Sunday, November 29, 2009

Long and Ell Ponds - Hopkinton RI - 11-29-09

Poor Rhode Island isn't much of a hiking state. To be fair, for those of us who love hiking in the mountains it’s hard to find great hikes in RI or much of southern NE in general - but this is definitely our favorite in RI.

Long and Ell Ponds are jointly owned/protected by the Nature Conservancy and the RI Audubon Society. They are in the midst of a surprising number of trails on the RI/CT border that are part of the Yawgoog Trails. There is a wonderful site with trail maps, descriptions, history and much more here:

The main trails around Long and Ell ponds are part of the Narragansett Trail. There are three access points - one off North Rd (a dirt road with parking for 2-3 cars at the west end of Long Pond, a large parking area at the east end of long pond on Canonchett Rd and one on Stubtown Rd at the eastern terminus of the Naragansett Trail. We’ve used all three and used the Stubtown Rd access for the first time yesterday. We liked the extra mile or so each way that it provided on the Narragansett trail with some nice brook crossings and interesting (if not somewhat slippery) ledges.

The weather was beautiful for a late November day with sunshine and temps in the mid-50s. This trail is great in the spring when the Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurels that line nearly the entire route are blooming as well as in fall foliage season. It turned out to be really nice with all the leaves down now and the extra lake views along the way.

It’s really hard to believe that this hike is in Rhode Island. The trail is a nearly endless series of ups and downs - some quite steep with minor scrambling involved - and very rocky (lots of large glacial bounders). It’s a lot like the trails in Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston and is the only place I’ve hiked in RI where I could swear that I’m in northern NE (with a conspicuous lack of summits). For much of the hike the trail follows the south shore of Long Pond on the ledges high above. After dipping down to shore level in the bogs filled with Rhododendrons and back up to the ledges it finishes around the western end of the pond on a beautiful set of ledges that require a fun scramble. The ledges are covered with beautiful scrub pines and overlook the length of the lake. This is always our lunch/snack and soaking in the sun and views spot.

Not far past the ledges is the northwestern parking area and trail head. Continuing past this area you go across the border into CT and many other trail options around a bunch of other lakes and ponds in the area. We turned around at this point both due to time and the fact that there was a huge tree that had fallen right down the middle of the path. It turned out that it fell on Saturday in the middle of a hike that friends of ours were taking. It was standing when they passed it at the beginning and down when they returned. Happily nobody was around when it fell. The other nice part about this hike is that even though it’s an out-and-back the character is totally different in each direction and we thoroughly enjoyed the second half return trip.

We were jealous yesterday knowing that many of our friends were out hiking in the snowy mountains in NH, but this made for a great substitute (at least for now). Hopefully we’ll be in those snowy mountains soon…
Full album here:…ondHike112909#

The Granite Sidewalk

This can’t be Rhode Island

Pines on the Long Pond ledges

Long Pond from the ledges

Rhododendron lined paths

Glad nobody was on the path when this fell!

Reflections at the end of a great hike

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Moosilauke Monday - 11/2/09

We really wanted to get in our first Moosilauke hike this fall but the recent weather combined with our schedules made it look like it might be waiting for next year. When we saw the forecast for this week and I realized that I could squeeze out another vacation day things started looking up! This was our seventh trip to NH this year (plus one to VT and one to ME) and day trips for hikes are now starting to feel normal. We hit the road in RI at 4:30 this morning and had smooth sailing all the way up (nice beating the Boston morning rush). We were at Ravine Lodge a bit before 8:00 and ready to hit the trail.

It was a frosty, clear morning with the temp at about 29 when we started. We headed up the Gorge Brook trail and quickly warmed up in the sun filtering through the trees. Within 1/2 hour I was down to my last layer - just a perfect fall day for hiking. The trails were in perfect shape - dry with just a few muddy spots that were easily avoided and no ice or snow. The Gorge Trail was a beautiful walk in the woods following the brook and wandering back and forth across it through the pine forest. Before we knew it we were heading into the alpine zone and on toward the summit. The skies were clear with just a few clouds drifting around and barely a hint of breeze. The views were amazing with all the White Mountains layed out to the east and the Green Mountains in VT to the west. Definitely one of the best 360 panoramas we've ever seen. We hung out on the summit for quite a while wandered out north on the summit ridge to check out the rest of the views.

We headed down the Carriage Road intending to stop at the South Peak before heading down. When we got to the Glencliff junction we saw two paths heading off in parallel with no markers. Couldn't fingure out what that second trail was. After heading another 1/4 mile down the Carriage Road we realized that the second path was the South Peak spur. Duh! Oh well, another time. The walk down the Carriage Road and Snapper Trail were nice, fast and easy. The Moosilauke trails almost don't feel like being in the White Mountains (there just aren't enough rocks and roots ). We were back at the lodge a little after 1:00. This hike just did't feel like it was 7.5 miles and 2,600ft. Maybe because the trails are so great or maybe because every step of this route is so enjoyable. This is definitely one of the nicest hikes we've ever done. We also had the mountain to ourselves today - we didn't see a single soul the whole day (other than a couple of ravens and a very agitated red squirrel that was sure we were invading his space).

I had expected to pay the price for a weekday trip to NH with rush hour Boston traffic on the way home but we lucked out again. Since we finished so early we beat rush hour and hit nothing all the way home. We were back in our driveway at 5:00 after another perfect day in the Whites. One thing for sure is that we'll be back to Moosilauke again. And who knows, maybe there's still a fall hike or two left this year (not to mention winter...)

First views from Gorge Brook Trail

Starting up the summit ridge

Still frosty on top

Summit marker in view

At the top

Eastern panorama

Nat heading down the Carriage Road toward South Peak

Views west to the Green Mountains (Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield in the distance)

Gorge Brook and bridge to Ravine Lodge

Complete photo album here: