning and clean bathrooms. This is the upside of paying taxes.
And here’s a photo that clearly shows my mad backpack game. It’s as if I have a small child attached to me every time I hike.