Take a walk to Hanging Rock in Richmond #RI

hangin rock bridgeThe round-trip walk to Hanging Rock is less than two miles, but it’s a pretty good work-out with some ups and downs and a couple of spots that demand mindfulness.

The trails to Hanging Rock wind through the Bradner Preserve, maintained by the Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust in southern Rhode Island. The 63-acre preserve is one of several wild places in the rural community; the others are featured on the Richmond Conservation Commissions website.

The canopy here is varied, dominated by American beech, oak and white pines with many yellow birches and some hickory. All but the beech and pine tress have dropped their hanging rock walk sign croppedleaves, so you can see though the woods for a long way off. Over the weekend, we spotted four deer running about 100 yards away in the middle of the day.

Throughout the preserve, old stone walls say the land was farmed, probably for livestock, because the land is much too rough for a plow.

From a little parking area on Gardiner Road, take the blue trail though a grove of immature beech trees and over a rocky spot that demands attention. The trail turns to the right here. Soon after, you can continue straight ahead on blue or turn onto the yellow trail which re-joins the blue trail just before Hanging Rock.

The blue trail has two sturdy bridges over streams that must be crossed. The yellow trail has one short bridge and requires a stream crossing. This time of year, with extremely low water, the crossing is easy, but when spring comes, it may be difficult.

hanging rockJust up the hill from the stream, turn right onto the blue trail, and look up to see Hanging Rock. An “erratic” left by the great glacier, Hanging Rock rests atop a massive outcrop. The trail loops around it.

Though the trails of the Bradner Preserve are too rough for a stroller, they are ideal for a family walk with children;

For a trail map, click here.

To find more places to hike and paddle in Rhode Island, visit ExploreRI.org.

New bridge completes Grills trails in Westerly & Hopkinton #RI

New bridge enhancedHarvey Buford, left, and Ted Dionne complete a day’s work on the new bridge over Tomaquag Brook yesterday.

A new bridge, connecting the Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI to the Grills Preserve in Westerly RI, may be ready for hikers this weekend. The span crosses Tomaquag Brook, connecting the 3.1-mile trail from the trailhead off Route 216 in Hopkinton (pictured below) to the parking area on Bowling Lane in the village of Bradford.

Tomaquag trail at sunsetThe top of Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI at sunset yesterday

The new bridge, built by volunteers from the Hopkinton Land Trust, is less than a mile from the Polly Coon Bridge, an aluminum span, built by the Westerly Land Trust, over the Pawcatuck River.

The new bridge over Tomaquag Brook is 55 feet long, said Harvey Buford. It is about a foot higher than the 100-year-flood mark, but the boardwalks leading to it probably will be submerged in times of flooding, he said.

The new bridge has fiberglass braces and black-locust wood walkways that should endure for 100 years or so, he said.

Both of the Grills sanctuaries offer wildlife a variety of habitats, and hikers can enjoy some gorgeous New England scenery and sounds throughout the year. (For the past week, barred owls have been hooting away during the day.)

Trail maps ave available online from ExploreRI.org.

Paddle Hopeville Pond in Griswold, CT

Hopeville Pond croppedWhen you’re looking for an easy paddle on a pretty pond, consider Hopeville Pond in Griswold, CT.

It’s a lovely, long and narrow pond formed when the Pachaug River was dammed.

Donn paddling Hopeville Pond croppedThe Pachaug was a major fishing ground for the Mohegan Indians, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection which manages Hopeville Pond State Park. “At low water the stone weirs, constructed by the Indians at angles from the river banks, are still visible,” according to the DEEP website. “These weirs directed water flow as well as eels, shad, and other fish toward the center of the stream where the Indians placed baskets to trap them. Until blocked up by a dam, constructed in 1828 at Greenville, shad passed up the Quinebaug River in great numbers.”

If you go, get there before the end of October when the park’s main gate will close. It will re-open in April. The large playing field near the entrance on Route 201 is open year around. To find it, set your GPS to 929 Hopeville Rd., Griswold, CT.

The boat launch has already closed, but you can launch easily at the swimming beach. The park also offers some delightful hiking. For a map, click here.

My dog Penny and I hiked there last week, and my brother Donn (pictured here) and I paddled there today. We plan to return frequently, and the next time, we will pack fishing rods.


First day of fall is a beauty

Donn on Shaw Pond croppedThe first day of autumn dawned in rain in southern New England, but by noon, the rain clouds had disappeared. This afternoon is perfect for a hike or paddle beneath brilliant blue skies with a light breeze.

Tomaquag Trail first day of fallMy wife Marie and I headed for the Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI (at right) with our Brittany, Penny. It was lovely, especially now that all of last winter’s storm damage has been cleared. Several stretches of the white-blazed trail are wide enough for two hikers to walk side by side. The trails are all flat and easy, but exposed roots make them inaccessible to wheelchairs or strollers. Click here for great guide to many of Rhode Island’s trails and paddling spots.

To the north, foliage is beginning to take on its autumn colors. The first fall pastels are visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike near Jacob’s Ladder. And maples near streams and ponds are very red.

Friday, my brother Donn (pictured above) and I paddled Shaw Pond in Becket and Otis MA where we spent our summers as kids, and saw some lovely scenery. It will be even brighter next weekend. Click here for a guide to outdoor activities in the Berkshires.

Lots of guided hikes in #RI this week

A newly built granite bridge over Wine Bottle Brook in the Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI.

A newly built granite bridge over Wine Bottle Brook in the Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI.

Autumn begins with lots of outdoor activities in Rhode Island, including several guided hikes offered by the Rhode Island Land Trusts Council. They are features of Land Trust Days which started Aug. 1 and continue through the end of September. Bring a friend to enjoy the scenic views, green spaces and working farms that are Rhode Island’s 47 land trusts.

Saturday’s walks include a visit with migrating monarch butterflies in Little Compton, a bluebird walk with children’s activities in Cumberland, a full-moon walk in Glocester, strolls through historic farms and more. There will be 10 in all. Two more walks, in Narragansett and Jamestown, are scheduled for Sunday.

For the whole list of coming guided walks, click here. To find maps of more trails maintained by local land trusts and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. visit exploreri.org, a great resource for hikers and paddlers in southern New England.

Discover 825 miles of trails in southern New England

Connecticut residents, and the rest of us who live in nearby Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, are lucky to be near the Nutmeg State’s Blue Blazed Hiking Trails. They cover 825 miles and pass through 88 towns. This video is a great introduction to some of the hiking possibilities.

Sparkling span links Grills trails

Grills bridge

The Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI and the Grills Preserve in Westerly RI offer some lovely walks in a variety of habitats. Now, a sparkling steel bridge over the Pawcatuck River connects them, offering lots of hiking opportunities..

Grills flowersBoth properties are owned and maintained by land trusts in their communities, and August is Land Trusts Month.

The Grills Preserve, owned by the Westerly Land Trust, has more than 500 acres with over two-and-a-half miles of frontage on the Pawcatuck River. There is a large parking lot with an information kiosk at the end of Bowling Lane, off Route 91 in the village of Bradford.

The Gruills Sanctuary, owned by the Hopkinton Land Trust, is smaller, but equally beautiful. The entrance is on Chase Hill Road, at the intersection with Route 216.

Earlier this summer, the land trusts celebrated the opening of the new Polly Coon Bridge, a narrow, steel span over a  usually sleepy stretch of the Pawcatuck. (In June, with record rainfall, the river roared.

The bridge is hard to find from the Hopkinton side. Follow the white-blazed Tomaquag Trail that starts in a farm field near the parking lot. (Note the cool stone bridge over Wine Bottle Brook.) Turn right onto the red blazed trail and follow that to the end, and then turn right and follow the trail to the bridge.

Grills trailFrom the parking lot at the end of Bowling Lane in Bradford, take the red- and blue-blazed trail to the right of the kiosk. Take the first right onto the blue trail and follow it over two small bridges for about 25- to 30-minutes. When the blazes end, keep going along the river, and you will find the shiny new bridge on the right.

Most of the trails offer easy footing, but they are too rough for a wheelchair or stroller. You can easily, and enjoyably, spend a whole day in the two properties. The sanctuary on the Hopkinton side, has lots of beautiful benches along the trails, and picnic tables near the parking lot.

Rhode Island has 48 trusts that belong to the state’s land trusts council, and most of them offer recreational opportunities for families. During Land Trust Days, through the end of September, there will be more than 60 guided walks on land managed by trusts and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

For maps and information, visit ExploreRI.org.