Wednesday, April 8, 2015

North-South Trail Trek - Section #2

This past weekend I hiked a 15 mile section of Rhode Island's North-South Trail (NST) from Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond to Browning Mill Pond in Exeter. The record-breaking snowfall this winter had kept me off the trails since late January so it was very satisfying to finally see the brown earth beneath my feet. That's not to say the NST was completely snow-free. It wasn't. But with the exception of a long snowy stretch on the Meadowbrook Trail though the 2400 acre Carolina Management Area (CMA), the majority of the miles were smooth sailing. Except I'm hopelessly out of shape! 

GPS track courtesy of Ron Corriea

You can see from the elevation profile that I was hiking uphill most of the way.

A cold wind was whipping off the water when I started the hike from the waterfront parking lot of Meadowbrook Pond. Tucking into the woods offered protection from the biting wind and I soon began to thaw out. Shortly, the trail opened onto a vast meadow of a sod farm. I bet it would be a sight to see in the summer with a broad carpet of green grass framed by woodlands and a bright blue sky above. The NST flanks the eastern side of the field before entering the woods to the north. Off I went with great expectation!

Icy water of Meadowbrook Pond

Walking the dirt road around the large sod field.

Expansive sod field

The trail was well blazed and easy to follow.

The trail next to Pawatuck Brook

Historic cemetery in Carolina Management Area

At approximately three miles I left the woods for a brief road walk before re-entering the CMA on Meadowbrook Road. This dirt fire road was mostly shaded so much snow, ice and water blocked my path. I slowed my pace and carefully made my way around the icy sections but fortunately, the snow was soft and not very deep so it wasn't all bad. Still, I was happy when the trail left the CMA a few miles later. That is until I realized what was ahead of me. A tortuous three and a half road walk!

A short reprieve from the snow and ice on Meadowbrook Road.

Heavy equipment abandoned on the trail.

I'm not a big fan of road walks but I can tolerate them if there's something interesting along the way to distract me. There wasn't anything of interest along these roads. Open fields, a golf course, a few homes and not much else. I did pass a small roadside pool of water where the frogs were happily singing a tune. I was amused but the feeling faded quickly. There was also farm about half way though the road section. It was a welcome distraction, albeit brief, as the neuromas in my feet were beginning to hurt from pounding the pavement. I needed to get on dirt, and soon!

Long, torturous road walk.

Meadowburg Farm

What's hidden under there?

One of the high points of the road walk. A pond on the corners of Buttonwoods and Carolina Nooseneck Roads complete with tug boats.

The final five miles would take me to the southeast corner of the Arcadia Management Area where my car awaited at Browning Mill Pond. As soon as I left the road and entered the woods I could see the topography was very different from what I had just walked on in the Carolina Management Area. Where the NST was flat and smooth through the CMA, the trail here was undulating with plenty of rocks and roots. It was also flooded in many sections requiring rock hopping and using downed trees as bridges whenever possible. I still managed to get my feet soaking wet which resulted in one blister. A small price to pay for an enjoyable day on the trail.

Rocky trail begins

Water, water everywhere on this section of the NST.

Although the wet trail was an obstacle, it wasn't the most difficult one. That distinction was held by a significant boulder field that was left behind when the Wisconsinan Ice Sheet receded 20,000 years ago. The trail passed directly though this minefield of narrowly spaced boulders, some the size of washing machines and refrigerators. I was happy to accept this challenge as it made the journey more interesting, but I would have preferred if it came earlier in the hike when my energy was high. After 12-13 miles of hiking i was tired, and negotiating the boulder field was exhausting. This was easily the most difficult and slowest mile I covered during the hike. 

A trail of boulders.

And it keeps getting better(?) Yes, this is the trail.

Just for scale (photo courtesy of Ron Corriea).

I'll probably be back on the NST in two weeks with my daughter when we'll cover 17 more miles of Rhode Islands longest trail. Spring at last!

Total Miles: 14.8
Elapsed Time: 5:35:00
High Point: 435 ft
Low Point: 52 ft
Elevation Gain: 839 ft
Elevation Loss: 661 ft

Report on the North-South Trail Section #3

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