Sunday, March 29, 2009


Rome Point is a marvelous piece of land that used to be owned by the National Grid but is now the John Chaffee Nature Preserve, for directions click on the link:

I like it when things like that happen, instead of nice places being bought by large corporations and being made into parking lots and towers of glass and steel.
Last Sunday we went on a "birthday hike" as my daughter-in-law called it, as my birthday was the very next day. It seems to be a tradition in our family. Along with me were my husband, both my sons and 1 daughter in law and our nephew. The quickest path to the beach is a straight pathway that is quite wide and goes directly to the beach, several people can walk together most of the time, and it is pretty level and easy to push one of those 3 wheeled strollers.

There are a few paths that veer off from the main path and one could spend a good amount of time to explore them all. But on this day I was on a mission, to see the seals, so we took the straight-away trail directly to the beach. Rome Point has the good fortune of having harbor seals winter on the rocks off of the point. The beach here is very rocky, but there is a great view to the south, where one can see the Jamestown Bridge and beyond.

On Sunday it was gray and overcast, but the lighting was gorgeous, expecially if you are into taking photographs, as I obviously love to do. To get to the area where the harbor seals are, take a left when you get to the beach, and follow the shoreline to the point. Along the way you will pass a beautiful marsh your left side that in the summer has red-winged blackbirds as visitors. There were quite a few families on the point doing seal watching on this day, and many happy dogs frolicking and making new friends. Dogs must be allowed at Rome Point, because I see people and their pals there all the time. My older son had a new camera, so he spent a good deal of time taking pictures and trying out th new zoom lens. The rest of us passed the binoculars to get a good look at the beauties on the rocks. There must have been about 30 of them on this day, what a gorgeous site.

After spending some time watching the seals and playing with the dogs, we took the trail that starts at the point and follows the curve of the shoreline of the cove next to Rome Point. This part of the trail has many cedar trees and old foundations and ruins. I think this area of the Preserve is the favorite of the men in the family, because there are many old dumping locations along the way, cellar foundations, one old rotted 50's station wagon

and we also saw deer poop and coyote scat. While the boys were digging around for treasures, the female in the medical field was worrying about tetnus shots. I think we determined that they are all due for their shots. The boys also found the remains of an old horse wagon. There are also several trails that can be taken off of this trail that meander around the property. One of the favorite spots of the younger kids in the family is a huge rock that is on this return trail just before you connect with the main trail. Usually we have to take photos on the rock, and this time was no exception, except that there was only one nephew with us this time.

this photo is from a previous hike

After passing this huge boulder, take the main trail to the right and follow it back to the parking lot.
There is room enough for 29 cars to park in the lot, but during the seal watching times it is usually full, and some cars end up having to park on the side of the road.
The photo of the kids on the rock and of the rotted station wagon are from old file photos of mine. The two close ups of the seals were taken by Jeremy Butterfield.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Last Saturday I went to Caratunk in Seekonk WITH some wildlife, hoping to SEE some wildlife. I met my brother & his family and my sister and her youngest son for a walk. Caratunk is part of the RI Audubon Society, but it is in Seekonk, Massachusetts.
I stopped in the little shed attached to the main barn to see if there were any trail maps for a gentlemen that was there who did not know the property. There were not any maps. There is a book to sign in there and also a little hole in the wall to put $ in. I deposited some $ and checked out the Whiteboard where people log the fauna that they have seen in Caratunk, but I did not get to read all of it because my 4 year old niece was demanding my attention.
We then went over to the kiosk, there was a large poster and explanation of the woodcock dance that they do at this time of year to attract mates. This is a very special thing to see and I believe Caratunk hosts members to see this display in evening gatherings. There were warnings about ticks and a list of other Audubon properties, but there was no map there either.
When I explore Caratunk, I usually start out on the trail that is to the right of the kiosk, but it was a little chilly so I thought we should head out across the meadow trail which starts next to the wildflower garden in front of the large barn. We followed this trail through the large meadow and through the opening in the stone wall and then took a right.

This trail led us through some woods and rock walls on our right, with another large meadow on a hill to our left. We took the trail that runs along the eastern edge of the meadow and stopped at the observation station. There we could see a hawk flying in the distance, but we could not make out what type of hawk it was. After everyone hydrated themselves and had some trail mix, we took off through a wooded area where there are ponds and brooks, several times stopping along the way to explore trees, rock, lichen

or moss and to play with sticks and the water. Overhead we heard some raptor noises and 2 of them were circling overhead, I am not sure if they were warning us to stay away from their nest or if they were just flirting with each other. I tried to get a photo of them, but they were very high in the sky. After showing this photo to my friend Dick Graefe, we have determined that it is probably a Broad Winged Hawk. Thanks Dick!
In this area of the refuge there is a pond on the left and a small brook running on the right.

From there we went up an incline and crossed the electric company right of way and continued our walk on the blue trail through some very boggy areas.

The last time I was here it was quite wet, but there has since been simple boardwalks put in which will protect fragile fauna and flora, and also keep your shoes out of the muck. We could hear noises in one of the vernal ponds that we were adjacent to. I had the kids stop and listen and asked them to guess what the noises were. One guessed geese and the other 2 didn't know. This was my first hearing of peeptoads for the year, one of the best noises one can hear to signify that spring is indeed on its way, and admittedly, one of my favorite songs.
We followed the blue trail in this part of the refuge, through some hemlock, until we came to an area where the trail markings just seemed to disappear so we retraced our steps back to the boardwalk over the vernal pool. My sister-in-law and I got there ahead of the kids and we were able to more thoroughly enjoy the beautiful harmonies of the peeptoads. We also tried staying very still to see if we could get them to think we were not there and perhaps they would stick their eyes up out of the water, but too soon the children arrived

and we could not coax them at all to stand like statues, so we didn't get to see the rascals.
We got back to the electric company right of way and took the meadow there further south to catch the trail on the other side of the refuge. Along the way Terry and I saw a small bird on top of a birdhouse, but we could not make out what it was. I wonder if it is too early for bluebirds. The connector trail here is very difficult to find, and I did not see it until I was right on top of it. The return trail going to the lower section of the refuge is narrow and can be a little steep in some areas, so caution with your footing must be taken. This section is populated by glacial erratics

and the brook that winds throughout the property. We stopped here for a rest (the adults) and for some playing in water with sticks time (the children). The 13 year old decided to walk across the brook on a log that is there and he was successful on the first try, but on the return of the second try he lost his footing and landed very ungracefully, thoroughly soaking the front legs of his jeans.
After the drama involving that and some concern (by the child, not the parents) that back surgery would be imminent, we once again took to the trail. Someone found a snake,and all the other members of our party marveled over it while I stayed a safe distance of at least 150 feet away. I have a huge phobia of snakes and cannot bear to even look at them, or pictures of them.
The trail here winds through some large rocks, one of them being named as Monument Rock and some dead cedars. We came to another little wooden bridge over the pond where the kids found some leeches and my 4 year old niece had a mild spaz attack when she picked up a rock and found some very miniscule baby leeches.
We then took the trail that follows the edge of a golf course and through some very tall red pines, where there is a lot of pine needle carpeting, coming to yet again another bridge over the brook. At this bridge there were 2 young people sitting and one standing next to the bridge. The standing person told me I'd have to pay a toll to cross the bridge. I asked him if he was the troll under the bridge and he said yes, and the payment to cross was one smile, so we were allowed to proceed. Taking a left after the bridge to walk back to our cars, I could hear a male cardinal making himself known to all the lady cardinals, so Terry and I checked the tree tops until we spotted him, a beauty at the top of the highest tree.
After we returned to the car and I checked the time I realized that we had been exploring for over 3 hours. This trail can be done in a shorter period of time, but I think it was just right.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

When we got out of church today it was in the high 50's so we discussed a few different places that we should go to for a walk. We were on Post Road heading south to go to Jamestown, and as we came upon the exit for Goddard Park, I said to Dan "Let's go there". So we turned off Rt. 1 and drove down Ives Road to get to the main entrance and parked off the road before you head down the hill to get to the beach parking area.
There are many different trails to walk on in Goddard Park, and at this time of the year, most of the roads are closed off to motorized traffic, offering even more opportunities of places to travel on foot.
We started on the road that takes you into the middle of the park for a little while until we came to the road that leads to the mulching area for the park. Walking through the mulching area, we were greeted with the fragrant aroma of organic matter decomposing, a very earthy smell that I happen to like, especially when we have been frozen over for much of the last 4 months, it is a harbinger of the coming spring and all it's glorious smells. This trail took us to the path that runs along the cove, the other side being East Greenwich. It winds in and around trees, and every once in a while you will be greeted by something that the horses in the stables down the way leave behind on their rides through the same trails. I'd much rather deal with horse droppings than dog matter!
The trail brought us down to a parking lot at the boat ramp, and we took a detour to the shoreline and then took the road that leads over to the horse stables. At the other end of the parking lot, there is a very small pond that still was quite covered with ice, except around the edges where it was already mushy. when we got to the stable area, there is a little ring for small children to ride the pony, but I think I'm a little to big for that, but he was absolutely adorable. My last experience on a horse was a rather bad one, but I could probably deal with a pony, oh well.
Up over the hill we went to the huge field that has a large long rock in it, and behind that a large, old oak tree.

There are quite a few fields in this park, and during the summer they are always full of families having cook outs and playing ball games. Today there were just walkers, runners and dogs. The next field we came to has another large, old oak tree and this one is so large that Dan was able to climb inside and fit rather comfortably.

Unfortunately, I do not think that this tree will last through too many storms, but nevertheless it is a beautiful site. We followed the road back to the car, and the whole walk took us about 1 hr. & 15 minutes. You could walk for hours around this park if you walked all the different trails and the roads.
My son Chopper used to work at this park and he knows a whole lot about the history before it was given to the state in the 1920's, most of which I cannot remember at this time. The families that owned it for almost 2 centuries were very conscientious and planted many different species of trees there. Below is a link that details a little of the history of how this park became forested.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

When I don't want to get in the car and drive a great distance, or I don't have a large chunk of time to devote to walking in the woods, I usually pick the Pawtuxet River Trail to hike. It can be accessed behind Rhodes on the Pawtuxet and runs along the Pawtuxet River.
Yesterday I had decided that I was not going to take the CO2 emitter out of the driveway, but then my brother called to see if I wanted to go for a walk with him & his kids. At first I said no so as to stick to my original plan for the day, and then I realized that because I had been hermitting so much this winter, that I had not spent much time with them, so I called back and we made arrangements to meet at the above mentioned trail.

While I was waiting for him, I saw a couple of honking Canadian Geese flying over the river, some choppiness to the water because it was a bit windy, but not much else.

Once we crossed over a concrete bridge that spans a small tributary, we were immediately dodging "soft rocks" or "landmines", or as some people call it dogpoop. Walking with a 4 year old in that situation can get quite tricky, so we had to keep yelling out to her, but I'm sure she hit something at least once. We discussed why these landmines were so frequent in this one area, and we figured that maybe people "walk" their dogs by pulling into the parking lot, letting the dog out to do their business while they wait in their car. Otherwise, if they were regular users of the trail we hoped that they would be a little more considerate of where people like to walk.

After the poop we were skirting some muddy areas because the trail after all does run through and around wetlands and it had rained recently. After a bit, we branched off to a path on our right, that took us to a clearing and a small pond. The pond still had huge chunky areas of ice and the kids wanted to know if there were turtles to be found. I told them to come back when it was much warmer!

After the pond we ran into a woman walking a huge white dog, a Great Pyrenees, who was very playful and wanted us to play with him. The kids wanted to pet him, and I did too. He was very fluffy and quite beautiful.

One of my favorite spots in this trail is a large grassy area,
where the grass must stand as high as my chin. I know it's not grass, and it is perpetually dried, and my niece said it was like walking through a cornfield.

Once you walk through this grassy area, there is a small slatted wooden bridge to cross over a brook that drains from yet another pond. This pond is usually a good place to sight Great Blue Herons, or ducks, but we did not see anyone there yesterday. After crossing over the bridge, there is a lovely stand of white birch trees in a sandy area to walk through.

The kids found a large tree that was growing horizontally to climb, and they spent a little while exploring here.

Further down the path we came to a small and quite lonely looking Holly Tree,

which was quite noticeable at this time of year with everything else bare, and then a few white pine saplings. We took the trail to the left to walk along the riverbank which is carpeted in moss and I told the kids about the time I was canoeing the river on a June night several years ago when I spotted a turtle the size of a trash can lid swimming under me. They wanted me to call the turtle to come out so they could see it, and I told them once again, not this time of year.

To continue the trail, you have to cross over the river at Warwick Ave, walk through the grocery store parking lot, and pick it up in the far corner, but it was getting dark so we promised the kids we would do it another time.

This group of trees is right at the bend of the river, and in a recent rainstorm, I notice that some of the embankment has washed away, taking some of the birch trees over, and they are now in the river.

The other part of the trail takes you along the other side of the river, and out to Post Road. You'd have to then take a left and walk through Pawtuxet Village to get back to the car. Instead, we turned around and retraced our steps, with a few less stops along the way, back to our cars.