My hometown of Moriches is the size of a postage stamp. It happens to be made even more invisible by the fact that it sits in the shadow of the almighty Hamptons, but I see the idealism of this little town with clearer eyes these days. During my teenage years, I lamented that it was dull. In graduate school, I used it as a convenient home base. When I left, I wasn’t sure if I would ever return to these few square miles, but it has been a surprisingly lovely few weeks. The places I love are still here with the addition of a farm that makes good coffee, smoothies and acai bowls. But there was an old noteworthy gem that I had oddly, completely missed.
On the line between Center and East Moriches, in a non-descript dirt parking lot off Montauk Highway, is Terrell River County Park. My Mini and my sneakers were coated with gray dust within the seconds it took to study the map posted at the trail head before I ran, determined, into the woods. While I’m sure that you could have shot video of me zipping into the woods for a poignant anti-tick campaign, the glorious adrenalin of running in a brand-new place pushed misgivings aside.
It might have been a new place, but the smell of muck and pine was the most familiar of scents. If Glade Candle made a scent in my honor, I’d be perfectly okay with this acquired taste. It was not lost to me that haven’t shared an accent or the preferred the “how ya doin’?” greeting with the other runs for a decade.
The trail eventually opened up to a tiny strip of sand on Moriches Bay. Coming out of the woods and onto the beach, I had a perfect view of Great Gun Beach. Many happy summer days were spent zipping across that Bay in my father’s less than trusty boat. As I walked the shoreline, which was truncated by green wetlands filled with families of swans, large quartz pebbles clanked under my sneakers. Oh, I remember these same pebbles strewn among the heaping piles of billowing brown seaweed.
Back on the sandy path dominated by pine trees, I ran into a few scampering rabbits and caught the gaze of deer frozen just off the trail. As I neared the parking lot, I heard an owl above my head hoot with gumption. Stopping, I looked far up into the old weather-beaten oak tree, to see his enormous horn framed eyes gazing down with ire through the branches. Owls are strikingly stunning. I’m not sure exactly how long I stood there, humbled, but the shadows had grown long and, at some point, the owl was no longer curious. He opened his wings and leapt skyward leaving me to marvel at how much joy one could find while running through a swamp.
It’s Labor Day weekend, and I’m happy to think of the city people loading the Hampton Jitney and leaving the East End in peace. If they blink, they won’t see Moriches. Just please, don’t tell them about the park.