Monday, May 30, 2016

With Friends - Prudence Island

Back at the Sunset Cafe
We got a good start this morning and made it to Bristol in good time to have a leisurely breakfast at the Sunset Cafe before catching the ferry. The service was great and the food fantastic and all without the rush we had the last time we were here. A short walk back to the car to get our stuff and off to the ferry. Once we got our tickets we found our way to the top deck and got a great seat right behind the pilot house. I started a sketch of the pilot house as Nana and I chatted.
My sketch
A lady and her two daughters sat down next to us and struck up a conversation and we all chatted all the way to Prudence. She was very nice and we exchanges info, hope we meet up again. We were met at the ferry landing by our friends and made it to their house, which overlooks Narragansett Bay. Their daughter and husband and kids were there along with Andi's mother Hope and Andi's brother and his girlfriend were there as well. A great crowd to hang out with. After a period of chatting and catching up we struck out for a hiking trail leaving Hope behind. We drove to the North end of Prudence and walked along a well traveled remains of a roadway that had once led to the old ferry landing at the north end of the island.  All in all we walked about three and a half miles. We had great conversation and I think we all had a couple of ticks on us at one point or another. I pulled seven ticks off and two more on my clothing when we got back to the house...
A great meal was prepared and we had another wonderful day on Prudence. The ride back was uneventful if a bit noisy because of some rowdy children, but kids will be kids.

Some Pictures:

At the start

You Are Here

The crew

Easy Walking

Marsh lands

Blue Eyed Grass

Nice Trail - F. Gilbert Hills State Forest

Hot Coffee. . .
This day didn't start well.. there was a lot of Nana and Pappa stepping all over each others emotions leaving both of us a bit grumpy. We have been experiencing a lot of stresses coming in from external sources. But we made it through breakfast at the Looking Glass Cafe in Mansfield, MA. and then off into the woods. The F. Gilbert Hills State Forest seems a beautiful spot with wide well marked trails that ramble through a forest that is lush and spotted with large solitary boulders and filled with ferns and wild flowers. Once we were well into the woods the stresses began to fall away and our walk became the calming experience we have had in the past. One of the more amazing things we found in the forest was Lady Slippers. The beautiful flowers were along side the trail in several places and always a treat to find. As I mentioned the trail was well marked and even though we took several 'side trails' we were never in fear of loosing our way as the trail markers were clear and the trail map I had downloaded and printer seemed to be fairly accurate if general. Below are some photos of the day.

Nice Trail

Solitary boulders abound

A view of a pond

Nicely marked

Lady Slipper

Our walk - and more trails to explore

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

With Friends - Prudence Island

We started early today as we had to catch the 9:45 ferry in Bristol to go Prudence Island. Prudence Island sits right in the middle of Narragansett Bay. We parked at the ferry dock in Bristol at about 8:15, which should have given us plenty of time to catch some breakfast and make the ferry, leisurely. Things just didn't workout that way. We had found a 'breakfast place' which turned out to be just muffins and coffee.. thanks Siri! And walked along Hope Street in hopes of finding a place that serves a full breakfast menu and sure enough we found just the place. The Sunset Cafe, since 1926. The Sunday morning crowd had begun to gather and the place was hopping. We got seated right away and were served coffee in great huge mugs. The good service seems to have ended there. The picture on the left of Nana and her coffee was taken at 8:33 according to my iPhone...we got served at 9:10 and still needed to make it to  the terminal and get tickets. I don't do well in situations like this as I am compulsorily punctual, and I was really getting on edge as the time to catch the boat seemed to be rushing at us, the short version is that we ate fast, and made the ferry just fine, but not without me
Approaching Prudence
suffering some unfounded anxiety. It was a beautiful bright sunny morning with a very strong wind out of the Northwest, the bay was full of white caps and Nana and I stayed inside for the short ride over to the island. Our friends met us at he ferry landing on Prudence and drove us to their house where we had even more coffee and even better conversation. Once we had our fill and caught up on all of the happenings we set out for a hike. We ended up on Broadway just East of the schoolhouse on a well maintained trail, the Heritage Trail,  and began our walk. For the next hour we chatted about all sorts of pressing issues like 'What kind of bug is that?', you know, the real important stuff.  We made it to the site of an old farm, Baker Farm, where a Frisbee Golf course had been set up and many Frisbees were left there for old walkers like us, so we all tried our hands at pitching Frisbees.
Pitchin' Frisbees
It was proven that we had all pursued the right career paths as Frisbee Golf proved a bit too difficult for our talents. The site where the 'golf course' was set up was the site of an old farm and many of the foundations were still standing. Even though this farm has been long abandoned the layout was still quite obvious. we all took turns guessing what part was what...and we came up with logical answers, but we really don't know if we were even close. I was a beautiful spot.
Examining the foundations
As I mentioned earlier it was a very windy day, however the forest around us kept the wind away from us and coming to this clearing which was open to the sky we started to cool off rapidly. Even thought it is the middle of May it was a cool day on the trail if you got out from the protection of the trees. An interesting thing, maybe a tradition on the island, was the setting of old rusted pots on the top of the stone walls that criss-cross the island. I think we saw at least a half a dozen old enameled cooking pots that had their bottoms rusted out, perched on the tops of stone walls. There were several at the farm, which isn't too surprising I guess but further along the trail we saw several others.
Pots on Walls
We walked to the Division Wall where we decided to turn back, making the Division wall our halfway point. Our good conversations continued and we all had a good time in each others company.
Through a series of events recently the value of good friends has come sharply into focus. Shared times like these bring home that fact the these friendships are our most valued possessions and that these times and shared ideas and what put meaning into all that we do. So thanks to all our friends that put meaning into our lives and thanks to the people who stack pots on stone walls to make us confused.

We walked a total of two and a half miles, not far in miles but a great day in the woods. Back at the house w fantastic lunch was set out and more stories were tole, problems solved and plans made. The 5:35 ferry arrived promptly at 6:00 ...well it's island time ... and our little group continued the fun with dinner in a local restaurant before heading home. A truly great, memorable Sunday. We should all have more of these.   Some more pictures below.


You can't get too lost here.
The ride back
Our Walk, about 2.5 miles

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mothers Day - East Providence-Providence

Broadway Diner
Today we started off with our grandchildren and headed to one of our favorite local diners, the Broadway Diner right here in East Providence. The food and service were fantastic as always with large portions and  great coffee served with a smile. Being Mothers Day there was lots to do and lots to celebrate, and we thanked our lucky stars that we got to start it off with the kids. I even got to do a bit of coloring with Grace and learned much about 'My Little Pony' - did you know that they are all girls? Not sure just how that works, but that is what I was told. We had lots to do and got the kids home in good order and did chores around the house and yard and realized that we had some time before everyone was to come over for supper so we decided to walk the 'Linear Park - 
 the newly finished park that runs along the side of the Washington Bridge that connects Providence to East Providence carrying Interstate 195 East and West.
Could have used a better name.
As we began on the East Providence side of the Seekonk River with the wind in our faces we thought that maybe this walk was not such a good idea. Soon, though, we settled into a good pace and began to enjoy the urban landscape and good conversation. Once across the bridge and through the Linear Park we arrived at India Point Park in Providence where many people were enjoying the sunshine on this Mothers Day. There were an obvious number of Mothers out there, God bless them all. We walked down to the community boat house and checked out the boats and watched some early activity out on the bay. We then headed up the ramp to the footbridge that spans Interstate 195 and into Providence proper. This section of Providence, Fox Point, is filled with wonderful old houses and as you may know I am a sucker for this stuff, I just love the old houses. We turned right onto Wickenden Street and made our descent back toward the river.
Over Rt 195 on the footbridge
We walked down to Gano Street then back under Route 195 and took the stairs back up to the Linear Park and back toward East Providence. Now with the wind at our backs we started shedding layers and I began to build a nice glow (that's a nice way of saying I started sweating). I love the view from this bridge and it is fun to look down and check out the boats in the marina. We kept a boat in that marina for a couple of seasons before we discovered Pawtuxet Cove, but that is a story for another day.
We soon arrived back at the car and we both checked our apps and we had walked two and a half miles..not a long walk, but time was limited and it worked out just right. As a side note, our pace was considerably faster than when we are walking in the forest. So we made it back home in time for the family gathering, and had another celebration for Mothers. So here's to all the Mothers out there, we all owe you so much, thanks.

A Few Pictures

Coloring time

A view of the bay

Best graffiti ever!

Back across the bridge

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Middle Earth - George Washington Management Area

Ahh, Coffee
Yes I know it's Wednesday, but I am home recovering and Nana has the day off, so it's time for a walk in the woods. We stopped this morning at Harmony Kitchen on route 44 in western Rhode Island, Harmony to be specific as if you couldn't guess. The restaurant is a very local place and it was indeed a very harmonious restaurant where everyone in the place knew each other. And we apparently took someone's regular seat. . .
The service was done with a smile and the food was great, and the local thing here seems to be beans, baked beans, served with every breakfast, and this was fine with me.

Beans, at breakfast, Mmmmmm
And another place that made my toast just right Things like this just make me happy. Nana had her typical omelet and I had my two eggs home fries and toast, and we both had beans, with no ill effects. I even had time to get in a quick little sketch while we were there. After I paid I plugged in our destination in the GPS and we were off and another 10 minute ride brought us to the George Washington Management Area camp ground where we got in for free because there was no one in the booth. A normal fee of $2 is required when there is someone in the booth. We found a place to park at the end of the long dirt road through the campground and set off on a trail marked with an orange, red and blue blaze(s) and this is where the magic began. In my last post I stated the the Freetown Forest was devoid of personality, well this trail seems to wander through Middle Earth or Sherwood Forest. It is beautiful.
Orange, red, blue blazes
The trail here seemed to take me back to my childhood fantasies of far away places where the Hobbits and dragons live or where the tales of old took place. I kept waiting for Robin Hood or Chingachgook to come down the trail. The rocks are covered with mosses and ferns grow everywhere and expectations hide behind every rock and tree. Small streams tumble through the woods and are easily forded by hopping on stones that are in just the right places all across the streams.
Stone hopping
We had a great time hiking through this section of the forest along the shore of a pond by the name of Wilber Pond, the smaller of the two here in the area. We could see campers and tents on the far shore as we walked along. We walked for about three quarters of a mile before turning back, not know exactly where this trail led. Just after we had begin this trail the blue dot trail broke off to the right, so we backtracked to that spot and began our way along the blue trail for another three quarters of a mile or so before returning to the car. The personality of this trail was very different as we seemed to leave the boulders behind and the trail became wide and the walking was easier and at a faster pace. Our mapping app did not show either of these trails and although we knew we would not get lost, we kept fairly close to the parking area, we were also up against clock having a noon appointment in Somerset Mass, many miles away. By the time we returned to the car we had walked a mere 2. miles but we were completely refreshed by the experience and have made plans to return. As we approached the car a park ranger pulled up in his truck and we chatted with him for a while and followed him back to the entrance gatehouse where he gave us a trail map. He told of the Walkabout trail which is an eight and a half mile trail around the park. I think that is in our future. We also discovered trail markers for the Rhode Island North South trail. I looked this up when we ultimately made it home and the North South trail is 78 miles long.
North South Trail
Now that is an ambitious trail, running from the ocean  on the south coast to the Massachusetts border. It is apparently typically done in seven sections of 10 - 14 mile lengths. So at that pace you could do the North South Trail in a week. There seems to be many sections of the trail that follow a road from time to time but it appears mostly to be through the Rhode Island wilderness areas. Maybe some time Nana and Pappa will make this walk. It looks like a challenge, but also looks like it could be broken up over several weekends and would be a great way to explore the state top to bottom or bottom to top.  I will post a few more pictures here so you can better get the flavor of the day. The remainder of our day was well spent doing chores and and hangin out with our grandkids.

rocky part of Middle Earth

Ferns, rocks and streams

I'm happy, really, I'm happy - what a sour looking old Pappa

Along the Blue trail

Monday, May 2, 2016

Muck and Briars - Freetown Forest

Gina's, Fall River
With rain threatening we set off to Fall River and a place I found on the internet called Gina's Restaurant. Gina's is in a residential area just north of downtown Fall River and it is a very popular place, at least on Sunday mornings. We had to wait for a table, not long but things were hopping, and yet the staff were all happy and very friendly. Once we sat down we had coffee and menus immediately. Lots of good things to choose from the menu. Being Fall River I certainly expect to have at least a couple of good Portuguese foods on the menu and I was not wrong. I had the number 1 special, 2 eggs, home fries, toast and chourico meat..not the chourico sausage (which is what I expected) but rather thin sliced pork in the special herbs and spices that make chourico what it is.. oh my goodness what a treat. It was out of this world good...we will be back here again! Nana had an omelet and pancakes (which I helped with) and we both were pretty full when it came time to pay the bill. So my recommendation is that the next time you are in the Fall River area, Look up Gina's Restaurant on Wilson Road and you wont be disappointed. It is fantastic.
Out front
I had spent some time on the computer looking for new places to explore and found the Freetown State Forest, just a few miles from Fall River and Nana and I agreed that it looked like a great spot. We followed the directions that Siri told us and ended up in Assonet where the Forest is and every entrance was blocked off and had 'No Parking' signs posted. this was discouraging, so we decided to head out in another direction when we saw a sign for Profile Rock...and followed the signs. This led us through the village of Assonet and what a charming old New England village Assonet  is. Assonet is a village within the town of Freetown and was founded in 1659 according to the sign.  After a few lefts and rights we found our way to the parking area of Profile Rock which according to indian legend is the profile of the famous Wamponoag Indian Chief Massaoit. We parked in a nicely maintained parking area and followed a gravel path marked with a blue triangle and were soon overlooking the rock itself. It is a very large rock on a rocky hillside and the profile is very obvious and distinct.
Profile Rock
We watched a young couple scramble down from the top of the hill and began our walk around the rock and through the surrounding woods and within minutes were back at the parking area. This was a nice walk but certainly not a long walk at all so we took off on another trail just across the road from the parking lot, and by the way, that blue triangle that we saw leaving the parking lot was the only trail marker we saw all day. . . but this trail was an obvious trail and was used by motor bikes and ATV's by the tracks left behind. We both commented that there was really nothing distinguishing about the forest here. Most of the places we have walked have a very noticeable personality but his place didn't, the walking was pleasant but, well, just so so. Until... we came to the first bout of muck and running water. As we came around a bend in the trail we began experiencing more and more muddy spots that gave way to large puddles in the path that needed to be negotiated by leaving the path, skirting them to keep dry. We then came to a stream, and although small was not crossable at the path, so we began our first off trail exploration to see if we could find a place to cross. We press on through a lot of briars, this area has a lot of briars, and soon found a spot. Watch the video below.

As you can see we made it across the stream with little trouble. However this is really where the trouble began. We had to fight the briars to get back to the path and by the looks of things on my map the path should join back up with the cleared gas line right of way which leads back to the parking lot, and sure enough within a few minutes we broke out of the forest to the clearing. From here it should be a straight shot back to the car, about a mile of easy we thought. We soon came to a very wet area, a bog, and very mucky with black mud and lined with briars. I attempted to make a crossing and got somewhat stranded while Nana made her way to the edge of the clearing and began a slow bit of progress along the side. I joined her and the going got very exciting. Technical muck and briar hiking.. we were slowly making little bits of progress and poor Nana had on short pants and her legs were getting sliced up by the briars and feet were getting wet and well it came to an end abruptly when we could no longer make any progress. Frustrated we made the decision to turn and make our way back. Reversing the process, was just as painful, and the frustration was punctuated with moments of laughter at the situation as we really felt as though we were stuck at times. Nana got her walking stick stuck in the muck and it undid itself (we fixed it) and I lost my stick altogether but I snatched it up as it threatened to float away. We made it back onto dry ground and took stock of where we were. I checked and double checked the maps I had (on my phone) and according to the arial view, if we just cut through here we should meet up with the main path. And then there was a path leading off in the right direction..which lasted about 50 feet and just disappeared. Again we were fighting the briars, and although we were on dry ground is was still not he kind of walk either of us wanted to be doing. We gave up again and headed back to the clearing in total frustration and found our way to to path we had originally came in on. The muck and briars had won, we headed back the way we came..which would mean another stream crossing but at least we knew we could do it. When we got to the stream I scouted another route and found a place upstream that had a well placed rock and it was an easy hop across the stream and only a few briars. Now the whole time we were walking it was threatening to rain, and we did get sprinkled on a couple of times, but the rain held off, thankfully and we were soon back at the car where Nana took off her wet shoes and socks and we now know to carry extra dry socks in our packs. All in all I give this walk one star out of five . . . the Profile Rock is interesting but the trails, well they could use some improvement . . even a few trail markers would help. Here are a few more pictures. I wish I had taken some pictures of the muck but I was preoccupied just trying to stay upright.

Base of the hill

Behind the rock

Poor Nana's legs - and this is an early shot...
2.5 miles total - in 1 hour and 45 minutes -slow moving in the muck