Mark posts with this category that are designated for the self guided walks page.

Malcolm Grant Trail, Narragansett, RI

On the Trail – Laura Orabone
WildforaRI, Spring 2018

Rhode Island boasts some 400 miles of splendid coastal habitat, and the Malcolm Grant Trail in Narragansett is a perfect way to spend a day getting acquainted with it. Dedicated in 2008 and named for a long-time official with the RI Department of Environmental Management, in “recognition for his participation in acquisition of Black Point for the citizens of Rhode Island and his advocacy of ADA access and this trail to the shore,” this grassy trail winds through dramatic, windswept headlands overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and up into Narragansett Bay.

View of the main trail from the parking lot

Begin your exploration of this approximately four-mile trail system in the Black Point Fishing Area parking lot, directly across from 655 Ocean Road. From here you can follow the main trail south through a variety of maritime biomes, including woodlands, shrublands, and rocky cliffs, before reaching its terminus at the northern edge of Scarborough State Beach. A shorter loop trail, dedicated in 2012, winds to the north and offers some fine views of the bay.

The main trail begins by guiding you toward the coastline through grassy maritime shrubland. The habitat here is anchored by clumps of small trees and shrubs, including winged sumac (Rhus copallinum), arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), black cherry (Prunus serotina), and fragrant small bayberry (Morella caroliniensis). American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) with its bright purple berries, the torch-like stalks of mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and the fuzzy leaves of burdock (Arctium minus) are a common sight. Often these anchor trees and shrubs are draped—some might even say choked— with a variety of climbers, both native and invasive. Wild rose (both Rosa rugosa and R. virginiana), greenbriar (Smilax glauca), wild grape (Vitis labrusca), and the common groundnut (Apios americana) weave themselves through strands of climbing nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), bramble canes (Rubus sp.), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Needless to say, a degree of care must be taken during blackberry season.

As the trail continues, you will notice an abundance of coastal wildflowers, offering beauty to the eye as well as habitat to local wildlife. White avens (Geum canadense) and broad-leaved enchanter’s-nightshade (Circaea canadensis) jostle with showy Turk’s cap lilies (Lilium superbum) and coastal plain Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium dubium). Delicate jewelweed blossoms (Impatiens capensis), fluffy white meadowsweet (Spireae alba), and cheerful ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) sway over scattered constellations of Deptford pinks (Dianthus armeria). The rich greens of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) and cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) offer a pleasing contrast to a variety of pale grasses, including velvet grass (Holcus lanatus), redtop (Agrostis gigantea), prairie cord grass (Spartina pectinata), and Timothy grass (Phleum pratense).

A number of side trails peel off from the main path, offering plenty of opportunities to wander and explore. Some lead back inland, toward the woodlands along the road, taking you through scrubby, disturbed areas of fireweed (Chamerion spp.), grape (Vitis spp.), Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia spp.), and dewberry (Rubus flagellaris) before you reach the woodlands. Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Norway spruce (Picea abies), shadbush (Amelanchier spp.), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and black and scarlet oaks (Quercus spp.) dominate here, providing shade, wildlife habitat and a welcome screen from summer traffic noise.

Many plants along the shore

Other side trails allow you to scramble down rocky cliffs, climb huge glacial erratics, and explore tide pools along the water’s edge at low tide. On a clear day, both the Point Judith and Beavertail lighthouses are visible in the far distance. You are now venturing into the maritime rocky cliff community. Here you encounter salt-tolerant coastal plants such as beach pea (Lathyrus japonicus), seaside plantain (Plantago maritima), orache (Atriplex spp.), black mustard (Brassica nigra), scarlet pimpernel (Lysimachia arvensis), and seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), which can be found nearly to the tide line, tucked between cracks in the rocks. Take care to watch your footing along here—the rocks below the tide line can be quite slippery, and the path becomes muddy after rain. The black rocks just offshore mark a popular fishing spot, but please resist the urge to explore them, as several people have slipped and drowned in this area.

Looking south toward Scarborough Beach

The southern end of the trail brings you to Scarborough State Beach and the ruins of an old stone carriage house that belonged to one of the many large estates that once dominated the coastline. Some say it was destroyed by fire; others blame the infamous hurricane of ‘38. Its remains are now slowly succumbing to the ravages of time, the weather, and bored young people. Nonetheless, it provides a pleasant spot to rest and enjoy a sunset.

Directions: Park in the gravel lot directly across from 655 Ocean Road, just north of Scarborough State Beach. A sign marks the parking lot as Black Point Fishing Area. A walking stick is a handy thing, especially on uneven or slippery terrain. Special thanks to Hope Leeson, botanist for the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, for her assistance in coastal plant identification.

Photos by Laura Orabone

Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve, Charlestown, RI

On the Trail – Laura Orabone
WildforaRI, Winter 2017 

The Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve, located in Charlestown, is Rhode Island’s second-largest nature preserve and is maintained by the state’s chapter of The Nature Conservancy. This 1,112- acre property was acquired in 2001 with help from The Champlin Foundations, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Cove Point Foundation. The preserve is dedicated to Francis (“Frank”) C. Carter, who led the Champlin Foundations for many years.

The preserve encompasses an 11-mile corridor of open space between the glacial moraines of the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge to the mixed eastern woodlands and grasslands of the state-owned Carolina Management Area. It is easily accessible from two locations: one at its eastern edge off Rte. 112 (also called Carolina Back Road) and another to the west off Old Mill Road. Originally offering more than five miles of well-marked trails, it has recently been expanded; however, since the new trails have yet to be included on official maps of the property, this guide will cover only the original trails.

The Old Mill Road entrance provides two parking areas – one near the trailhead for cars and another large enough to accommodate horse trailers and a manual pump for watering horses. Note that the gravel road leading to the parking area is not always well-graded. Equestrian trails are marked. Near this parking area, and throughout the preserve, you can find pink lady slipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule) in early spring. The ruins of a cellar hole are barely visible to the left, just past the trailhead.

From this entrance, the Narragansett Trail takes visitors through stands of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), black birch (Betula lenta), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa), white oak (Quercus alba), white wood aster (Aster divaricatus), and eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). Other notable native plants include pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), and partridge berry (Mitchella repens).

The Narragansett Trail provides an easy walk to a 35-acre grassland surrounded by pitch pine and quaking aspen. This area, cleared in 2008 with the cooperation of The Nature Conservancy, The National Audubon Society, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, was recently expanded. It provides an important example of early successional habitat. Here you can see goldenrods, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), and a variety of native grasses and sedges. The adjacent uplands feature scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), white oak (Quercus alba), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), and high-bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum).

On warm spring evenings, when the peepers are in full swing, you can watch woodcocks performing their aerial courtship displays. The area also provides a nesting area for the state-threatened grasshopper sparrow, as well as the eastern towhee, scarlet tanager, and prairie warbler. American kestrels, brown thrashers, blue-winged warblers, and dozens of other birds may be observed here. A complete list is provided at the trailhead.

Off the Narragansett Trail is the short White Trail loop on the right. Before you reach the field, you can take a trail to the left leading through mostly pitch and white pine woods, with the occasional tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), eastern hemlock (Tsugacanadensis), and American holly (Ilex opaca). You may note an old chimney foundation here. This trail leads out to an open, sunny corridor created by a utility easement. The easement is home to lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), huckleberry (Gaylussacia spp.), sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina), and bird’s-foot violet (Viola pedata). Vernal ponds provide habitat for a variety of frogs and salamanders.

From the eastern trailhead off Carolina Back Road, you can explore the Yellow Trail and, if time permits, several other trails branching off from it. The Yellow Trail leads past a vernal pond to the right, then west through woodlands to the western trailhead off Old Mill Road. In the fall, small stands of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) come into delicate bloom. The first left is the Split-Rock Trail, which follows a small loop before rejoining the Yellow Trail. The first right is the Red Trail, which meanders to the northeast and then curves back to the west through mixed hardwoods and pine, eventually joining the Blue Trail, which loops twice off the Yellow Trail.

Along both the Red and Blue Trails, there are several water features: trick- ling brooks, swamp areas dotted with skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and a pond off to the northeast of a portion of the Blue Trail. The pond is barely visible through the trees, and there is a rough wooden bench at this point to rest and listen. Along the middle section of the Yellow Trail, note the mysterious cairns or “turtle rocks” that dot the gently rolling landscape. Their significance is unknown; some claim they were built by early colonial farmers clearing stones from fields, while others attribute them to the Narragansett people. Also of note are several impressive granite boulders left behind by retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age. Many of these are thickly plastered with rock tripe and topped with lush layers of mosses and ferns.

The Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve is ideal for both short hikes and longer excursions. Allow 45 minutes for each trail; however, the shorter loop trails are suitable for briefer jaunts, ideal for families with young children. Although the terrain is not generally rugged, a hiking stick can be a helpful thing to have for extra stability.

Observe the following guidelines:

  • Stay on the walking trails, using marked trails wherever they exist.
  • Respect the preserve’s open hours (one hour before sunrise to one hour after sun- set). Overnight camping is not allowed.
  • Do not use bikes or motorized vehicles in the preserve.
  • Do not disturb bird nesting areas.
  • Do not remove any living materials or disturb any vegetation.
  • Remove your own trash and, if possible, any garbage that you see left by others.
  • During the deer bow-hunting season at the preserve (September 15 – January 31), wear a fluorescent orange hat or vest.
  • Leash your dog at all times.

To reach the preserve:

From Route 1, take the Route 2 exit north. Take Route 112 until you reach Old Mill Road on your left. The gravel road to the western parking area is near the utility easement, to the right where the road turns sharply to the left.

From Route 138 West, take a left onto Richmond Townhouse Road (aka Route 112) at the Richmond Town Hall. Continue south for .2 miles, past the Charlestown Elementary School. The unpaved road leading to the eastern trailhead is to your right. Or drive on a short distance and take the first right onto Old Mill Road for the equestrian parking area and western trailhead.

 

Powder Mill Ledges, Smithfield, RI

On the Trail – Paul Dolan
WildforaRI, Spring 2016

Powder Mill Ledges is one of the sixteen public wildlife refuges owned by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. This refuge also houses the headquarters for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

There are three separate trails on the property, taking 35 to 90 minutes, if you want to explore all of the trails. It is an easy to a slightly moderate hike; some areas have a little bit of slope and in the times of high water some muddy areas.

I have always enjoyed this area 
to hike and to use as a learning tool for the amount of change that happens in a short amount
of time. The refuge is about 120 acres, and if the building
is open, you may want to stop inside and get a map and a brochure that explains the area’s
15 marked stations. I have always found it to be an oasis just a step away from civilization. Another unique feature of Audubon refuges is that hunting is not allowed, so they are great places to hike in the fall.

The hike starts immediately after the parking lot, and at the begin- ning you are roaming past a first successional habitat where you can see remnants of old apple orchards, Red Maple, Big Toothed Aspen, and many other species associated with a transition zone.

Traveling a short distance, you come to a bridge looking over a vernal pool, and in the spring the peepers are very loud. In this area you can also view the area that the society manages as an open field habitat. This is managed on a two- year cycle of mowing to enhance open field species and not allow it to go into brush. Bluebird boxes can be seen in the field.

Continuing on, you pass stone walls and, looking to the east and up the slope, you see a quick change in species diversity with more White Pine, a clear indicator of when agricultural use of the area ended. Farther along the trail, legend has it, there is a mound that was an Indian lookout area, now home to a grove of Staghorn Sumac. You go by a swampy area and then see the transition of species; as you go up a hill, you see a variety of oaks and pines. When you get to one of the highest points, you cross a bridge going over an upland swamp, a very unique habitat and a testimony to the soils found in this area.

As you ramble further on, you start to see Pitch Pine, evidence of the area being burnt over the centuries. In this area you must decide whether to continue on the blue trail or cross the power lines where the yellow trail takes you. What is interesting about this intersection is that you have a major habitat change, which because of the power lines has to remain in a constant stage of being a brushy area, where one finds different species of wild- life including those on ATVs that sometime frequent the area (illegally).

Traveling back onto the blue trail headed for headquarters you past old wolf trees, remnants of past pasturing practices, plus more stone walls, where you can still see the barbed wire in the trees. As you make your descent into the open field, de- pending on the wind direction, you can sometimes smell the local food establishments and plan your lunch. Going through the open field in the spring, you can see the tracks of visitors to nesting birds. Even the landscaping around the building is unique in how in blends into the surrounding area.

This is a nice hike not far from your neighborhood.

Directions to Powder Mill Ledges, 12 Sanderson Road, Smithfield, RI

From I-295, take exit 7B onto Route 44 West. At the fourth set of lights, turn left onto Route 5 (Sanderson Road). Turn left at the second driveway into the parking lot.

Photo courtesy of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island

Simmons Mill Pond Management Area, Little Compton, RI

On the Trail – by Gail and Roger Green, Dick Disher
WildfloraRI, Winter 2016

The Simmons
 Mill Pond
 Management
Area is a 500+ acre
site in Little Compton, RI, composed
of several parcels of
land, six ponds, and
more than three miles
of well-marked trails.
 It is located in the
upper reaches of the
 Cold Brook drainage
as it makes its way to
 Quicksand Pond and
 Goosewing Beach.
 Trail access is available
from a parking lot on 
Cold Brook Road near 
the junction with Long
Highway. A second trail originates from a small parking area on John Dyer Road, and canoe or kayak access to Simmons Pond is possible via Cold Brook as it crosses under Cold Brook Road east of the main parking area.

The plant communities here reflect centuries of changing land use patterns. Recorded use of the management area dates back to the 1600s when the town of Little Compton was created. This section of town was set aside as woodlots for farmers throughout the town. About 1750, Cold Brook was dammed to power a gristmill, flooding the adjacent lowland and creating wetland plant communities that still exist around Simmons Mill Pond.

Portions of the woodlots were eventually cleared to create farms in the poorer soils on the east side of Little Compton. A farm-site on the Amy Hart Path (a historic laneway passing through the Management Area) demonstrates the former land use with its old well, barn foundation, and patchwork of stonewalls that enclosed pastures and cultivated fields. Some of the plants growing around the farm-site are characteristic of woodlands that have taken over former farm fields.

Ox carts used the paths until the 1930s to haul firewood from these old woodlots, and subsequently the cart paths were used by woodcutters’ trucks until the 1970s. These historic laneways are now maintained as walking paths through the rare Atlantic Oak-Holly forest. The laneways also pass by four newer ponds that were built in the 1960s.

The State of Rhode Island bought the land from the Chace family 
in 1995 and opened it as a Management Area. Volunteers help maintain the laneways, keep fishing access sites open, and provide signage relating to the native flora and historic features.

Beginning in the main parking area on Cold Brook Road, the trail passes an information sign with a rough map of the area and descends gently for a half mile through Atlantic Oak-Holly forest to the Simmons Mill Pond, the largest of the six ponds. This is the site of the former gristmill, and the old mill’s raceway lined with stone walls is still visible through the elderberry and winterberry shrubs.

Across the dam from the old mill site the trail intersects the main farm loop. You can proceed in either direction around the one mile loop. The right-hand (or east) trail is the old cart-path, which passes through the lush growth of sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) before arriving at the high dam overlooking Chace pond (to the north) and Horseshoe Pond (to the south). On the high dam of Chace pond, nodding ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes cernua) bloom in the early autumn.

The trail continues by Smith Pond, passes a fork to the right that leads to the parking area on John Dyer Road, and slowly ascends into Atlantic Oak-Holly forest as it reaches the historic farm site at the apex of the loop. From here, you can choose to take the adjoining Amy Hart Loop, which extends the walk for an additional mile through former woodlots, or you can remain on the Farmsite Loop and return to the dam at Simmons Mill Pond.

In the summer, the cart paths are lined with an abundance of ferns: cinnamon (Osmunda cinnamomea), interrupted (Osmunda claytoniana), lady (Athyrium filix-femina), New York (Thelypteris noveboracensis), royal (Osmunda regalis), and in the dryer places some bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). Off the trail grape fern (Botrychium sp.), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), netted chain-fern (Woodwardia areolata) and Virginia chain-fern (Woodwardia virginica) can be found.

In the autumn, a succession of asters and goldenrod line the lane way and, as mentioned previously, nodding ladies’ tresses bloom at this time of year.

Spring wildflowers include star-flowers (Trientalis borealis), Canada mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense), and a succession of vio- lets. White violets along wet areas of the cart-paths include lance- leaved violet (V. lanceolata), primrose-leaved violet (V.primulifolia), and sweet white violet (V. blanda). Blue violets include common blue violet (V. papilionacea or sororia), northern blue violet (V. septentrionalis), and marsh blue violet (V. mcucullata).

In addition to being available for walking and botanizing, the area
is open seasonally to hunting and fishing. The land is multiuse, so walkers must wear orange during the hunting season. In winter when the snow is good, it is a wonderful area for cross-country skis and snowshoes, having wide smooth trails and just enough elevation change to keep it interesting. The main parking lot on Cold Brook Road is kept plowed by volunteers.

This area is beautiful and feels very remote, especially when you are walking in the low-lying areas among the ponds. It is accessible all year, and the walking loops
are level and smooth. The Rhode Island Hiking Club ranks them as #1, the designation for the easiest of walks. In addition, the local Boy Scout troop has recently installed sturdy benches in several places overlooking the trails and ponds. It is a hidden treasure, well worth a day of exploration.

 

This management area is located on Cold Brook Road, Little Compton, 02892

 

 

 

Susanna’s Woods – Susan B. DuVal Trail, Wakefield, RI

On the Trail — by Clark Collins
WildfloraRI, Spring 2014

The DuVal Trail, located in the village of Perryville on the north side of the Old Post Road is a three-mile network of rustic trails looping through the 240-acre Susanna’s Woods nature preserve. The preserve includes 167 acres that are held by the South Kingstown Land Trust either in fee title or conservation easement, and 74 acres that are owned by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

The late Helena-Hope Gammell, a founding member of SKLT initiated this trail system in 1983 with her first land donation of four acres, and continued to add to the preserve by donating other parcels and conservation easements over her land as well as financial assistance the acquisition of abutting properties. The entire project is named Susanna’s Woods in memory of Miss Gammell’s niece, Susannah Klebovitz. Expansion of the reserve has continued to the present year (2013) with a major land donation of 29 acres bequeathed in the will of Virginia Jones, her neighbor and collaborator. The trail itself is named in memory of Susan B. Duval, whose bequest helped pay for the trail and development. Additional assistance has been received from the National Park Service Rivers & Trails Program.

The DuVal Trail system offers some of the Land Trust’s most inviting and unique hiking experiences. The main entrance is located adjacent to the historic graveyard and former site of the Western Meeting House of the South Kingstown Friends (Quaker) Meeting, dating from the late seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries. George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, is said to have spoken at the meetinghouse during his tour of the American colonies in 1672.

From the parking area in front of the cemetery, the marked trail progresses up into the hill country known as the Charlestown Recessional Moraine, a long band of hills and valleys stretching from Wakefield, RI, to Watch Hill and farther down the north shore of Long Island, NY, which accumulated as poorly sorted glacial debris some 12,000 years ago as the edge of the glacier paused in its recession.

Most of the rocks are igneous and metamorphic (granite, schist, gneiss) derived from the bedrock in the surrounding area and to the north. The relief between the hilltops and valley floors range from 20 to 50 feet and slopes are often quite abrupt—between 15 and 30 percent. The soils are droughty, extremely stony and acidic. Due to their poor soil quality and inaccessibility most of these hills generally served as woodlots for the plantations located in the adjoining more fertile coastal plain. Some of the old cart paths from this period are still visible. Some isolated hollows have tillable soils that supported small homesteads in the past, and you may see here and there remnants of stonewalls and foundations.

Almost all of this area is now reforested with white, scarlet and black oak, sassafras, white pine, pitch pine, American beech, hickory and other trees common in the mixed upland forest of southern New England. Areas along the east of the trail head were planted with white pine and hemlock during the 1970s as a tree farm and habitat improvement program sponsored by the USDA Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service), but there has been no tree harvest in this area due to its challenging topography. Linden trees still stand along an abandoned road to the Jones Camp in the western part of the preserve.

Lichen

There is a dense understory of huckleberry and low- highbush blueberry, with thickets of mountain laurel, Sheep-laurel, inkberry, green briar and ferns. There is little sign of infestation by exotic, invasive vegetation due to its undisturbed condition and to the control of Russian olive that has taken place according to a forest management plan developed in 2003. On the many exposed boulders and stones and trees along the trail there is a diverse population of lichens, mushrooms and fungi.

Throughout the year the charms of the trail system are many. As the trail climbs and descends among the hills and hollows, the visitor sees the landscape from many angles, and the three loop trails off the main trail introduce a diversity of microclimates created by variations in sun exposure to the slopes, differences in soil fertility and water tables, and vegetation. An overlook on the main trail has a clear view to the south over the coastal plain, the Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge and, in the distance , Block Island.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

In mid-June the trails are spectacularly decorated by blooms of mountain laurel. In late summer birds on their southward migration stop to rest and feed on the berry bushes. The new Jones Camp spur trail passes to the north through well-preserved old stone enclosures and leads to Bull Head Pond, a glacial kettle-hole pond.

Birds common to the area include wood thrush, hermit thrush, whip-poor-will, oven bird, wild turkey, towhee, vireo, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, common yellowthroat, nuthatch, chickadee, and titmouse; also hairy, downy, and red–bellied woodpeckers; red, merlin, and sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks; ruffed grouse, junco, robin, veery, red tail hawk, great horned owl and barred owl, field sparrow, chipping sparrow, ruby crowned kinglet, brown creeper, and yellow-bellied sapsucker. (I gave up trying to figure which of these bird names should be capitalized. Some of them are a specific species, and some are general.)

We would rate the difficulty of the walk as moderate; the paths are marked with blazes and have location maps at the trail head and at the intersections of loop trails and the main trail. They are kept in a natural state at a cleared width of approximately four to six feet by rotary brush mowers and lopping shears. The trail is designed to avoid steep, erodible slopes and conform to the gentler contours, while seeking out interesting features such as large boulders, stone walls, remarkable vegetation and rare views. Sites that are habitat for rare or endangered plants or animals are avoided.

• Access to the trails by motor vehicle is limited only to the trail head on Post Road, and a pull-off area on Gravelly Hill Road. In few places the trails have climbs of 15 percent, and hikers should watch their footing for slope, rocks and roots. This trail is not handicapped accessible.

• Hunting is prohibited within 500 feet of the trails, but deer hunting in season may be allowed on other off-trail parts of the surrounding properties. Wearing high-visibility orange clothing is recommended on all wooded paths during deer hunting seasons.

• Hikers are advised that this area is likely to have ticks, and that tick repellents and close inspection for ticks after hiking is advised.

• We hope that you will visit this site, and enjoy it is much as we at the South Kingstown Land Trust do. Please contact Clarkson Collins at clark.collins@sklt.org to share any observations or experiences you may have on the trails.

 

Driving directions:

From Wakefield proceed Southwest on Main Street for 1.49 miles to Route 1. Stay on Route 1 South for about 2.9 miles then take the exit marked Post Road / Perryville. Proceed 0.31 miles to a stop sign at the intersection of Ministerial Road (Route 110). Go straight on Post Road for 1.28 miles, passing Moonstone Beach Road on your left, to a parking area on the right at the foot of the Quaker Burial Ground. The trail begins about 50 feet west of the parking area on the same side.

A trail map is available on the South Kingstown Land Trust website, sklt.org.

Prudence Island’s South End

On the Trail — by Maureen Dewire
WildfloraRI, Fall 2013

Nestled in the middle of Narragansett Bay lies Prudence Island, a little-known Rhode Island gem. As the third largest island in the state, Prudence is roughly seven miles long and one mile at its widest. Approximately 65 percent of the island is state property, managed by the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NBNERR), a federal-state partnership program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Another 20 percent of the island is conserved through various groups including the Prudence Island Conservancy and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Hiking trails are scattered throughout the island but with a small residential population, slow pace and stellar views from all sides, many of the roads along Prudence are just as inviting as the trails.

Prudence IslandA visit to the south end of the island will bring you to the NBNERR’s Lab & Learning Center,* complete with educational exhibits, a butterfly garden and public restrooms. Here you can also pick up a booklet for the Self-Guided Hike (SGH), a 1.9-mile loop taking you along a myriad of habitats including pine barren, coastal scrub and forested wetland. There are 14 “Discovery Stops” along the way, each marked with a post and number allowing you to follow along with your booklet (which can also be picked up near the start of the hike as you approach the T-wharf dock). For the tech-savvy crowd, all you need is your smartphone to scan the QR code on the post for the same information found in the booklet.

The hike begins adjacent to the NBNERR’s Estuary Education Shed, located at the base of the T-wharf dock. From here you start up the road and turn left onto Levesque Memorial Drive. This well-worn path meanders past Milkweed-filled meadows and along the shoreline, providing beautiful views of both Aquidneck and Conanicut Islands. Coastal scrub habitat dominates the south side of the path, where abundant Staghorn-sumac (Rhus typhina) vies for space among a host of vines, both native and invasive, including Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia), New England Grape (Vitus novae-angliae), Poison Ivy (Taxicodendron radicans), Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) and Multiflora-rose (Rosa multiflora). Look to the north and an entirely different botanical world awaits you. Here you will find moisture-loving trees including large stands of Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and Red Maple (Acer rubrum). In the foreground is a mix of Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), White Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) and Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum), among others.

As you continue your walk, you will notice an abundance of European Larch (Larix decidua) trees. During WWII, the Navy used the south end of the island as an ammunition storage facility, as evidenced by the numerous bunkers you will see as you complete the hike. The Navy planted the larch trees to serve as a windbreak in the event of an explosion and subsequent fire. However, these non-native larch trees spread vigorously over the next forty years, negatively impacting native habitats and thus prompting Reserve staff to undertake a major removal and restoration effort that goes well beyond the Reserve. Relatively few larch remain standing in comparison to what was here just a few years ago, though, as with all large-scale projects, the work remains ongoing.

Continuing on the hike along Brown Road and Albro Farm Road, the forest thins out and the coastal scrub habitat returns, and along with it an abundance of Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica). Roadside plants include St. John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus Prudence islandcarota), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina) and Milkweed (Asclepias ssp.). With such an abundance of flowers, the Reserve is a great place to enjoy a diversity of butterflies, including skippers, sulphurs, swallowtails and monarchs.

This section of the trail is also top-notch for birding, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Depending on the time of year, visitors can expect to see and/or hear any number of raptors, warblers, woodpeckers, sparrows and other songbirds, including American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Towhee, Brown Thrasher, Yellow Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Song Sparrow and Northern Flicker. In addition to the birds and butterflies, keep an eye out for island wildlife, such as box turtles, mink and white-tailed deer. As you approach the final few Discovery Stops you will find the last major habitat along the SGH, the uncommon pine barrens, dominated by Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida). This habitat, rapidly overgrown by deciduous trees such as oaks and a variety of shrubs, is maintained on a rotating basis by Reserve staff through a series of prescribed fires. As you pass the pine barren habitat, you will turn back onto T-Wharf road, heading south back towards the Bay from where you began.

With plenty of open space to roam as you so choose, Prudence Island and the Self-Guided Hike offer a peaceful place to take a leisurely walk among beautiful coastal scenery nearly any time of the year**. For additional information on the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, please visit www.nbnerr.org.
*The NBNERR Lab & Learning Center is typically open M-F from 9AM-3PM with additional weekend hours during the summer months.
**Reserve properties are open to bow hunting from mid-October through January. Visitors are welcome but vehicle access is limited on some units and you must wear an appropriate amount of fluorescent orange.

Getting there
Prudence Island is accessible via ferry (vehicles, reservations required, and passengers), departing from Bristol
(www.prudenceferry.com). The NBNERR Lab and Learning Center is located about 3 miles from the ferry dock.

Note
• Bikes are a good way to get around the island, but bear in mind many of the roads have deep ruts and are not well paved. Bikes with thick, wide tires are ideal and bringing a spare is always a good idea.
• There are no overnight accommodations or restaurants, but there is a small general store at the ferry landing at Homestead.
• The only public restrooms on the island are located at the NBNERR headquarters (typically open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 3 pm). There is a composting toilet at the south end near the T-wharf.
• Boats are permitted 10 minute live docking at state docks, but aside from that there are no public docking options.
• Ticks are present and in relatively high quantities. It is wise to stay out of any tall grasses and conduct a thorough tick check after your visit.

Weetamoo Woods, Tiverton RI

On the Trail — by Garry Plunkett
WildfloraRI, Spring 2015

Weetamoo Woods in Tiverton is the centerpiece of one of the few remaining large continuous canopy forest preserves along the coast of southeastern New England. Together with Pardon Gray Preserve and the Pocasset Ridge Conservation Area, over 1,500 acres of forest in Tiverton are protected. An unbroken stand of this size has important ecological value, particularly for wildlife species that need significant interior forest shelter to thrive.

There are diverse habitats for visitors to see along the eight miles of trails that weave through Weetamoo Woods and the neighboring Pardon Gray Preserve. There is, however, a challenge for those who come looking for botanical excitement – the temptation to put away the field guide in favor of exploring archeology. Many footprints from the area’s past lie in the Woods of Weetamoo: cellar holes and stone walls from long-abandoned home sites, remains of a 19th century sawmill, and prominent scars from the last glacier whose retreat scoured out the nearby Sakonnet Passage.

The main trailhead of Weetamoo Woods is off East Road about a ¼-mile east of Tiverton Four Corners. The trail leading from the parking area is an old right-of-way originally surveyed in 1681, when Plymouth Colony was still recovering from the war. This original “Eight Rod Way” continues northward over three miles through the entire greater Pocassetlands forest preserve. Most of it is indistinguishable now, but it is quite evident for a twenty-minute walk beyond the trailhead.

Ten minutes into that walk is a massive, slab-stone bridge spanning Borden Brook, and Eight Rod Way still has rude cobblestones that likely came from a nearby field. Pausing to reflect on how that bridge was built before the age of power machinery, one can imagine the rattle of oxcart wheels passing by.

Garry Plunkett - photo

Garry Plunkett – photo

Borden Brook is the main waterway that drains the 150-acre cedar swamp in the core of Weetamoo Woods. This stream also provided power for a sawmill that operated in the 19th century. The stonework complex of that mill is further up the trail, including the millpond dam, the millrace, and a marvelous dry stone bridge that arches across the race.

Old recorded names for trees are unreliable, but “cedar swamp” probably refers to what once was an Atlantic White Cedar swamp. These were common in colonial times along the Atlantic seaboard, but are threatened today. Scattered Cedars (Chamaecyparis thyoides) can be seen along the trails, and a small stand survives in the interior. But the wetland is now more of a red maple –deciduous shrub swamp, possibly due to the sawmill cutting out the cedars. They do not stump sprout, so regeneration back to a cedar community would have been thwarted by a clear-cut.

Much of the upland surrounding Cedar Swamp is mixed oak–American holly forest, found in coastal Rhode Island where slightly warmer maritime temperatures result in American Holly (Ilex opaca) being part of the sub canopy. Black and scarlet Oaks, Red Maple, Yellow and Black Birches, and Beech are in this community, with Blueberry and Sweet Pepperbush in the understory.

The American Holly has the “distinction” of being New England’s only native broadleaf evergreen tree. Broadleaf evergreens are dominant in tropical forests, but those species gradually disappear from forests going northward, replaced by deciduous and conifer trees. The last species in forests this far north is our native holly, and its glossy, green leaves and red berries are a welcome addition to rather colorless winter woodlands.

Along a low, north-south ridgeline in the north end of Weetamoo Woods are drier, rockier soils, so the forest transitions to mixed oak/hickory forest. The hollies are fewer, and there are more Hickory (Carya spp.), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), and Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) trees, with an understory dominated by Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata).

The total area of Weetamoo Woods is about 650 acres, almost all of it mid-successional forest. The oldest trees are around 100–125 years old–those individuals that were young and pliable enough to survive the 1938 Hurricane. There are, however, a few older tupelos (Nyssa sylvatica), perhaps in the 200–300 year range. Their famously twisted grain makes them less susceptible to hurricane wind throw, and they are practically unsplittable, so they were shunned as firewood.

 There is one non-forested habitat to be seen, the result of a long-term restoration project. It was completed three years ago and adds significant wildlife diversity to Weetamoo Woods. Twelve acres of old plow-land next to Eight Rod Way had been abandoned a few years before it was acquired and added to the preserve. With help from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant, the interior hedgerows were removed and the entire area restored to create a single, unbroken meadow. The sweeping view of this grassland is beautiful, and it is being managed to sustain quality habitat for severely threatened ground-nesting birds and edge species. A partnership with a local farmer for late-season haying, along with edge mowing over the winter, has resulted in noticeable increases in bird species.

In the spring Weetamoo hikers may be lucky enough to enjoy the raucous mating chorus of wood frogs, since the topography is perfect for vernal pools. Isolated bowls of poor drainage are scattered throughout the forest, so on a quiet, sunny day following the “annual migration” of amphibians, the ducky chattering of wood frogs can be a cheery accompaniment to a springtime outing.

The flora of Weetamoo Woods is typical to the forest types described above; oak-dominated ones found in rocky, acidic soils that range from poorly drained, sphagnum dominated wetlands to barren granite outcrops. Common shrubs of the understory are Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Huckleberry, Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), and Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). There are also some pure patches of Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) that can be spectacular around the third week of June.

The spring wildflower array along the trails includes Sessile-leaved Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), Dwarf Ginseng (Panex trifolius), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule), and Squaw-root (Conopholis americana). The Squaw-root is an interesting member of the broom-rape family of parasites. It grows on oak tree roots and looks like a small, pointed ear of corn coming out of the ground. It is state-listed (concern) and perhaps the best population is in Weetamoo Woods, where it can be seen in May near the sawmill.

As in all our woodlands, the floral display diminishes in summer. A few to be seen are Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Indian Pipe (Monatropa uniflora), and Indian Cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana).

A summer visit to Weetamoo Woods is well worth the drive to East Bay. There is history, diverse habitats, and the ultimate reward–cooling off at Tiverton Four Corners with a double dip of Gray’s Ice Cream.

 

Two Short Hikes in Scituate, RI

On the Trail — by Paul Dolan
WildfloraRI,  Winter 2015

Trott/Perry Trail

Trott PerryTrott/Perry trail is located along the eastern banks of the Pawtuxet River in the northern end of Hope Village and is accessed primarily from South and North Doctor’s Lane, off North Road (Rt. 116). It is less than a mile in distance but opens to other parcels in the area. Two local land preservations, Drs. Raymond H. Trott and Thomas Perry acquired this parcel in the early 1990’s. Walking trails have been featured since 2005 when the Forest Stewardship Plan began to manage the site.  Logging operations on this track, previously used a tree farm, were completed in the fall of 2014. Strolling through the area, you can see the stumps and how the land was managed, and also witness the new and diverse array of vegetation that is now claiming the area. This site will be an excellent site for citizen’s science, as it contains most of the standard trees that one would find in a typical northern Rhode Island woodlot. As the trail wanders along, the changes in habitat influenced by power lines cutting through the area become apparent, especially at the forest edge along the Pawtuxet River and the old Christmas tree plantation where the trees have grown to pole size.

In other areas, one can see the remnants of the first successional fields. Hikers can expect to see red, white, black, and scarlet oak; white pine, red cedar, sassafras, Norway and white spruce, American chest- nut, sweet pepper bush, huckleberries, and of course the ever-present bull briers. This is a nice, easy hike nestled in a busy community.

Directions: From the intersection of Route 12/116, continue south on Route 116 (passing the Providence Water Treatment Plant on the left) for approximately 1.7 miles and turn right onto Doctor’s Lane. Go about 1/10 mile to the parking lot on right.


 Westconnaug Meadows

Westconnaug MeadowsThe Scituate Land Trust has owned Westconnaug Meadows, located in the village of Clayville for over two decades. In that time, it has been developed as an educational outreach and hiking area. The trail system follows the paths of old deer runs. The parcel contains red maple swamps, American chestnut, old field species, glacial boulders, and woodland resulting from the successive impacts of agriculture, overcutting, fire and land abandonment. Spring peepers, the proliferation of deer, and the novelty of stands of chestnut oaks provide this woodlot with year-round interest. Other species found here include tupelo, white, red, and black oak; gray birch, sassafras, white pine, arrow-wood, sweet pepper bush, witchhazel, huckleberries, and high- bush blueberries.

The area has a real “off the beaten path” feel to it, especially once you reach the trail’s midpoint. This 1 to 1.25 mile hike skirts hundreds of acres of Providence Water Water Supply Trust land. Starting at the trailhead at the north end of parking lot, progress through a wetland with a wooden bridge system. Continue through old field white pine and gray birch, signs that this area was cleared at one point. Beyond a stone wall, the tree species change to mixed upland oaks as the site gets drier. Go about 1,100 feet to a fork in the path. Follow the left fork; as you walk, note small piles of stones and scattered American chestnut sprouts. After about 1,800 feet, you will come to a small scenic overlook that looks down on the head- waters of a small stream running to the Scituate Reservoir. Follow this small ridge for a while; here, chestnut oaks start becoming prevalent. At this point you will be able to see red oak and hickory trees in the ravine to your left, and wetlands with scattered vernal pools. The area has occasional erratic boulders left behind by the glaciers. Follow the marked route back to the first fork in  the path. Turn left and follow the path back to the parking lot.


Directions: Trailhead 41°46’0.18″N, 71°40’18.46″W
Take RI 102 to Clayville. In Clayville, turn onto Field Hill Road. Follow Field Hill Road to George Washington Highway. Clayville Elementary School is on the right. Turn right onto George Washington Highway and continue for a half mile. The parking lot is on the left in front of the baseball field.

.

Wickford Harbor Islands, Wickford, RI

On the Trail — by Sindy Hempstead
WildfloraRI, Winter 2013

Islands are little worlds of their own. Two of these little worlds, Rabbit and Cornelius Islands, eight and nineteen acres respectively grace the north-
west arm of Wickford Harbor in North Kingstown. Both are uninhabited by humans, though not by deer.
In the 1630s the wife of the
Narragansett Chief Canonicus, known as Queen Sachem, gave Rabbit Island,
then known as Queen’s Island, to Roger Williams for
his goats, because they were
making short work of her
gardens on the mainland.
Later, in 1651, Roger Williams
sold the island along with his trading post to William Smith. Rabbit Island has been part of the Smith’s Castle property ever since, and relatively undisturbed.

The south point of Rabbit Island is salt marsh, a watery meadow made up of Saltwater Cordgrass, (Spartina alterniflora), and the fleshy leaves of Glasswort (Salicornia europaea), which are bright red in autumn. Along the southwest shore the Spartina border narrows, and the land, rising steeply behind it, bears a dense band of Marsh Elder (Iva frutescens). Farther along there are patches of Spike Grass (Distichlis spicata) but no wide expanses of the Salt-hay Grass (Spartina patens) typical of many salt marshes. The edge of the island to the north and east is a beach that partially disappears at high tide. Here the Spartina alterniflora gives way to beach species such as robust clumps of Sea Lavender, (Limonium carolinianum), white daisy-like Marsh Asters (Aster tenuifolius), Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervi- rens), Glasswort, and Sea-blite (Suaeda linearis).

The island itself consists of a central plateau, six to ten feet above sea level, surrounded by the gently sloping tidal flat that supports the salt marsh on its sheltered sections and beach where it is more exposed to wind and waves. In the center of the plateau is a cathedral-like forest, comprised of majestic Red, and a few White, Oaks (Quercus rubra and Q. alba) with a scattering of Gray Birch (Betula populifolia), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). A ring of large Red Cedars (Juniperus virginiana) surrounds the forest. The sparse understory includes Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), Poison Ivy, Bullbrier (Smilax sp.), and an occasional Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), but no delicate woodland wildflowers. The local deer swim over and partake of any luscious leaves that dare to appear above ground. The deer goodies apparently include tree seedlings, which doesn’t bode well for the future of the forest.

East of Rabbit Island, past Wickford Point and across the narrow channel that separates the island from the mainland lies Cornelius Island. Its topography is similar to that of Rabbit Island – a central plateau surrounded by salt marsh and beach – but its history is very different. Originally Cornelius Island was part of Wickford Point, then known as Calf’s Point. A 1660 survey shows the intact Calf’s Point; in the next survey, 1802, a channel separates Cornelius Island from the peninsula. How, why, and by whom the channel was dug remains unknown. Both islands were grazed and presumably logged by early settlers; however, Cornelius Island has been intensively used since then.

Old Stone House, showing signs of vandalism and forces of nature

 

In 1861 Earl Gardiner bought Cornelius Island and built a house on it that came to be known as the Old Stone House, the remains of which are clearly visible across the water from the west. In 1865 a company from Fall River bought the island in order to set up a smelly fish processing business producing fish oil and fertilizer, using the house as a cookhouse. Eight years later the local citizens voted to expel that unpleasantness from the town. Benjamin and Delia Northup then rented the Old Stone House, in which they raised a large family. Fishnet tarring and heavy duty gardening followed. Eventually in 1897 Capt. Rollin Mason bought the island and passed it on to his heirs who, in conjunction with the town of North Kingstown, still own it. The stone house, extant in 1935, became the headquarters of the Wickford Yacht Club. After the 1938 hurricane, however, the Yacht Club moved to the mainland. John Huszer, a well known local artist, lived in the house in the early 1960s until, in 1963, Wickford Harbor was dredged and the soils dumped on the eastern portion of the island, turning it into a barren hill of gray bottom muck. Although the stone house wasn’t buried, the island became uninhabitable. For the fifty years since then it has been relinquished to vandals and the forces of nature. As the vandals were more interested in destroying the Old Stone House than in the plant cover, the present vegetation of the eastern part of the island can be considered the result of forty-nine years of natural succession on harbor bottom soil.

On the north and west the vegetation is similar to that on Rabbit Island with a small forest of large trees, a band of Spartina alterniflora on the northwest shore, and beach species on the north and northeast.

A cursory plant inventory turned up 57 species on Cornelius Island as against 27 on Rabbit Island. The additional species on Cornelius are, unsurprisingly, mainly on the area of the dredge fill, which is treeless except for a few sturdy junipers within it and around the edges.

The most noticeable shrubs are rugosa rose, Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) and bayberry. The grasses, Little Bluestem and Switchgrass, are common as are many roadside species, including Cypress-spurge (Euphorbia ), Horseweed (Conyza Canadensis), Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), Rough Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), Round-headed Bush-clover (Lespedeza capitatum), and Orach (Atriplex patula). There are invasives as well — Oriental Bittersweet, Autumn Olive, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Phragmites — although they aren’t as dominant as one might expect. One surprising find was three substantial Box-elder (Acer negundo) trees along the north shore, Box-elder being a common, almost weedy tree in the Midwest, but seldom seen in Rhode Island.

Exploration of Wickford Harbor with a walk on Cornelius Island and a look at the Old Stone House is a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon. However, it might be best to forego a hike on Rabbit Island, because, after checking out the vegetation there, I noticed a “No Trespassing” sign.

Access: Wickford Harbor is easily accessible from the Wilson’s Park launching site, at the end of Intrepid Drive off Post Road, and canoes and kayaks are for rent from the Kayak Center at the south end of Brown Street in Wickford. The paddle from the boat rental dock to Cornelius Island is a pleasant mile’s paddle, the distance from the Wilson’s Park launching site to Rabbit Island is about 500 feet, and the distance between the islands is roughly a third of a mile.

References:

Clauson, J. Earl. 1935. “The Mystery of Cornelius Island.” The Village Fair News.
Cranston, Timothy. “The Islands of Wickford Harbor.” Personal communication.

Cranston, Timothy. 2000. “Cornelius Island.” The View from Swamptown.
Fagnant, Mimi Huszer. Personal communication.

Peckham, Ardelia Wyllie. 1974. “The Small Island with a Big Past.” The Standard-Times, North Kingstown, R.I. July 18, 1974.

Sherman, Nancy Whyte. Personal communication.
The North Kingstown Standard Times. Archives, 1962-3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge

Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge, Coventry, RI

On the Trail – by Scott Rurhen
WildfloraRI, Spring/Summer 2013

Located in the beautiful rolling landscape of western Coventry, the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge is the newest public refuge owned by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Attractive and rewarding in any season, the 295-acre Mays Refuge is a popular spring and early summer destination. Open from dawn to dusk, the Mays Refuge is marked by a large refuge sign along Victory Highway, Route 102, just north of Route 95. The approximately three miles of trails are clear, comfortable and well blazed. The shorter loop can be completed in 45 minutes to an hour; the full trail system takes two to three hours depending on speed and how often you stop.

This special place is named in honor of the long-time resident and refuge donor, the late artist Maxwell Mays. Mr. Mays donated the property to Audubon to preserve what he cherished for over sixty years. Looking from the parking lot you can see Maxwell Mays’s former home, owned at one time by Caleb Carr, the last colonial governor of Rhode Island.

All trails at Mays start and end at the trailhead across from the parking lot. A kiosk displays facts about seasonal natural history. As you enter the refuge, trail maps and brochures are available in a box on the fence beneath a canopy of large White Pines (Pinus strobus). White Pines come and go along the hike but may be the most abundant tree species at Mays. As in many areas in Rhode Island, Red Pines (Pinus resinosa) were planted fifty to sixty years ago along this driveway. Stumps are evidence of these former residents.

The Carr Pond Trail (white blazes) runs along what used to be the pasture for Mr. Mays’ pony. Introduced and native grasses such as Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) grow with native and introduced forbs. Some of the late spring to summer wildfl owers are Fragrant Bedstraw (Galium spp.), large clones of spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), the great butterfl y plant, Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), small White and Heath Asters (Aster vimineus and A. pilosus), Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum) and a host of beautiful naturalized wildfl owers including Deptford Pinks (Dianthus armeria), Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia) and Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris).

Entering the next field, a hayfield, you are steered along the northern edge. Soon you will make your first hiking decision: to head into the forest or to continue south along the field edge, across the private driveway and into another section of forest? This is a complete loop trail so you will see the entire Carr Pond trail with either choice. Wild Geraniums (Geranium maculatum) line the sheltered edges of the forest.

If you choose to stay in the sun, you will see that in the drier forest edges, Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), Deer-tongue Grass (Dichanthelium clandestinum), Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), Tick Trefoils (Desmodium sp.) and Bush Clovers (Lespedeza sp.) thrive.

Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge

A peaceful field in the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge.

Pink Lady-slipper Orchids (Cypripedium acaule), or Moccasin Flowers, are surprisingly common in the sun-dappled pine duff of the woodlands at Mays. Look also for the delicate green and white rosettes of Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) on the forest floor, nourished by decaying leaves of hardwood trees. Though not as abundant as other woodland perennials, when you find one of these orchids you typically find several.

The discrete Cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare) and the showy white Canada Mayfl ower (Maianthemum canadense) and Starflower (Trientalis borealis) are common in May and June. Year-round color is provided by the ubiquitous Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), best known for its evergreen leaves with a white center streak. Look too for its completely green relative, Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), with neatly whorled leaves. Both of these woodland plants produce a few white to pinkish flowers in summer. The pleasant tasting Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), also known as Teaberry, is identifiable by its glossy dark-green leaves and red fruit. Look for it creeping along sunny woodland trails.

Later in the summer, expect to find Indian Pipe (Monotropa unifl ora), that fascinating fungus-like plant that lacks chlorophyll. As summer wanes, White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus) picks up the pace.

Carr Pond is your destination and a chimney from a long-lost house is the decision point and beginning of the Hammitt Hill Trail (yellow blazes) on the western shore of the pond. You can either do the rest of the Carr Pond Trail or head to Hammitt Hill, the 22nd highest peak in Rhode Island at 609 feet. You can imagine Native American and later European colonist, soldiers and farmers meeting at this summit or using it as an overlook of the formerly cleared landscape.

On the Hammitt Hill Trail notice the boulder fields, glacial erratics and an oak forest thick with Huckleberry (Gaylusacia spp.). Huckleberry is a sign of poor soil fertility and prior disturbance. History is sparse for this land but the rocky land was likely cleared for wood and charcoal and grazed by sheep and other livestock. In higher, drier forest patches along the way you will see other hardwoods including American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), as well as Pignut (Carya glabra) and Mockernut Hickories (C. tomentosa). Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginianus), some very large, arch over the trails in places and grow up and down slope.

As you descend into cooler, moister portions of the trail look for new species. Though its flowers may be fading in early summer, Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolium) pops up along moister sections of trail. Pink to white flowers of Pinkster Azalea (Rhododendron nudifl orum) decorate random sunlit spots along the way in the sunny month of May. Wet, cool spots and stream sides harbor Sphagnum Moss (Sphagnum spp.), Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum and Spicebush (Lindera benzoin).

Beneath the canopy are shrubs and groundcovers such as wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) with its clusters of greenish white flowers, patches of Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), scattered Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) and High-bush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum).

Ferns are also a big part of the Mays understory. Boulders on the Hammitt Hill Trail are often graced with a green mantle of Common Polypody (Polypodium virginianum), or Rock-cap. Rock outcrops may harbor Spleenworts (Asplenium sp.), mosses and countless lichens. Large swaths of Hay-scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) carpet the forest floor beneath Red Maples and oaks. Look also for Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis), Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana) and New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), as well as several species of clubmoss, such as Shining Clubmoss (Lycopodium lucidulum), Ground Pine (L. obscurum) and Running Cedar or Creeping Jenny (L. digitatum). Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) is predictably found in the sunny edges of meadows, trails and roadside at Mays, often joined by resilient Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

Hammitt Hill Trail reconnects with the Carr Pond Trail, and you can follow this home. As you leave the forest and enter the meadows you are back where you started, with a short walk back to your car.

Scott Ruhren, Ph.D., Senior Director of Conservation with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.