This post is a guest post by researcher Karl Sup and part of a series. The entire series can be found on the right hand side in the favorites posts (LINK).
The springtime had been a very exciting time of hiking and researching in the woods (see reports #6 and #7), and I truly looked forward to the longer days and good weather. The forest was now cloaked in a full canopy and the undergrowth and even some of the trees bloomed in proliferation. Monday, June 6th was the first day I was able to get into the woods.
The ferns were particularly lush and dense. In May they were just barely breaking through the forest floor. Moss was abundant on rock outcroppings and fallen trees and stumps. Traces of fall leaves still graced the nooks and crannies of the forest, but winter was now but a dim memory. I traversed the trails throughout the woods until dusk but didn’t notice any ground glyphs like I did in April and May (see Report #7).
On Saturday the 25th, I headed out on the 495 east toward the far end of the island to research the specific area I had pinpointed. Later I planned to head to Greenport, NY for a well-deserved lobster roll and crab cake.
I pulled up to the forest preserve and found myself to be the only car in the parking lot. I surmised everyone else was out boating or fishing on Long Island Sound this beautiful day. I hiked a loop trail on the west side of the preserve, but didn’t find any collateral or obvious signs of Sasquatch. The eastern trails were far more productive.
It didn’t take long before I came across an inhabitant of these woods… a female Eastern Box Turtle. She seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere and didn’t seem to mind my intrusion until later. Their shells are remarkable with intricate design.
I continued hiking down an overgrown trail that eventually turned into an old overgrown service road. Just to the east I found a single tire and a racquetball in the middle of the woods within 6 feet of each other.
Typically, when I find prints like this, they rarely follow the trail but instead, cross it. The forest litter was pressed firmly into the ground and broken from weight. When I stepped in the leaves to recreate these prints, I didn't make nearly the impact nor the damage these prints exhibited. It was a left and right print, with a partial print (assumed left, based on the trackway).
Locating prints like these can be very difficult and easily passed over if you’re not vigilant and observant. Once you find a single footprint like this, determine the direction of that print and (depending on the foot size) look between 50-80 inches before and after that print. Subsequent prints may be extremely subtle and can only be located using this method. Using that technique, I once located a 17-print track way of 15 inch footprints. Once the stride is determined between the first and second print, it becomes easier to locate them. In this instance, only two full prints and one partial were located.
Further down the trail, two more trees blocked my way. The largest trunk was pushed over with the rotted root ball attached. The smaller trunk did not have corresponding stump, and had been brought to that location. Another 100 yards later I found another set of double tree trunks blocking the road. This time, the larger trunk had been placed there from a location unknown. The smaller tree was still alive, and had been pushed down from its location on the edge of the road. I estimated that it had been pushed down within the past two years. There were no prints or ground disturbances nearby.
It was about that time that I encountered something on Long Island that I had never encountered before: TICKS! They were only wood ticks, but my legs were crawling with 40-50 of them. After a brief 15 minute intermission for inspection, picking, plucking and swiping; I felt I was finally tick free but stayed vigilant the remainder of the day.
I became a little paranoid, as Lyme disease is a serious infection that attacks the immune system and can cause paralysis, encephalitis and meningitis. The first symptom is a red circular skin rash at the bite site, which subsides after a week or two followed by a high temperature, muscle pain and joint swelling.
It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, found in the digestive systems of animals like as mice, pheasants and deer. When a tick bites an animal carrying this bacteria, they can become infected with it. The tick can transfer the bacteria to a human by biting and attaching itself to a person's skin. Lyme disease is transmitted only if the tick remains attached for more than 36 hours. Although you may think it easy to tell if a tick was on your body, they are only a few millimeters in size and do not hurt, so are easy to miss. I found one that I missed the next morning! Be very careful out in the woods and always double check yourself!
After my creepy-crawly scare, I made a turn on a path that headed east past the tire and ball and ended up in a large, bare area of the woods that was well over an acre of sand and fine gravel. I traversed this area looking for prints, but found nothing really conclusive. I was getting hot and sweaty and decided to start back for the car. I hooked up with a trail to the south and continued on that path. After getting back into the dense woods and heading west about 1000 feet, I thought I could hear some additional footfalls to the south of me. I instantly recalled the ‘haunted’ story that brought me to this location in the first place.
I stopped walking and listened. Sure enough, one additional step was taken. I repeated this three more times with the same results. At my last stop, I gave out a little whoop! No response came back from the woods.
I still ponder why it had chosen to communicate in this fashion. In replaying the events in my mind, I must assume that no one had ever 1) communicated back in a fashion familiar; 2) talked to it; 3) showed no fear. Whatever the case, I felt honored to have experienced that. I wasn’t able to return to this location again, but I will certainly never forget it!
I headed east past potato farms that were now wineries, to the sleepy little town of Greenport for some dinner. Sitting out on the dock of the restaurant, looking south toward Shelter Island was a much needed respite.
The cool winds off the water and watching sailboats pass by are one of the things I love most about Long Island.
On the way back, I stopped by beautiful Lake Ronkonkoma to investigate what I could in the waning daylight. Lake Ronkonkoma is Long Island's biggest and deepest lake; it measures about 70 feet at its deepest point.