Archive for May, 2017

Big River – West Greenwich

  • Big River – Big River Management Area
  • Nooseneck Hill Road, West Greenwich, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°38’53.88″N, 71°36’25.88″W
  • Last Time Hiked: May 27, 2017
  • Approximate distance hiked: 5.4 miles
  • Moderate, Difficult navigation without map or GPS.

In the 1960’s several local residents were forced to leave their homes here in the area of Big River. The State took the land by eminent domain to build a reservoir. The reservoir, first planned in the 1920’s, was never built and today the large and sprawling property is considered open space with a maze of trails, small streams, ponds, and cellar holes. With that being said, as with all of the Big River property, it is suggested not to wander here without a map, GPS device, or someone who knows the property well. For today’s hike we were led by Sandi of the Appalachian Mountain Club who guided us through the heart of Big River on a nearly five and a half mile trek. Her knowledge of not just the trails, but the history of the property is astounding. I would highly suggest keeping an eye out for any future hikes she may lead here. We started from the main parking area along Nooseneck Hill Road (a quarter mile south of Route 95). From here we followed Burnt Sawmill Road into the Management Area along the paved road until we reached a gate. The pond, with dam and waterfall, on the left is Capwell Mill Pond, fed by both the Carr River and Mud Bottom Brook. Continuing along Burnt Sawmill Road, we were flanked by old trees and telephone poles. At pole 24 a trail, an old cart path, veers to the left. We took it following the old cart path through pine groves and maples before crossing a stream at a wooden bridge that has seen better days. The trails continues, climbing a small hill, passing a couple of stone walls, and a few young pines on the forest floor below the towering ones. The trail splits and narrows, here we stayed to the right and soon came to another trail intersection where we stayed to the right once again. At the next intersection we stayed to the left slightly and then continued straight. The trail to the right would lead you back to Burnt Sawmill Road. Continuing ahead we came to a cellar hole and well on the left. It is not easy to see from the trail and if you do find it, be sure to use caution by the well. The next highlight of the hike comes up on the right. It is the Sweet Family Cemetery with graves dating back to the 1750’s. The trail then passes through another pine grove. This one is quite noticeable as the trees have grown very densely close to each other. Soon after there is a spur trail on the right that leads to the dam on the north end of Sweet Pond. The dam is now breached, intentionally, and Sweet Pond is no more. It is now just a stream through a grass filled basin. Retracing steps back along the spur trail we then turned right, southerly, along the trail we were previously on. Next we came to Sweet Sawmill Road, another old road. Here we turned right and soon passed the south side of the remnants of Sweet Pond. This stretch is flanked by some stone walls and ferns. At the next intersection, a four way, continue straight ahead. A few hundred feet ahead at the next intersection turn right. This is Burnt Sawmill Road once again. Following this road to its end will lead you back to the parking area. Along the way we would come across another cemetery and a former homestead with the only evidence left being a tire swing. Before concluding our hike we did explore a trail to the right that led to a stream that flows between the former Sweet Pond and Capwell Mill Pond. Wildlife is abundant here as it is not uncommon to see deer, coyote, squirrels, chipmunks, and turtles. The property also is carpeted by ferns and wildflowers with birdfoot violet and wild geranium being in bloom at the time of this hike. This is a popular hunting location as well. Orange is mandatory during hunting season.

Trail map can be found at: Big River (courtesy of Auntie Beak)

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Sweet Sawmill Road

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Dam and Waterfall at Capwell Mill Pond

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Block Island Southeast – New Shoreham

  • Block Island Southeast
  • Water Street, New Shoreham, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°10’24.56″N, 71°33’27.22″W
  • Last Time Hiked: May 13, 2017
  • Approximate distance hiked: 4.5 miles
  • Moderate with some elevation, optional strenuous stairs.

 

This walk from the ferry dock in Old Harbor leads to some of the most picturesque sights along the eastern seaboard. Though mostly road walking, the route visits the Mohegan Bluffs and the famous Southeast Lighthouse. In fact this route could easily be done on a bicycle if you choose to ride instead of walk. There are several bike rentals available on the island including Beach Rose Bicycles. Starting from the ferry dock turn left onto Water Street (southerly direction) towards the rotary with the Statue of Rebecca. At the rotary turn right onto High Street and start the slow climb uphill. Traffic tends to be busy here so stay on the sidewalk. The street is flanked by several cottages and B & B’s. On the left is a worthwhile stop. The Nature Conservancy’s Block Island office is here. There are maps available of the islands trails for a small fee. Just behind the Nature Conservancy building is the backside of Abrams Animal Farm which offers a collection of animals including goats, emus, lemurs, and kangaroos. Continuing along High Street you will come to the “last chance” for snacks, water, or supplies at the general store on the left. Ahead you will come to the Block Island School at the intersection of Payne Road. Continuing straight the road becomes Pilot Hill Road and continues to gradually climb uphill and eventually turns to a dirt road. At the top of the hill, 178 feet above sea level, is a monument to the pilots of Block Island. You will notice that the Dodge family dominates the list of names on the monument. Pilot Hill Road then passes John E’s Pond on the right. In May the shad brush that surrounds the pond (and most of the island) is in bloom. Soon Pilot Hill Road ends. Continue straight here and cross the main road into a dirt parking area. From here follow the short path to the first glimpse of Mohegan Bluffs. The view is quite breathtaking and reminiscence of Ireland. From this vantage point you can see the newly built wind turbines that supply power to the island. On clear days to the right you can see Montauk Point in New York. To the left you can see your next two stops, the stairs of Payne Overlook and the Southeast Light. To get to the Payne Overlook retrace your steps back to the main road and follow it to the east. In a few hundred feet there is a parking area with a large sign. The short trail here leads to the top of the stairs that wind nearly 200 feet below. At the end of the stairs, you can make your way down to the beach. It is highly advised to do this at your own risk. From here you get a sense of just how massive these bluffs are as the ocean waves break on the narrow strand. To the east from this point is the open Atlantic Ocean to Portugal. The next stop is the lighthouse. Start by retracing your steps, literally all nine flights of them, up the bluffs. Stop! Take a breather, then retrace your steps back to the road turn right and look for the Mohegan Bluffs monument on the right. The monument gives a short description of how the Mohegan Indians were driven off of these bluffs by the local Manissean Tribe. Just beyond the monument is the famous Southeast Light. Built in 1873, the 52 foot tower, with its lens, offers as a green flashing beacon that can be seen for 23 miles (20 nautical miles). The lighthouse and its museum are open during the summer months. In 1993, the lighthouse was moved inland several hundred feet due to the eroding bluffs. A large boulder sits where the lighthouse once did. For the remainder of this walk return to the road (Spring Street) and turn right. The road will lead you back to town descending for quite a while before coming to the waters edge once again. The road then turns abruptly left and slightly uphill as you pass the Spring House. This will be the first of several famous Block Island Hotels along Spring Street as the walk leads back into town. Spring Street ends at the rotary, continue straight back onto Water Street. The ferry dock will be on your right and several shops and restaurants will be on the left.

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Mohegan Bluffs and the Southeast Light.

Eagle Scout Nature Trail – Plainville

  • Eagle Scout Nature Trail
  • Everett Skinner Road, Plainville, MA
  • Trailhead: 42° 1’30.60″N,71°19’43.37″W
  • Last Time Hiked: May 10, 2017
  • Approximate distance hiked: 0.7 miles
  • Fairly easy with slight elevation.

 

This short trail winds through a canopy of birch, maple, and pine trees. Starting from a parking area along Everett Skinner Road the loop trail begins to the left of the sign. The trail then follows the shore of Old Mill Brook a bit before turning inland and uphill. The trails are mostly covered in pine needles along most of the loop. Be sure to look for and follow the white arrows to complete the loop. There are other trails that spur off of the loop. There is also a “bridge to nowhere” here. It is an observation deck that hovers over a small pond to view wildlife and plants. The loop is short, but several miles can be added to this walk on adjacent properties.

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Bridge Crossing Old Mill Brook

Shelter Harbor – Westerly

  • Shelter Harbor Conservation Forest
  • Westerly, RI
  • Trailhead: Undisclosed
  • Last Time Hiked: May 4, 2017
  • Approximate distance hiked: 2.4 miles
  • Fairly easy, slight elevation. Roots and rocky in places.

 

This wonderful, lesser known forest tucked away in Westerly offers quite a bit. There are four blazed trails (blue, yellow, red, and white) that wind though the woods crossing gently flowing streams. In fact there are several stream crossings along the route of the hike. There is also an old dam that once formed a reservoir for the nearby neighborhoods drinking water supply. Today, it serves as a piece of local history and yesteryear’s craftsmanship. This property also offers several large rocks and boulders. The property is not open to the public unless a guided walk is given. The Westerly Land Trust offers walks every Thursday morning from the autumn to the spring. On occasion they will lead a hike on this property.

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The Old Dam at Shelter Harbor