A diverse and unusual extravaganza of ecosystems awaits you at Cheesequake State Park – including salt and freshwater marshes, a cedar swamp, pine barrens, and a hilly hardwood forest. If anyone needs more motivation to come along, just show them the satellite view of Hooks Creek Lake Beach – a perfect white sand crescent open for swimming in the summer and playing year-round. You could also mention the crabbing bridge, reached via a long stretch of boardwalk through wide open swaths of flaxen marsh grass that shimmers and sparkles like an array of sun filaments. From there, the blue trail weaves through pine barrens and dense hardwood forests, along elfin corridors with moss tucked into the edges. A few dramatic elevation changes make for some Escheresque boardwalk sections and lovely overlooks betwixt tree limbs.
We followed the blue trail loop, which joins the red and green trails before passing the nature center (closed at the moment) and meeting the yellow trail to return to the beach. If it has recently rained, wear boots as the hillsides can be slippery and small portions of the trail a mucky mess.
Typically, when the beach is open (for swimming) after Memorial Day, so is the snack bar. There are groves of picnic benches, a playground, campsites, and parking areas with various trail jumping on points throughout the park. You can swim, fish, crab, kayak, camp and footpath here.
AS A WINE….
I’m having trouble reconciling the big prairie sky and shimmering grasses with the nooks of moss and mushrooms in the pine hollows. I guess it’s the full Pinot Noir grape repertoire – from an expressive sparkling wine to an earthy, endearing red wine.