The Woods

As kids, we just called them “The Woods”, those patches of forested areas scattered around our Long Island neighborhoods. Some were small, others vast – all were impossible to resist.

When we were young, the woods were mysterious, unknown, even a little spooky, especially if you were in a patch big enough to where getting lost was a real possibility.

Back when the woods covered much more of Long Island, it was common to walk in with friends, get turned around, and come out in another neighborhood, or even town!

Those adventures could really spark the imagination. You could be Robin Hood with your very own Sherwood Forest, or imagine yourself one of the American Indians who used to travel those same paths. You might have even found a real Arrowhead along the way. Many of us did.

Speaking of sparking the imagination, the woods took on a whole new personality at night, when a strange sound or sudden movement could send you running faster than you ever thought possible. Any place that dark, that ancient, can have a kid thinking monsters in no time. And it’s not like there weren’t any urban legends on Long Island to fuel our fear.

 

During the day, however, the woods offered a great place to build a fort where you could hang out with your buddies. Some kids built long, winding paths to ride dirt bikes and go carts. And some just used the woods as a way to cut across neighborhoods. We all knew and used many shortcuts through the woods to school, the stores, our friends house, etc.

Of course, the woods also provided cover, meaning you could do things you weren’t supposed to be doing, like smoking a cigarette, drinking some Strawberry Hill, or meeting your new hormonal interest. The woods also served as stomping grounds for the delinquents that skipped school, or threw snowballs at cars in winter, or launched eggs on Halloween, fireworks on the 4th… You know who you are.

Whether you were an angel or a demon, you probably spent as much time in those woods during childhood as I did, at least if you were lucky enough to have them nearby.

 

And maybe later in life, you move away to a part of the country where patches of woods aren’t so common. That’s when you miss those carefree days, smelling the dried leaves and the sap and looking for arrowheads and all the other amazing memories former Long Island kids have of those beautiful woods.

Today, whenever I walk through any patch of trees, it brings those days in the woods back like it was yesterday. How about you? If you have some fond memories of growing up in the woods on Long Island, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

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3 Responses

  1. Howard Davidson says:

    Ahhh…. ‘The Woods’…. So cool to see this! I grew up in Suffolk County in the ‘W’ section. I loved hanging out… in the woods.

  2. Dave says:

    Nice job on that, you seem to be channeling all of my woods memories.

  3. Richard Schaetzl says:

    I can relate to this article with every fiber of my being as I experienced all of those same things. I grew up in Syosset and experienced my first woods adventure at only 4 years old. It felt like I was an explorer in uncharted territory as my brother and I ventured through the forest for our first time. Not long after we entered this less than vast patch of woods we stumbled upon the back of a house on a wooded parsel of land. It was an old yellow house of colonial style and our young storybook minds didn’t even realize it was a home with a street address. To us, it was a house in the middle of the woods. For all we knew, Hansel and Grettle lived there. That was just the beginning of woods exploration for me, a few years later in a now defunct and much larger patch of woods, my brother, two friends and I walked in circles for what seemed like hours. We kept coming right back to the place we started. There were many more adventures after that, basically we covered all the references in the article. Great times!

    I live in the desert Southwest now and I miss those deciduous forests I got to roam on Long Island. I try to visit once a year and love driving down wooded roads. This past October I visited the Muttontown preserve with an old friend and his girlfriend . What a great place, marked hiking trails through plenty of woods. I recommend this place to anyone who may feel inclined to connect with the Long Island woods again.

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