Tuesday, May 19, 2020

George B. Parker Woodland Refuge

I woke up this morning thinking it was going to be at best a partly cloudy day. It was almost cloudless. A fine day for a final hike in the forests of Rhode Island before I have to return to Ann Arbor to do some things that I cannot avoid doing any longer (not sure how long I’ll stay in Michigan). We would visit the George B. Parker Woodland Wildlife Refuge which is owned by the Audobon Society of Rhode Island (like Maxwell Mays wildlife Refuge - see visit of a few days earlier there). When we pulled into the parking lot around 09:45 skies were still virtually clear, winds rustled the leaves and branches up high but we barely noticed them, and the temperature was edging towards 60°F. A fine morning to spend walking through the forest.

Previous hikes I would categorize as easy walks. Little elevation gain and loss and good footing make those trails in Arcadia and Maxwell Mays easy introductions to southern Rhode Island. Today would be a bit more challenging. This property is supposed to include fields as well as forests and streams but our modest lollipop-shaped hike would not expose us to any fields or even glades. The closest we would come were areas where the forest grew slightly less dense.

The standout feature of the first part of the hike was extensive boardwalk. While much of it is in good shape there are segments that clearly need some tender loving care to remove nails that stick up, seriously sagging boards, and some boards that are not at all secure. The bridge-segment, complete with railings, is in good shape even though it has a bit of a lean. There must be some rather wet regions that the trail works its way through but the forest doesn’t seem to change.

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 10:25 AM

This is just part of a homestead composed of several buildings (foundations at least). It was most likely originally owned by the Vaughn family and built in 1750. I am not sure when the homestead was abandoned or why it was left. Sometime after people left fire destroyed a lot of structures. Back when it was active there would have been fields and pastures to support people and livestock. They may have had orchards too. One thing that was not obvious though was ready water access (my topo map suggests water may be present not too far north of where this photo was taken at the main farmhouse).

--May 19, 2020 at 10:25 AM. Greene, RI, United States

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 10:31 AM

Ken is standing in what likely was a cold storage room. The stairway gave access to this space from the outside.. Photo by Jonathan.

--May 19, 2020 at 10:31 AM. Greene, RI, United States

We joined the Coventry Loop Trail (dark blue, hard for me to see, blazes) and in short order came to the foundations of parts of the Vaughn Family homestead. This homestead was built in 1750. I’m not sure how long it was inhabited but at some point people left and a fire destroyed at least the wooden buildings. Still it is always fun to see what remains and imagine how people may have lived.

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 10:49 AM

The trail is rocky and full of roots waiting to trip you up. Trees encroach the footbed too. We are not far from the Vaughn homestead which sits on Biscuit Hill. Jonathan is on the left; Ken is on the right. Photo by Judy.

--May 19, 2020 at 10:49 AM. Greene, RI, United States

The trail is definitely on the tougher side of easy or easier side of moderate depending on how you choose to view the world. Roots and rocks abound so step with a bit of care. The trail is also hillier. We gradually climbed for the first 1.5 or so miles before having the largest descent. At that point we were working our way around the loop sometimes nearing at least one swift-flowing stream. None of the climbs are long but compared to the previous two hikes they are noticable. It also seemed to me that at the start of the walk birds of various species were far more active than they were during the middle portion of the hike. I wonder why? You would think near a stream life would sound more lively.

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 11:19 AM

The boulder of the day with Judy and Jonathan off to the right providing just a bit of sense of scale.

--May 19, 2020 at 11:19 AM. 1670 Maple Valley Rd, Greene, RI, United States

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 11:58 AM

There are about 100 stone piles, they look like cairns but it isn’t clear that is what they are, in this area. No one is sure why they are here or who built them. Theories range from the truly outrageous to more mundane. Chance are that at this point we will never know so perhaps it is best to just enjoy them for what they show: signs of human endeavors.

--May 19, 2020 at 11:58 AM. 1670 Maple Valley Rd, Greene, RI, United States

What makes this section most interesting to us are the cairn-like piles of stones. No one knows why 100 stone piles that look like cairns are scattered about the area. Theories range from what I could classify as nuts to more reasonable. We certainly can ignore the ludicrous ones such as the piles were crafted by Phoenicians or ancient Celts. Notions that farmers from the 18th or 19th century would have considered stones a nuisance to be gotten rid of as they cleared fields and used stones to build walls and homes but it isn’t clear they’d make cairns. Nor can we say Native Americans did or did not build them.

Overall the hike was about 3.4 miles in length with about 320 feet of gain and 330 feet of loss. The weather stayed superb throughout the entire trip. We did not see anyone today.

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