Swing into Summer

“Sanctuary, on a personal level, is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul” – Christopher Forrest McDowell

On June 21, the first day of Summer, we took a hike at David Weld Sanctuary in Nissequogue, on the North Shore of Long Island.  So it turns out I’ve spent decades living just a few miles from this peaceful haven for birds, deer….and of course people; and never visited.  I’d heard of it but always passed by the parking lot on Nissequogue River Road on the way to Short Beach and didn’t give it a second thought.

We’ve been back a few times in the past month and will tell and show you some of the most fun and interesting parts we have explored so far.  As a special treat we have some fun videos and a poll at the end of this post – don’t forget to check it out!!

The hike through the preserve can be done in various routes, some as long as 3-5 miles if you take some of the side trails just before

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Lost and Found in Muttontown

**written by Brandon, age 10**

This morning we drove to Muttontown Preserve.  A lot of our family lives near there.  I went with my younger sister Mia, my dad and my mom.  We packed KIND bars, waters, cameras, a compass, GPS watch and dressed for cold weather.  It still felt cold anyway.

My dad went to the Preserve last year with my 3 younger sisters but I couldn’t go that day.  There are many different trails and it is called part of the Gold Coast estates on the North Shore.  But when my dad and sisters went they couldn’t go really all the way through the Preserve.  We wanted to go all the way to the Walled Garden and the Ruins.

The Ruins were originally a huge mansion deep inside the woods.  It was owned by many people and then King Zog from Albania purchased it in 1951 and never moved in.  Later he sold it, but it was very mysterious.  People said that he buried his treasure in the mansion walls and a lot of people ransacked the house to try to find his treasure.  Later on the estate was demolished because it was falling apart.  I really wanted to go and see Continue reading

Chillin’ in Welwyn

From the Parenting 101 guidebook –  when your 5 year old daughter tells you she’s not thirsty and doesn’t see the need to carry her water bottle while hiking, bring it anyway.  Don’t fall for this Jedi mind trick as I did when I took my 3 oldest kids on a quest to Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove recently.  You think I would learn by now!?!!  Oh, but wait – I sometimes do this Jedi mind trick thing on myself and don’t bring water on long runs on trails during muggy, humid mornings, so….

I read about Welwyn on that thing called the word wide web one day when I was trying to find a new place to explore with the kids.  The forecast was calling for heavy rain a few hours later but I just Continue reading

Sands Point Preserve: A Gold Coast Gem

One of our favorite spots to explore on Long Island is located on the North Shore in Port Washington. The Sands Point Preserve is a unique mix of woodlands, sandy beachfront, breathtaking scenic landscapes, historic education and….FUN!

The estate was created by Howard Gould, the son of financier and railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who purchased the land in 1900. Castle Gould was built with Ireland’s Kilkenny Castle as inspiration. Visitors park in a grassy field nearby as they enter the Preserve and can explore the grounds surrounding the castle and take an exhibit tour.

Castle Gould was originally intended to be Continue reading

Camping at Blydenburgh County Park

Hi, this is Brandon.  I’m 10 years old and this is the first post on 1Quest2theNext that I’m in the Primary Editor of.  I’ve been asking my dad to take me camping and fishing for awhile.  When we lived in North Carolina we used to go to Holly Point to go camping and would get a lot right on Falls Lake.  I caught a catfish there when I was younger (see below):

Caught my 1st fish at Falls Lake in NC years ago

Caught my 1st fish at Falls Lake in NC years ago

We decided to try camping at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown; only a few minutes from our house which is funny!  Blydenburgh is 627 acres total, of which 100 acres are Blydenburgh Lake; also known as New Mill, Weld’s or Stump Pond.  It is known for having really big dog runs for small and large dogs.  You wouldn’t even go more than a short while without seeing a dog.  Fed by the headwaters of the Nissequogue River, it is one of the least developed and most picturesque ponds on Long Island (I got this last sentence from the internet).

Right next to the greek yogurt and eggs in the fridge

Right next to the greek yogurt and eggs in the fridge


We filled a cooler with ice, milk, hot dogs, drinks and more.  We took our tent, a small charcoal grill, flip flops, hiking boots and regular sneakers, a bunch of clothes, some small battery operated fans, camping knives and tools, a hammer for our tent and lots of water.  We had lots of gear from our trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks this summer.  We picked a campsite without too many trees, but there was enough shade and the ground had level spots for our tent.  It had running water and 2 picnic tables.  We setup our tent, put on bug spray, hats, our hiking boots, filled our hydration backpacks and took off for a hike around the lake.


We hiked the blue trail; there was blue paint blazed on trees along the way.  To continue on that trail there were trees with an extra blue mark pointing in the direction of our trail.  They do this so you don’t get lost.  We saw lots of dogs on the trail; greyhounds, labrador retrievers, rottweilers, terriers and many other kinds.  There were also horses that use the trails so you have to watch where you step 🙂

There was a big mudpile and a thin log running across it but it was loose.  Both me and daddy slipped off the log a few times and got lots of mud on our boots.  It didn’t matter because we have good boots and our feet never got dirty or wet during our camping weekend.  We went off the blue trail for a little while without realizing it and came to the Greenbelt (white) trail and hiked that for awhile.


When we were at 3.3 miles completed on our hike, we reached an old mill, an old light-pink colored house.


Then we went up steps towards the Greenbelt Visitor Center, which includes the Weld House, a blacksmith shop and an old kitchen house.  We also met the caretaker of the house and he told us all about the tours that he gives on Saturdays and also around Thanksgiving where the blacksmith lets kids wear goggles and hammer the iron that is burning hot, you can cook things like Apple Turnovers and then eat them and you can take a tour of the visitor center.  It sounded cool and I want to go.  The caretaker was really nice and talked to us about hikes along the Long Island Greenbelt Trail.

Recharging at the Greenbelt visitor center

Recharging at the Greenbelt visitor center

We came back down near the mill and we met a fisherman named Igor who lives in Brooklyn but comes from Russia.  Daddy was talking to him about where he lived in Russia (in Minsk, the capital of the ‘state’ of Belarus) and daddy said his great-grandfather and great-grandmother came from Belarus (city of Babruysk) in Russia too.  Igor liked to take pictures too and told us cool things to take pictures of.  He showed us on the side of the mill house there is an old window with an American flag inside it that was cool.

American flag at the Mill

American flag at the Mill

Igor said he and his wife caught 4 bass fish already and he was wearing a fishing suit so he could go in the lake.  He told us he is going to Montana soon on a road trip and we told him that we just got back from Glacier National Park in Montana.  We told Igor about our website and he promised to keep in touch (the next day Igor wrote to us through the 1Quest2theNext site)!  We finished the hike finally and it was 6.5 miles long!

Our Blue and White (Greenbelt) Trail loop around Blydenburgh Lake

Our Blue and White (Greenbelt) Trail loop around Blydenburgh Lake

My longest hike before this was about 3 miles in Glacier National Park.  Blydenburgh Lake is only about 5+ miles around – daddy ran it last year – but our hike was extra because we did some of the Greenbelt Trail besides the Blue Trail.


We went camping Saturday, Sunday and Monday and hiked a total of about 12 miles!

We made Ballpark hot dogs for dinner on our little charcoal grill.  They were so delicious.  I had 2 and daddy had 3.  We were going to make Smores but all the chocolate melted really bad so we roasted marshmallows instead and that was fun.  We had sleeping pads and sleeping bags and we had brought a little DVD player.  We watched Percy Jackson but the battery didn’t last so we read a bit.  I read “The Magician’s Nephew” by C.W. Lewis and daddy read “Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy.  Then we went to bed.


On Sunday we were going to have cereal but when we went for a ride to the fishing shop we stopped and had breakfast at the Candlelight Diner in Commack.  We go there a lot and I got chocolate chip pancakes.  Then we went to a fishing shop in Kings Park and had our lines re-spooled and got some new hooks and nightcrawler worms.  The worms are from Canada.  We went to Blydenburgh Lake and rented a rowboat and took it out for a few hours.

docks 3


On our boat trip we saw swans, ducks and a bunch of really cool birds that we have to find out what they are called.


There was a lot of seaweed or other kinds of weeds in the lake so it was hard to row for a little while until it cleared up.

What kind of bird am I? Send us a comment

What kind of bird am I? Send us a comment

Then we started fishing but we didn’t catch anything.  We went back to the campgrounds and played some basketball on the court and some nerf football.  Then we bought hamburgers and chocolate from the supermarket and then went back to the lake to fish from the shore.  We did better with the nightcrawlers from Terminal Tackle than the worms from Walmart and we caught a Pumpkinseed Sunfish.  It was so awesome!  We were yelling across the lake to another fisherman and talking about our catches.


We ate burgers and had so many Smores at night and then had a football catch in the dark.  Then we went to bed and got a lot more sleep than Saturday night.

On Monday we got up and went fishing at another sandy spot on the side of the lake less than a mile from where we rented our boat the day before.  We practices casting our lines because we wanted to get better.


We talked to another fisherman and then a lady came with her retriever and we watched him swimming and playing fetch.  The dogs name was ‘Mayes’ or something like it in Spanish.  Then two people on horses with a small dog came into the lake and walked around on their horses.  They were really nice and the dog was so hyper.



After fishing we went by the dog runs to check out the dogs.  At different times during our camping trip we saw at most 15 dogs in the large dog run and they were all playing nicely with each other.  It is almost more a dog park than a people park!  Then we packed up our stuff at the campsite and went home.

I thought it was a really fun camping trip at Blydenburgh Park and I like the lake and when we went fishing.  The other campers and fishermen were really nice – even though the people camping next to us played Christmas music Sunday night!  If you read this you should go there if you like the outdoors.  Thank you for reading my blog post!

– Brandon, 10, of Smithtown, NY


Please make sure your dog is trained to interact with dogs of all sizes and with human beings also!  Please clean up after your dog…

Fishing for pumpkinseed sunfish, large-mouth bass, perch and bluegill is permitted at Stump Pond between sunrise and sunset

Admission and Hours: Sign up for the Green Key Card.  It’s only $24 and your spouse can use it too.  Camping is $15/night.  Boating is a $10 deposit and are available daily from mid-May through Labor Day, 8am-3:30pm.  Check with the park for specific rental fees.

Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Smithtown
Park Office: (631) 854-3713
Camping: (631) 854-3712
Greenbelt Trails Conference Office: (631) 360-0753
Camping Reservations: (631) 244-7275

For high resolution versions of these photos and additional pics of Blydenburgh County Park, please follow this link to the associated photo set on Flickr.  If you would like to use or purchase any of the photos on this site or on Flickr please click ‘Contact Us’ at the top of our site:


And don’t forget to add comments about what you like at Blydenburgh Park; my dad and I are excited to see if you like this quest!

Also, Click FOLLOW OUR BLOG on the website to get notified when we post new quests. Thanks!


Argyle Park

It was Saturday and nice weather.  So..outside we go on another quest.  This wasn’t a first timer; we’ve been to Argyle Park before.  We went last Summer the same weekend as the Polish Town Festival in Riverhead (perogies!) and enjoyed both that day.  I’ve walked the lake many times over the years as well and it’s a good time.

Just off the parking lot is a nice playground, including toddler and regular swings and the slides on the main structure aren’t burning hot.  The playground is in sand for safety.

The Argyle Lake loop is .75 flat miles.  It’s an easy walk and you will find lots of people taking a stroll, speed-walking and running.  Watch out for geese poop!



Brandon, 10:  “We saw 3 swans and 1 of them was guarding the other two.  When we went to take a close picture it started hissing at us.  But then when we walked along the lake it followed us to see what we were up to.”


You can go fishing beginning in Spring and will find the following: Brown Bullhead, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Carp.  Also, Brown and Rainbow Trout are stocked in the lake.

On your visit you are likely to see Wedding pictures being taken, or – if the right time of year – prom photos as well.  Both times we I’ve taken the kids there the girls were so excited to see brides all dressed up.  Sofia and Mia both told me Saturday they want to take their wedding pics at Argyle.  I told them they have time!

the 1st African-American baseball club began at the site of Argyle Park. Very cool!

the 1st African-American baseball club began at the site of Argyle Park. Very cool!

Each September the town of Babylon’s Beautification Society produces the annual Country Fair on the grounds at Argyle Park.  This fun day includes hundreds of crafts vendors, food, entertainment and child rides.  We may give it a try next month!


Alana asked if we could replicate a picture we took last year with her and Sofia peeking around a tree.  The one below is from 2012 and was in Newsday.  I’m not taking any credit;  these kids are just so cute who doesn’t want to put them in the paper 🙂



I took a seat on one of the many benches on the grounds on the park and watched the kids do their thing.  I had to get up a few times when Mia (2) ventured way too close to the edge of the lake and was attempting to reach out and touch a swan;  the same one that had been hissing at me the 2nd half of our trip around the lake.  The kids were playing tag last year; this time it was other games on the grass.  Life is good!


It's this old game, see....

It’s this old game, see….

Sofia asked me to take the shot below; typical.  She reminds me of old super 8 films of my mom when she was a little girl; always trying to model for the camera my Papa was holding…

tree hugger!

tree hugger!

Ok, so this is the schizophrenic swan; who was alternating between trying to scare me off and then genuinely try to follow us around and hang with us.  Doh!


Brandon:  “When we were walking next to the lake I looked over and saw a really small frog hopping on the ground on the edge of the lake.  When we went to touch it the frog stayed still and tried to blend in.”

Sofia, 7:  “Brandon found a frog and daddy put his hand out on the ground and the frog jumped on his hand.  Then it jumped off and then I put my hand down and the frog jumped on my hand and it was so small.  Daddy took a picture and then I told all the walkers and runners going past us that I was holding a frog and showed everyone!”

Sofia and friend

Sofia and friend

Ok, we have consensus; Argyle Park rocks!  Honestly any place that includes a playground my kids are going to be happy anyway 🙂 But it is a beautiful place; the lake view, watching the geese, swans and ducks and also the architecture just off the road in front where everyone takes pics before special events.  Oh, and I’ll have to head back with Brandon to fish soon!


Please understand that for the geese, swans and other waterfowl at the park; this is their home.  This woman was teaching her kids to run up to the geese on the lake’s edge and yell and scare them into the water.  Her kids were copying her.  I made a point to tell my kids thats what you DON’T do, but I didn’t have to; they understood already from all the time we spend enjoying nature.  Ok, enough venting in the ‘notes’ section…

Of course you can bring your dog on a walk around Argyle Lake, please just clean up after it.

Boats are not allowed.  No swimming.

Please don’t feed the waterfowl!  Not trying to be park police, but thinking of their health.

Admission and Hours: It’s free, baby!  Dawn until Dusk.

E Main St, Babylon, NY 11702
(631) 669-1212

For high resolution versions of these photos and additional pics of Argyle Park, please follow this link to the associated photo set on Flickr:


And don’t forget to add comments about what you like at Argyle Park; my kids are excited to see if you like this quest!

Also, Click FOLLOW on the website to get notified when we post new quests. Thanks!

looking fantastic at the lake

Comment on this post if you like it.  Hope you give Argyle a chance soon!

Mashomack Preserve

Ok, so sometimes all you want out of a Sunday is to wake up late, eat some homemade pancakes, and veg around watching cartoons or Goonies on FX. This sounds great to my kids. Me too. Sometimes… Other times we just want to get out of the house, breathe the fresh air, explore something new about nature and then wait almost a year and blog about it. Well, that describes us tonight!

Last September was our first time as a family visiting Shelter Island. We booted up the Mac that morning and hit google to find something unique to do for the day. The fun really began for the kids when we took the ferry from Greenport over. The kids had been on bigger ferries like out in Port Jeff, so this was a different experience on a smaller boat. Once we reached Mashomack, this nice woman who volunteers there showed us maps of the trails and gave us some advice on where to head out to. We made the mistake of taking a jogging stroller as Mia, who was 20 months at the time, wanted to run around (typical). We ended up hiking about 6 miles and Mia walked and ran most of the way!


Mashomack Preserve is a natural area of nearly 2,100 acres which includes various habitats necessary for the survival of many species of plants and animals. 1/3rd of Shelter Island is covered by the preserve.

Mashomack was purchased over 30 years ago with the mission to stop development of this nearly untouched peninsula and to protect one of the larges populations of breeding ospreys on the East coast. The preserve sometimes harbors nesting populations of the endangered piping plover, as well as a number of rare plants. Mashomack is surrounded by 12 miles of coastline and includes open fields, creeks, freshwater marshes, grassy meadows and approximately 1400 acres of oak and beach tree-filled forest. You can walk to the historic Nicoll family graveyard or the 1890s manor house. This is really a special visit, as it is one of the largest undeveloped properties remaining on Long Island.

Several hundred bird species have been viewed at Mashomack Preserve. Other wildlife you may encounter include White-tailed deer, gray and red fox, bats, turtles, herons, ducks, egrets and many other birds. We took the green trail which was to be about 6 miles roundtrip. There were 5 trails totalling about 22 miles to choose from; 1.5, 3, 6, 12 mile loops and a 1 mile wheelchair-accessible trail close to the main visitor center.

Brandon, 10: “On a break when we were taking a picture on a cool stone bench I looked under it and I saw a huge spider web with a lot of spiders on it.”



We stopped under a small covered bench on a bridge and watched people fishing for

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Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge

Driving out to eastern Long Island on a weekend during the Summer would be considered crazy by some.  Well, keeping 4 kids’ from being bored can be quite a challenge if they are in the house or going to the same playground again and again.  So off we went Sunday to the Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge, a 187-acre peninsula on Noyack and Little Peconic Bays.

There are a variety of intriguing and fun adventures to experience at Morton; this includes feeding birds by hand, getting a peek at Wild Turkey sneaking into the high grass with their babies, playing on the beach, watching ducks and other waterfowl in the ponds and much, much more.  There are manicured trails to hike and wood bridges to cross and too many bird types to mention all of them.

It was a hike out to Sag Harbor, but we packed Continue reading

Avalon Park and Preserve

Mill Pond is well known by those who pass down 25A on their way to West Meadow Beach or the museums in Stony Brook. Lots of waterfowl to watch on a quick stop before going out to dinner on the North Shore. The Grist Mill across the street on Harbor Road has been a frequent field trip for youngsters from the Three Village and Smithtown schools (Grist Mill post is coming soon!). However, just behind the pond is a terrific place to spend a morning or afternoon with your significant other, your kids, even your dog!

Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook has a variety of fun things to do. First we stopped at Mill Pond and saw geese, ducks and swans. A few geese got in a fight – we were wondering if it was over food, territory or a female. Anyway, as you enter the park you pass a large helpful map (see below), a wooden path with beautiful flora including Tiger Lillies and Green Pond to your right (behind the caretaker’s house). Further along you will reach a wooden bridge. When we visited this summer there were a few turtles and a mama duck and several babies floating by. I was there with my whole family and the kids – Mia (2), Alana (5), Sofia (7) and Brandon (10) all enjoyed watching the animals and asking Continue reading