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Posted by Bill Hill,
North Country explorer from Edwards NY
May 19, 2020

I recently visited the Baker Woods Preserve in Natural Bridge NY and hiked the northern trails. I was well impressed and made the trek back to take on the southern trails. The one thing that sets these apart from the northern trails is the fact that they are one the other (south) side of the Indian River. You access these trails by boat.

This southern section came to be by generous land donations from Gary and Myra Dake and the Carney Family. A grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) was secured, and the 230 -acre addition was added to the Baker Woods Preserve. This is known as BWP S. The BWP team and the Indian River Lakes Conservancy (IRLC) scored a huge win this addition.

I loaded up my kayak onto the cart and headed for the river, only a few hundred yards. The trailhead is only 200-yards or so upriver, but I went a little further to take in the wetlands in the morning. There were plenty of red-wing blackbirds and even a blue heron that was less than impressed to see me.

From the landing, I followed the Dake loop counter-clockwise to the west. The trails on this parcel are fairly new and not quite as extensive as the northern trails but are every bit as well thought out. You pass through evergreen stands, swamps, eskers, river overlooks, hardwoods, and even through what looks to be old pasture land. You get to see a bit of many diverse sections of woods & water all in one hike.

The porcupine mull is an interesting feature. This is a large boulder pile that the local porcupines call home. These rock crevasses are always attractive to porcupines, and there is plenty of sign to let you know that this is well frequented by the prickly rodents.

For me the highlight of the trip was encountering a juvenile Barred Owl in one of the swamps. It was perched on a fallen tree about five feet off the ground. Given the lack of reaction that the owl showed, I believe it assumed it was invisible. It sat quietly and never moved anything but its eyes. I was able to take some great photos and left it to attend to its business of being an owl.

I had a great morning of hiking (and paddling). With the paddling and hiking, I was just a little short of five miles total for the day. I have been seeking out destinations that are a little bit “under the radar” to keep with social distancing that this COVID crisis has dealt us. The Baker Woods Preserve is perfect for this. The preserve is relatively new, so I’m sure it will gain popularity quickly. While everyone is flocking to the more popular (crowded) trailheads, these are the kind of hikes you should be seeking out. I’m looking forward to experiencing the other IRLC preserves in the near future.