Somewhere on the back way connecting South Kingstown and North Kingstown is the entrance to Tripond park. I stopped my car there in late September of 2019. I only found one pond, so I wonder if there is more to the park that has been hidden from me.
The path enters the woods and runs alongside a pond, but it is nearly impossible to see through the thick vegetation. A short way in, the trail splits. I took the right way.
This path winds crazily back and forth across mud and brooks. I have never seen so many wooden footbridges. The vegetation was thick and it was dark under the trees. The only animal I saw was a lone squirrel. Finally, the path terminated on the side of a quiet road without a building in sight.
Retracing my steps, I returned to the split and took the left way. This path took me all the way around the pond back to where I started.
There wasn’t much to see but roots.
I visited Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in southern Rhode Island in late August 2019 and I think it was the wrong time of year. What flowers were still around were dry and broken. Everything seemed tired and in disrepair. Even the spider webs were full of holes...
The trail south from the parking lot splits in two and I took the western branch first. After passing a field of tall grass, it becomes a regular wooded trail for a while. Everything was overgrown with vines. I even saw a few raspberries. Eventually the trail leads down a narrow peninsula surrounded by opaque, green-grey water. This is where a steady breeze picked up. Looking out across the pond, I could see the ocean just on the other side of the narrow strip of land around it. Beyond this it was so hazy that I could not tell where the ocean met the sky.
At the end of this trail is a deck and telescope. I watched the gulls, red-breasted mergansers, and other birds that frequent the pond. I also took a peek at the human houses among the trees just outside the preserve. Of course, I didn’t care about any of those things. What I really wanted to know was whether I could aim the telescope at the sun and use it to burn a hole in the deck! Alas, it was noontime and I could not point the telescope high enough. Darn!
Returning the way I came, I then took the connector trail over to the east side of the park. This is where there is another deck and telescope. On the way I saw a rabbit:
Past the eastern deck, the trail continues right into the water. I had hoped to explore there, but my way was guarded by a monster:
After this, I returned to the parking lot. On the way I encountered a couple of decks on the border of a pond filled with lily pads. Oddly, one of the decks was not easily accessible. There is no path to it and a fence blocks the way. The other deck is well shaded and home to a very sneaky chipmunk. When I turned around to leave, I saw it scurry away from its spot right behind me.
Finally, I made it back. The entire outing took from 12:00 to 2:30. Only once did any flies bother me and that was near the brook passing under the connector path. Yet, somehow during my brief transit they left me with dozens of bites.
Highlights: On the ground I saw red galls and green galls. I saw an apple tree. I saw a lot of tiny, green dragonflies. Most notable, I saw a black-winged damselfly fly backwards in a jumpy sort of way that reminded me of how scallops swim. Show off!
Best Highlights: On the way back, I stopped at Dunkin Donuts, ate a Boston cream donut, drank a coffee milk, and sat in the lobby watching traffic through the window. This was the best part of the trip.
Needing to kill some time before the store opened, I visited Shady Lea in North Kingstown, Rhode Island on the last day of November. It consists of a small pond next to an even smaller parking lot immediately adjacent to busy route four where it meets route one. In addition to the scattering of picnic tables and fire pits, there is a small brook running around the perimeter and a pretty nice boulder to sit on and watch the ducks. At least, I think they were ducks. It was hard to tell at that distance. I began writing my account while I was still there:
I hear birds in the trees. Birds are often surprisingly hard to find. I can hear them and narrow down their location by sound alone to within a ten-foot radius, but sometimes I still can’t see them. I don’t understand. There are practically no leaves here for them to hide behind. The trees are very nearly bare. Maybe the birds are invisible. Oh, I see them now.
This is a simple place. There are no mysteries here – no great discoveries to be made. Everything is out in the open. There is nothing but trees and stones.
I walk around. The ground is covered in a thick layer of oak leaves. What is underneath? I suddenly step into a depression in the ground and feel my foot go down into the leaves. The leaves are eight inches deep here!
I must know what hides underneath! Treasure? Lost cities? Monsters? Something killed that deer. I have found a mystery at last! I clear the leaves away with my foot. Slowly but surely, I get closer to the underlying substrate. Finally, I see it. Under the leaves are mud and roots. I have solved the mystery!
The greater mystery now is what lies under the mud and roots…
Beavertail Park covers the southern tip of Conanicut Island. Over the years, I have been there several times with family. It is a fantastic place full of geological oddities, including an arch and pools full of pebbles. Water leaks from the sides of cliffs and rocks come in every color and texture imaginable. To the north of the park are trails cut through the woods, sometimes in the form of tunnels with branches wrapped overhead. It is often windy and this is the place I once saw a bird flying perfectly sideways, unable to move forward against the wind. There are also some grassy areas, a lighthouse, and the remains of a fort or something.
I had planned all year to visit, but never got around to it, so when my aunt and mother invited me in September, I tagged along, hoping to get pictures of all these things for the first time. Unfortunately, the problem of going with other people is that nobody ever wants to stay long enough for me to see everything. I left early before I had covered more than a third of the place. Here is what I saw:
Purple And Green Protists:
This Impassible Gorge:
And This Path Leading Out Of The Park Altogether:
Where does it go?
Soon after leaving Blue Pond, frustrated at my inability to find it, I stopped further down the road so I could take the Narragansett Trail past Yagoog Pond at the border of Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was a very hot August day and no one else was stupid enough to be outside. It was very quiet. Never have I felt more alone and at ease about it. I walked for a long time.
The first section was dominated by rhododendrons and descended downhill. I saw a lot of fungi, mostly of varieties I had not seen anywhere else – including just down the road. These walks never get boring simply because there is always fresh variety. This late in the season, the fungi was already dying and being cannibalized by other fungi.
This section of the trail was joined by countless side trails, some of them almost invisible. Some of these side trails also had invisible side trails. It was down one of them that I found a rock cliff overlooking the water. I felt like I had stumbled across a secret lost kingdom that I could claim for myself, so I did. It’s mine now. :P
Further down, I walked along the edge of the pond (more of a lake), which was continuous, smooth rock. After this, I veered away from the water and continued to find side trails, some of which ended in clearings with clear signs of human habitation. Who dares to trespass in my kingdom?
Eventually, I reached the road to the north and decided it was time to turn back. I had to go find a queen to share the place with.
The map of the Canonchet Preserve in western Rhode Island clearly shows two trailheads for Blue Pond off of Canonchet Road. I could only find one. The map clearly shows the trail loop all the way around the pond and return to the road via the opposite trailhead. It also shows a crosstrail connecting the two sides of the loop. I could find none of this. Instead, I followed a trail that began almost as wide and clear as a dirt road that gradually became narrower and harder to discern before terminating in a large field of tall reeds. A small pond was in the distance. I considered crossing the field to see if I could pick up a trail on the other side, but it was mucky and wet in places and I was already hot and tired.
I spied a couple of “islands” in the field in the distance – small hills rising above the reeds, covered in trees and thick brush. I thought how cool it would be to explore them. I could build a secret fort on one of them, or spend all day relaxing in the shade isolated from the world and completely hidden from the outside. I could be king there and pass whatever decrees I wished! I made a second try to wade through the tall plants, but it was just too tough, too wet, and too slow.
Turning back, I went down the only two side trails I could find – one to the right and one to the left. The one to the right gradually disappeared into ever-thicker brambles until ending completely. The one to the left crossed mud and rocks until there was nothing left to follow. In both cases, I went beyond the end of the trail as far as I could go without getting lost to see if I could pick it up again. There was nothing. The ground was so uneven and the vegetation so thick that it was clear there had never been a trail. I had to go back the way I came.
While finding and circumnavigating Blue Pond turned out to be impossible, the trail into the woods had many treasures to share. Seeing a gap in the bushes to one side, I was able to find a clearing with a stone structure. It’s some sort of fireplace. It is very nearly hidden from the trail despite being right next to it. To one side of the structure (not in picture) is a long, low boulder several people could theoretically sit on or lean against to watch the fire. Who built this? Who uses it? Do they know where the Blue Pond is?
There were other signs of human use as well. I found a large iron pipe half-buried in the ground running perpendicular to the trail. It didn’t show itself anywhere else that I could find and there were no human structures to be seen. It reminded me of the wire I found in the dirt at Dyer Woods.
Just as everywhere else I went in Rhode Island in August, fungi was everywhere. I kept seeing new varieties. This yellow, spongy mass was on the underside of a tree limb:
This preposterous-looking being I thought for sure was a fishing lure before I picked it up and realized it had been attached. The top half was very soft while the bottom half was rubbery. It smelled just like freshly-peeled corn. According to Plant Snap, it is an elegant stinkhorn, so now I feel stupid.
I also saw this clear mushroom and this tubular fruit:
Okay, maybe I am stupid…
Here are some other things I saw:
Do you know where Blue Pond is?
Clothing is very helpful. It can protect me from scrapes, from biting bugs, from the cold, and it allows me to carry all sorts of gadgets and things in pockets. I love clothing, but sometimes I wonder how it would be to go exploring naked (I wonder about a lot of weird things). This is why in 2011 I visited a clothing-optional beach for the first time to find out what it was like. It was crowded, steep, and shifting stones filled the water. The next day I visited a smaller beach equally useless. I cannot recommend either. Besides, I soon became so busy I never had a chance to go back. Finally, in August of 2018 I visited the Dyer Woods Nudist Campground in Foster, Rhode Island to see what it was like. I considered it my job as an explorer to learn what people do there. I think it’s probably something everyone should do at least once. This is my report.
Unlike a clothing-optional site, nudity is mandatory there and it is not free. They also frown on photography and I didn’t want to risk any trouble by taking pictures of fungi or trees. As a result, my report is rather colorless. It’s a pretty nice place. There is a pond for swimming surrounded by a grassy slope that people put their chairs on. The people that day were very friendly and laid back.
A decent-length trail runs into the woods around the perimeter of the property that I decided to take barefoot. While the ends of the path where it meets the camping area are covered in hard pebbles, most of the path is covered by moss. It was perfect! In one spot, it passes by a picturesque pond with several boulders jutting out of it. Along one side is a ridge of stone. There was a lot of fungi about. One stump was coated with a tiny forest of tiny, thin-stalked, bright orange mushrooms. Another mushroom must have been at least nine inches across.
There are a few benches, a cemetery, and a hollowed-out mound left by who-knows-who. Not far from this was a wire running across the path. It was firmly buried at both ends and there was no sign of it anywhere else. I was probably a third-mile from any machinery or modern human structure. What does it serve? I forgot to ask.
After exploring the trail, I sat around the pond and wrote in my notebook while dragonflies landed on me. The shore was guarded by small frogs. Finally, I had to leave and this is when I got in a brief conversation with two guys and a lady sitting on the deck. All four of us were completely nude and it felt like the most ordinary thing in the world, finally confirming what I had always known.
Goddard Park is disintegrating! Every rain erodes it away further as chunks of it fall into the ocean. By the end of the century, it will quite possibly have disappeared completely. Hurry and visit while you can! How fitting that even my memory of my visit is fading since I took so long to write down my account.
I visited Goddard Memorial State Park in Rhode Island sometime in August 2018. It is a large place with winding driveways through expansive grassy fields lined with picnic tables. There are restrooms and a golf course. The interior is wooded, with trails sometimes frequented by horses. The western edge is a sandy beach touching a marine cove. I parked near the beach and set out on foot to explore the northern tip of the peninsula.
There were dozens of fallen trees where the highlands met the beach. Many still had their leaves on. The edge did not look sturdy. Gullies and exposed roots were everywhere. Side trails from the main trail simply ended abruptly at the edge of cliffs and overhangs.
I finally reached the seashore where there was a short jetty leading to a large boulder in the sea. I rested in the sun surrounded by waves a while before taking a picture of the way I had come.
Around in this area were additional signs of erosion. Rocks broke into flakes held together by organic matter. Strange pits speckled otherwise smooth stone.
I also saw this cool rock and shell:
There were also hordes of small animals here that allowed me to videotape them. I love animals! I have recently been having problems with my videos such that after taking them they will inexplicably rotate to vertical. I have since bought an app to fix this and I will let you know how it works in the future.
I then headed south along the beach where I saw another animal that I thought was only something I had made up out of my imagination myself when I was a kid – the mysterious sea bread:
I returned to my car for lunch, then took the trails to the south. There were very many branches to the path. Then I discovered this map on a tree! Well, that would have been helpful if it was placed near the entrance!
This part of the park is used by horses and there is the occasional pile of horse dung. There wasn’t much else to see. I vaguely remember a piece of metal stuck in a tree, but that’s it. I soon became tired and returned north by way of the beach. This is when I discovered that animals far scarier than horses also frequent the park. What kind of animal poops rocks?
I went home in a hurry.
Shrooms And Blooms
Just as all over Rhode Island that August, there were mushrooms and other fungi. Most were the same as those photographed elsewhere and I was too lazy to bother this time. There were also a few flowers. Here are the photographs I bothered to take:
In late July I walked part of the Narragansett Trail from Stubtown Road to North Road in the Canonchet Preserve on the western edge of Rhode Island. This is my report.
First, I was met in the parking lot by a party of mosquitoes, black flies, deerflies, and horseflies. They were clearly expecting me as the guest of honor. Several of them gave me kisses of greeting while I was still putting on my bug spray. I told them that I was flattered, but had a countryside to explore and I bid them farewell. They eventually stopped following me, meaning that most of the trip I was fly-free. It was a very unusual experience.
There was also a painted stone left behind by some mysterious entity for mysterious reasons. It was similar to stones I had seen in Florida the previous two years. What do they mean?
I then stopped on the shore of a pond (Ashville Pond) where there were dragonflies and small flowers of every color. There were also small fish near the shore that paid no attention to me whatsoever.
The first part of the trail was very much like the other trails previously visited in Canonchet Preserve (Canonchet and Hoxsie). There were small, green fruit on the ground. There were the same thorny plants on the sides of the trail. There were bees and wasps of every possible kind. There were large, black butterflies (some with blue on the hindwings). There were very large boulders scattered about, many of them with smaller stones stacked on top (babies?). There were also stone walls crisscrossing the landscape and intersecting the trail, though I was so far out in the middle of nowhere that I felt no one had been here in a very, very long time. There were even signs of mutant rocks and trees and mating between them (I start getting silly when I have been out in the woods too long).
In one spot only, there were also yellow leaves on the ground. For once, there were also some in the trees, but the very last ones fell just as I was passing. What are the chances? The simple, tapered leaves had green brethren still in the trees above, but I could see no leaves that looked like the four-pointed ones. There were only maples. Could the yellow leaves be mutant maple leaves rejected from the tree? The mystery deepens.
There were also plenty of fungi of every flavor:
What was different about this section of the forest was the numerous areas of bare stone and the amount of sunlight that got all the way to the ground. Once I passed the midpoint of my trip, there was even more stone and more sunlight. The trail began to go up and down and the traditional forest around me was replaced by a rhododendron forest.
This rhododendron flashed gang signs at me:
There were several side trails that led to exposed areas of stone, but I did not have the time to look at all of them. There was an outcropping of rock bordering the second pond (Long Pond) on the other side, but with no way to get to it. There were also many boulder caves filled with spiders and daddy-long-legs, but I didn’t want to get lost or stuck.
I also saw a red dragonfly, a green inchworm, a dead snake, and a dead millipede. Then – at last – near the very end of my trip – I found the last rhododendron bloom. There were no others left.
Upon parking at Crawley Preserve near Usquepaug, Rhode Island, one is greeted at the parking lot by blackberries – or at least they were there when I went in July. There is also a plant greatly resembling a sensitive plant, known for folding in its leaves in response to touch, but this one is either broken or else I have misidentified it.
From there, the trail to the right (the only one to prohibit horses) will take you through several distinct sections each with their own style. First, the narrow trail is banked by thick ferns where foot-biting animals can hide. Next, the surrounding vegetation gets higher. Next, the trail crosses the brook where there are the same kind of flowers growing as were growing in Canonchet’s wetter areas.
From this low-lying area, the trail climbs up among mossy boulders where all the major branches of plant life are represented side-by-side. There are non-vascular plants, spore-bearing plants, gymnosperms, and flowering plants. I felt as though I was hiking through time from the Devonian to the Carboniferous, through the Permian, and into the Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Paleogene. I held my breath as I passed from one section to the next so that I would not inhale the time winds and be aged millions of years. Going up, the roots of nearby trees helpfully spread their roots across the wet rocks so I would not slip. Finally, at the top is a flat area dominated by huckleberries.
There were also very many bushes with fragrant white flowers just opening up. Most of them were still buds, but the bees were already all over them. The flowers were everywhere.
Following this trail to its end and returning by the main trail, one sees that it is full of grass – lots and lots of very tall grass. This is where I saw the cutest snake ever. It zipped away before I could get a picture of its head.
I visited Crawley Preserve the same day I visited the Hoxsie Trail of Canonchet Preserve several miles away, eight days after my previous visit. Much was the same and much was different. Though Canonchet and Crawley are several miles apart, I wondered whether my two accounts should be posted as separate adventures or combined into one. I finally decided to separate them.
In both places, I saw orange flowers near the creeks. In both places, I saw a toad. In both places, I saw small, green fruits on the ground everywhere. Cutting open one at Crawley, I found no maggots, however. It was a bit like an apple. As at Canonchet and at Rome Point, there were the same thorny plants here and there, but unlike earlier in the season, their thorns had hardened.
Also at both places, there were mushrooms of every flavor:
I also saw some other stuff:
The last time I visited Canonchet Preserve, I did not have a chance to take the Hoxsie trail, since I inexplicably took a wrong turn on the way back. However, I was able to return eight days later and take the Hoxsie trail in, connecting to the Canonchet trail heading out, thus overlapping part of my earlier expedition. It was a shorter walk. Much was the same and much was different. I wondered whether my two accounts should be posted as separate adventures or combined into one. I finally decided to separate them.
One thing that was the same as on Canonchet Trail was the presence of these star-root trees. The old logs were everywhere. They looked as though they would not have had a good grip on the ground, nor good access to water.
Another thing that was the same was the widespread presence of mushrooms of every flavor:
Another thing that was the same was the presence of yellow leaves on the ground. What was different was the shape. The distinct leaves I saw eight days before on July 17 were gone. There was no sign of them, yellow or green or brown, on the ground or still in the trees. Instead, there were these new yellow leaves everywhere:
Another thing that was the same was the widespread presence on the ground of what looked like powdered sugar, though in some places it could take on a yellow-tan color and in one spot it was pinkish. What was different was the widespread presence of the color black. There were black-winged damselflies, moths, and butterflies, as well as the numerous spots on the rocks and leaves.
As on my previous visit to the nearby area, I saw many wacky trees and stones. There were boulders with smaller stones stacked on top (babies?). There were trees with distorted pits in them (ray gun holes?). There was also this:
These trees appear to be struggling for dominance, their antlers locked together:
At last, I discovered the reason I was seeing so many ridiculous mutant stones and stumps in the area, both on this trip and on the last one! Interspecies mating!
I also saw a rabbit, a wasp nest, and all these weird items:
The Canonchet Preserve in western Rhode Island is a collection of smaller preserves cobbled together with some private land sandwiched between. Off Route 3 is the Hoxsie section, where I began my journey. This area is filled with large stone structures, apparently the remains of a town. Whoever might have lived here before, it is home to rocks, trees, and flies now. I planned to take the Canonchet trail through the Hoxsie section all the way into the next section and then north to Stubtown Road before turning back, reentering the Hoxsie section, and taking the Hoxsie trail to the parking lot. The map at the trailhead made it look like a four-mile round trip, tops – at least that’s the way I remember it.
The first thing I noticed was the prevalence of yellow leaves on the ground. It was too early for autumn, and they were all of one kind. What was going on?
There was also stonework everywhere, especially stone walls and stone-lined pits. There were also many of these odd stone nests:
I also saw this boulder carrying her babies on her back:
And this one:
And this one:
I also saw this giant piece of quartz:
I also saw a few flowers:
And there were mushrooms of every flavor:
At last I came to the edge of the Hoxsie and set forth on to Stubtown Road. My trek had felt much longer than it should have been. I was tired. There was a map at the junction of the two trails as well, but this one made it look as though I was facing an eight-mile round trip! Could I have misread the earlier map? No, there must be a reasonable explanation. I’ve heard that the universe is expanding due to dark energy, but this is just ridiculous!
I decided to press on anyways. A little further down the trail, I looked back and realized that I could see a lot farther than I could when I had looked forward. It seemed as though the trees were further apart now, allowing me to see between them. Was the space between the trees getting bigger?
Something else happened. I noticed it was very quiet. I could no longer hear the traffic from the road. The only noises came from myself and my ever-loyal companions the deerflies, who had followed me from Hoxsie. They would stick with me right until the end. I could no longer hear civilization at all. Was the park expanding so fast that I was receding from the parking lot faster than the speed of sound and that was why I could hear nothing? I shuddered, but kept onward.
There were also spiders living here, some of whom had carelessly strewn their webs across the trail. I walked into four of them. Well, it serves them right. My deerfly companions were content to let me walk ahead of them. I don’t blame them.
These spiders were a strange breed, with high, spiny backs of a silvery color (spiny micrathena). I tried to take a picture, but the camera would not focus.
In one area, I came across several trees that had been damaged by what I can only guess to be some sort of spatial disruptor weapon. Obviously, a gunfight had broken out here once – but who was fighting whom? And were they long gone or still lurking around?
As I examined the trees and contemplated this mystery, a bomb from above narrowly missed me. I dove for cover, but it did not explode. It wasn’t the only one. This area was almost carpeted with them. Curious what was inside, I cut one open and found it full of maggots. These weren’t bombs at all. They were the fruits of the maggot tree!
This was an eerie place indeed. Everything wanted to be something else. I encountered these mushrooms pretending to be lettuce. Their smell gave them away. They smelled like mushrooms, a bit earthy and a bit grassy. I was not fooled. They would not end up in my salad.
I came across this stump pretending to be a duck. Again, I was not fooled. It never quacked once.
I don’t know what this is, but it was pretending to be a caterpillar. I knew it wasn’t. No caterpillar would ever be caught outside the home looking that silly. I think it might have been a drunk college student.
Reaching a swampy area, I encountered a tree whose roots were pretending to be a boulder. I wasn’t fooled. I never sat on it. Just beyond this were tree roots spread across a brook and covered with moss that were obviously mimicking the nearby bridge. I wasn’t fooled. I chose the real bridge.
Once past the swamp, the trail gradually went uphill and the average size of rock became bigger. The boulders were absolutely massive. Clearly, they were taking steroids – or maybe they were mutants. The size of these stones gave cover to hiding animals, as well as hijackers and pirates, probably. I rounded one stone only to encounter a mess of roots and dirt pretending to be a black-cloaked robber. I almost peed myself.
Shortly after that, something passed me that looked like a bumblebee, but wasn’t. It was at least twice the size of the largest bumblebee I had ever seen. Settling on a leaf just two steps in front of me, I could then see that it was possibly the scariest-looking insect I had ever seen in my life. It had a vaguely bee-like body, but the wings and head were all wrong. I can’t even be sure it was Hymenoptera. In its jaws, it held the lifeless body of another insect, as if to demonstrate what it would do to me if I stepped out of line. I almost peed myself again.
Note: After returning home and looking it up, I think it might have been a European hornet, though this is doubtful; it didn’t look quite the same. It may of course have been a mutant European hornet.
At last I reached the end of the trail. Here there were flowers, open air, and direct sunlight. There was also a wasp on the ground pretending to be an ant (No, seriously, I’m not joking this time; look it up).
I turned back the way I came. By this time I was exhausted from the heat and humidity. If not for the constant encouragement from the deerflies to keep moving, I probably would have taken a nap. One of them even kissed me on the cheek to make me feel better. It hurt.
I have always found it remarkable just how many new things can be seen on the way out that were missed on the way in. Everything looks so different when seen from a different angle. I saw little bits of green wood like I had seen at the Davis Memorial Wildlife Refuge. How had I missed that? I also came across the edge of a boulder sticking through the ground. It was a stone pretending to be a log! How had I missed that? I then came across some more fungi. There was no way I could have missed it. Had it grown up while I was gone? Was time expanding as well as space? Was I about to return to an Earth where humans had long been extinct?
As time went on, I realized it had been a long time since I had seen any of the landmarks I saw on the way in. Every hill and valley looked unfamiliar. I began to wonder if I had somehow stepped onto the wrong trail, though I could not understand how, since I never saw an intersection. “I think I might be on the wrong path,” I said to my deerfly companions, just as I walked face-first into yet another spider web.
Since I had walked into every web on the way in, I was now sure I was on the wrong trail. After seeing through all the other trickery around me, I had been duped by the wrong trail pretending to be the right trail! I should have known all those other things were mere distractions! I considered turning back, but I was too tired. For topological reasons, I knew I must have been heading in roughly the right direction, since I had not yet run into the roads that border the preserve. Besides, I was too curious to see what lie ahead.
Eventually, the trail dumped me onto a road next to some houses with beautiful gardens. My deerfly companions finally bid me farewell as I walked along the road back to the place where I had left my car. Human civilization still seemed to be intact. There was no sign that more than a few hours had passed or that the world was any bigger. I’ll let the cosmologists figure it all out. I give up.
In July 2018 I visited Smith’s Castle in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, which is not a castle, nor does it belong to anyone named Smith.
Today it is a museum complete with informative tour guides and a gift shop, but the story is that a fortified, fenced structure once existed in the same spot owned by a guy named Richard Smith. While the colonists of Rhode Island got along okay with the Narragansett people, those in Connecticut, Plymouth, and Massachusetts Bay did not, and believed them to be harboring Wampanoag warriors that had plagued them for years. Since Smith was friendly with the governor of Connecticut, even going so far as supporting the ceding of Rhode Island land, he allowed soldiers from the three surrounding New England colonies to stay at his house and launch an attack from there into the nearby swamp. No Wampanoag were found, and the Narragansett were slaughtered in one of the bloodiest battles of those times. In retaliation, the Narragansett burned down every single home on the western shore of the bay in 1676, including that of Richard Smith, even though it was tucked away in the end of a tiny cove.
Note: As it turns out, the site where the Narragansett were attacked is the very same place where I had seen the swamp monument several months ago and several miles away. At last I knew something of where it came from!
Soon after, a new home was built in the same spot, which survives to this day (though only a fraction of the wood is original). The house stayed in the Smith name until 1737, when the owner having no sons, it was given to a nephew by the name of Daniel Updike, a lawyer and Rhode Island attorney general who was instrumental in acquiring four counties from Massachusetts – Tiverton, Little Compton, Bristol, and Cumberland. He also had a plantation where he (or, rather, his slaves) grew corn and raised cattle and horses. He sold cheese and candles. In 1812, the place was passed to the Congdon family, then the Babbitt family, and finally the Fox family, who held it until the late 1930s.
Each room is packed with much to look at. There are heating jugs for the beds, spinning wheels, and candle molds. I saw the seashell plaster they used on the outer walls. I saw the types of beams used to support the house called gunstock beams, which are wider on the top. The beams still bear the marks telling where each one was to attach to its neighbors. Houses of this type in those days were often assembled at one location, marked, and then disassembled and shipped to where they would remain. It was hard to know what questions to ask, but the docent was very helpful.
Sometimes I just want to escape, forget the human world, and go hide in the woods and smell the roses. This is exactly what I did in June when I visited the John H. Chafee Nature Preserve. There were some other people there, but mostly they were out of sight. The main trail will take you right out onto Rome Point, a tiny peninsula that juts out into Narragansett Bay, so to avoid people I ran down a side path bordered by ferns.
Unfortunately, the first path ran into a stone wall on the other side of which was a swamp. I backtracked and took a second side path.
Both of these paths were narrow due to the thick vegetation on either side. Numerous vines and branches crossed them. There were also highly visible thorns which I knew would discourage the average person. At last I was starting to feel isolated.
Before long, I entered an open area where the trail split and there was a giant rock with a tree sticking out of it. This place was clearly frequented by humans, but I did not see any yet. I bore left and reentered the jungle. This is when I finally found the best place ever.
The path shrunk to almost nothing, crushed between walls of roses and other vegetation nine feet high. The smell was intoxicating. The bees were few and left me alone. The thorns did not catch. I was slow and careful and as I later discovered the thorns of one species were soft! It went on like this for quite a way around several tight turns before beginning to open up just a little. This is where I found the ruins.
I didn’t know what to make of the wall. I went down a side trail and back, finding three deep holes in the ground. I half-expected them to be full of skulls and gold coins, but instead they just contained bottles and cans.
Back on the trail of roses, I was feeling pretty good. I often stopped and looked up. The trees were covered in vines and expertly shaded the forest floor. The path was smooth and mostly free of sticks. I felt that I had found my own private paradise where I could do whatever I wanted, hidden from my enemies. Nobody else came down the path. I wanted to stay, but alas, I had to keep exploring. What existed further down the path?
Eventually, the underbrush cleared up so I could see where I was going and several almost indiscernible paths joined the one I was on. I came to what appeared to be a major intersection. The remains of a car were parked there. I had reached the end of uninhabited territory.
I followed the main trail and soon came to a grassy area of many small trails leading to the beach. This is when I first saw humans, but they were far away and paid me no notice.
The tide rushed in between the peninsula and this nearby island:
On the other side of the peninsula, the beach was all stones and lady slipper shells, nothing else. This is where I saw the “rabbit stone.” Straight ahead is a little island with two houses on it. There were also some flowers:
Having seen enough, I returned the way I came. I could not get enough of the roses. I wanted to stay the night. I was going to move in. That is when the humans arrived. Two humans and a dog passed me from behind. I squeezed past another human and a dog going the other way once the trail narrowed. The thorns had not deterred them one bit. I lingered for a while among the bees and had to move over for yet another human. The illusion was broken. This was not going to work out the way I hoped, but nothing could break the good mood I was in.
Nope, not even that.
The orange one is even more beautiful in person.
It’s not much of a beach, with not much of a view, and according to the signs the water is polluted, but Calf Pasture Point in Rhode Island is packed with interesting stones, shells, and bits of trash that make one wonder just what half these objects used to be.
To get to Calf Pasture Point, I walked the bicycle trail there. On the way, there was much to see to spark interest. There were large boulders to climb or sit on. There were peeling trees. There were flowers. There was some sort of water barrier or something I imagined to be a giant snake. There were imposing piles of dirt in the middle of nowhere. There were a few trails running into the woods I did not have the time to take. There were holes in the fence, some quite obvious and others very nearly hidden. I also noticed that running parallel to the bike path was another paved path completely overgrown and only visible here and there.
Finally reaching the short peninsula, I walked around its perimeter. I found it overgrown with three different types of brambles, the most spectacular of which was covered with red thorns and stiff hairs.
There was a tiny lagoon just big enough to be a natural jacuzzi. There was a lot of red, white, and green seaweed (Christmas!). On the sand, the seaweed had somehow dried into a solid, papery mat that crunched under my feet. In other places, there was rubbery, black, stratified mud. In at least three places, I had to cross streams dumping into the ocean. Crossing one of them, I was surprised when my foot sank rapidly into the muddy bank, drenching my foot in cold water. I pulled out and looked back to see the mud fill in and smooth out my footprint so that within seven seconds there was no sign I had ever been there!
There were so many curiosities packed into this place that I could not focus on any of them and my account is less of an adventure story than a chaotic, incomplete inventory. What I post is only a fraction of what I photographed. What I photographed is only a fraction of what I saw. What I saw is, I’m sure, only a fraction of what was there. In addition to the items listed above, there were also all forms and varieties of litter, every kind of shell (sea life’s litter), and several types of rocks (Earth’s litter). There were even some bones and some dead crabs.
There was even liquid litter in the form of this oily patch:
There was also a hairy shell. Whatever it was that grew on the outside of it put up perfectly regularly-spaced hairs. There was also a sponge and another shell covered in tubes. Other shells were stuck together in stacks.
I found a rust-colored stone that was basically a big lump of rust. I dropped it and it broke in two, revealing the inside to be the same crumbly orange as the outside.
I have no idea what this is. At first I thought it was a jelly fish, but then I thought it could be the remains of someone’s half-digested soup that had formed a skin in the hot sun. Can anyone identify it?
There was also much evidence of a prior visit by the
Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things:
I wonder if the same people might have put all those bottles in the trees at Ryan Park.
If anyone is looking for buckets, ribbons, or large pieces of eroded Styrofoam to play with, this is definitely the place to visit.
The sign at the miniscule Davis Memorial Wildlife Refuge in North Kingstown, Rhode Island is covered with rules. It prohibits loud playing and jogging. My parents always told me to go play outdoors, but maybe in Rhode Island people play indoors instead. The refuge is supposed to be a quiet place to enjoy nature – exactly the type of place one might have a picnic – except that picnics are prohibited as well.
I quietly walked the trails and soon decided that this was one of the noisiest places I had been. No fewer than four types of birds were singing at once and screaming curses at me. Stopping beside the pond, I was repeatedly harassed by a bumblebee, forcing me to break the rules by jogging away. I think it wanted the shore all to itself.
I walked around the short trail loop, but I didn’t see much of note. I did see a fragment of green wood and strange, metal trees with wires strung between them. The map called these “power lines” and the rules also prohibited going past them. I also saw a hanging branch that had clearly broken and healed several times before. Maybe it was all the noise. What a weird place.
Sometimes even short trips to small places can be something special. This April, my grandfather wanted to get out of the house, so we visited Wilcox park in Westerly, Rhode Island. I noticed that in several places the road there split in such a way that I could not tell which was the main route and which was the turn, and road signs were often absent, but we got there somehow. Rhode Island roads are not user-friendly.
The park is so small that one can see all the way across it from most spots within, but this is no mere field of grass. There are interesting trees, flowers, hills and uneven walkways, a concrete-lined pond, benches, and artifacts of historical interest. Right next door is the city library.
My grandfather had wanted to show me “Harry Lauder’s walking stick,” a form of mutant hazelnut that grows there. Unfortunately, we found out it had died years ago. Instead, we looked at a giant birdbath-thing that used to be a drinking trough for horses. Then we walked around the pond before going home. For such a small place, I somehow managed to take a lot of great pictures:
Later at Burger King, I spied this strange, painted stone outside. Could the same mysterious cabal of stone-painters that inhabit Florida have followed me to New England?
The first time I visited Ryan Park, I only found it because I happened to be driving past its northern entrance. I could not find it on any map. It was only after I explored the western half – thinking I had finished with it – that I discovered a map showing it had another side. I had completely missed the main entrance. There were a couple of ball fields but not much else. A trailhead was marked, but it looked like there was too small a space between it and the pond to be worth much. Still, I decided I should at least make a quick check the next time I drove by.
What I found was astounding. Between the lobes of the pond ran a narrow isthmus on which sat the trail. On either side was just enough brush to feel hidden but not so much that it blocked the view. I was soon way out in the middle of the water. It was quiet except for some frolicking geese. This idea of having long, thin walkways connecting distant islands across the sea is exactly how I would design a planet. In some places, the land was wide enough for there to be side trails, which I took. In other places were forests of densely-packed reeds over nine feet high. Around every turn was something new.
I had discovered a world of intense beauty. This was the prettiest park I had been in. It was still morning, overcast, and sprinkling off and on. It was cool and comfortable. There was no harsh sunlight to hurt my eyes or cast dark shadows in contrast. The lighting was just right for all the colors to pop. Color makes all the difference. Moss and lichen were everywhere.
I reached the mainland on the other side and found a complex web of trails that seemed to go on and on forever. The trees still had not grown out their leaves yet since it was still March and so I could maintain a long enough line of sight not to get lost. I could even see other trails from the trail I was on. Here and there were small, black ponds of the same kind I saw on the west side of the park (where I heard the “fairies”). There were also bowl-like depressions of roughly the same size that I thought should have filled with water, yet had not. Why?
I also saw the same green briars I saw on the west side. In three places I encountered them hanging across the trail and did my best to tuck them away so they wouldn’t catch other hikers. This is harder than it sounds. The thorns kept getting caught on the surrounding twigs and the vines were spring-loaded, requiring me to get a better grip on them – a grip I was unable to achieve without getting thorns in my hands. One time, by pulling on a vine and trying to force it through a narrow opening between two others, I unwittingly pulled a branch of it down so that a thorn hit the corner of my eyelid!
There was a lot to see. I saw a pair of very large blackbirds. I saw a cardinal. I saw a tree with a tumor the size of a large watermelon. At the edge of the park is a stone wall beyond which are houses. Most yards have openings in this stone wall with short trails connecting to the main trail. All these people are lucky to have their own private entrances to the park.
I also saw this mysterious writing. What does it mean? Is it a warning? Is it a welcome mat? Is it graffiti? Or did some animal just scratch the ground to clean off its paws?
Passing by an area with several black ponds I again heard the strange, gurgling, duck-like voice I had heard several days prior on the west side of the park. There seemed to be many more voices here. Just as before, every time I approached one of the ponds it would fall silent. I tried being extra quiet and slow, but even when I stayed on the trail, the moment I was visible from the pool the voices would hush. I stood next to one pond for a long time waiting for it to start up again. I scanned back and forth across the sixty-by-thirty foot puddle looking for even the tiniest movement. I wished I had someone else to experiment with to confirm that the voices stopped for them too, but there was no one around at all. Finally, I saw dim, grey shapes in the water. Frogs! They would float just under the surface totally still as if dead, but the moment I raised an arm, they would rapidly descend into the brown gloom below.
Before I left, I also saw a twisted tree and a hole in the ground next to a creek.
By this time I was in a pretty good mood. Then the sun came out and I thought it was a good day for a drive with the windows down. This was how I ended my March.
How did you end your March?
I had been tipped off about the existence of the swamp monument weeks earlier, but decided to visit Walmart for some fluorescent gear first when I found that it was a hunting area and it was required. I was told that the monument at its end was also known as Indian Monument and was erected to memorialize some Indian war from the colonial era, but I could find no information online about it.
Then in late March I decided to first visit Cocumscussoc State Park, but it was difficult to find an entrance. Some maps showed it recessed behind residential property far from any streets except for a single, narrow connection to the main road. Other maps gave it two narrow connections. Other maps showed it enveloping one of the side streets. It was as if the park existed in some sort of quantum superposition of states measured differently depending on what map one used. The northmost connection I was unable to find. The eastmost connection I narrowed down to a small area where every single point along the road was clearly part of someone’s yard except for a single driveway heading into the woods. This was absolutely the only place the park could have been.
I thought I would stop at the tourist information building immediately adjacent to the driveway for some maps and suggestions of where else to visit before I walked up the driveway, but the lady inside insisted it was not the entrance after all. She seemed very keen to talk me out of ever visiting the place, claiming it had no trails, was too dense with foliage to navigate, and was infested with ticks. After looking through the pamphlets, I decided to visit the swamp monument after all.
Heading south on Route Two, I briefly stopped at the Barber Pond Fishing Area. This is a tiny spot on the side of the road with two benches and a picnic table next to a beautiful blue pond. It was nice, but it was too cold and windy to stay long.
Next I stopped at the end of Swamp Monument road and took the trail into the woods. The main trail is a raised, grassy road about a mile long. From there I could only see trees forever, lending a feeling of calming isolation. The only sound was the breeze and my own feet. Most trees lacked leaves still, but there was some Holly here and there.
Only in the final third of the trail does the surrounding area become swampy. Then I saw the monument. It stands maybe 20-25 feet high and is a single stone. On the side it mentions some war from the seventeenth century. It is surrounded by four boulders on which are carved the names Masachvsetts, Connecticvt, Plymovth, and Rhode Island. There is also a flat stone in front giving some additional information, but it is nearly illegible. The place seems very nearly forgotten. I say nearly, because I did happen to run into one lady with a dog while I was there.
From the monument clearing a trail runs west until it skims the northern edge of the Great Swamp Wildlife Reservation. I knew this because as isolated as it seemed out there, I still had a cellular signal and I was curious how close I was getting. I thought that maybe the trail might be a back way into the reservation, which might be helpful to know if I ever got trapped there or something (I really just like to know stuff for no reason). Unfortunately, the trail became impassibly mucky after maybe fifty feet and I turned back.
Nearer to the entrance I saw another trail heading east. This one also skimmed along the northern edge of the GSWR. It was a bit overgrown, but passable, and I made it a couple hundred feet before reaching a very large puddle I was not in the mood to tangle with. There were more leaves here and it was shadier. There were even patches of snow still left where sunlight did not reach. After marking my territory in the name of the empire, I returned to the car.
Since it had been a shorter day than I had planned on, I attempted again to visit a bookstore that had been closed the last time I was there. It was closed again. This is not the only place that seems to have staffing problems and an irregular schedule. There is also a pizza place closer to home I had been curious about that is always closed when I go. Also, Ryan Park does not show up on any map and I only found it because I happened to drive by one of its entrances one day. Now I can’t find a way into Cocumscussoc Park even though it is on the map. I’m beginning to think that Rhode Island doesn’t want me here. At least I found the swamp monument!
I visited Ryan Park off of Lafayette Road in North Kingstown, Rhode Island on March 24th, 2018 A.D. It consists of a broad dirt road running through an open field area in the middle with forest around the edges. The road gradually tapers to a trail as it approaches the southern entrance on Oak Hill Road. To the east is Belleville Pond, which can be seen through the leafless trees in the winter. The park is actually kind of boring, but I had myself with me and he’s very interesting. This is how the park looked through my weird Dan glasses:
I originally took the central path from north to south. Many narrow trails appearing to be bike trails entered the woods on either side. The topography was very hilly – very much unlike Florida. In fact, many of the tiny hills were a bit too steep to have happened naturally and I thought that a mighty civilization of humans must have once dwelled there. No sooner did I have this thought than I stumbled across a ditch full of large stones of roughly uniform size. The race of humans must have been sorters. What was it that had caused their demise?
Further along the trail, I continued to see signs of the artificial nature of the park. If only I knew what these signs portended I would have left immediately, but fool I was I assumed they were only signs of past human activities. There were odd piles here and there of neatly stacked stones, logs, or tires. What was their purpose? Were they territorial markers? Did they have religious significance?
Reaching the southern extreme of the park, I turned east towards the pond. At first, it seemed unapproachable, as a dense border of reeds and marshland surrounded it, but eventually one path brought me to a row of wooden beams sitting atop the mud, allowing me to walk right up to the water’s edge.
There was quite a web of paths running every which way, and if I could not see my way through the trunks made bare by winter, I could have easily been lost forever. It was in this area I saw the first shoots of spring rising from the land in hopeful expectation of the glorious seasons ahead. In addition to pitcher plants by the pond, there were short plants with black leaves. In other places, there were patches of green briars with formidable thorns.
Again heading north, I began to hear strange speech, but could see no one talking. The language was eerie, the words rather like the sounds of a duck or a frog, yet it had a certain human quality to the pattern of speech. I eventually traced the sound to a large puddle, at which point the sound abruptly stopped the moment I appeared. There was no one to be seen. I was quite familiar with this phenomenon from my time in Junior High School. It meant that the hidden speakers had been talking about me!
Further along the path, I came across a baseball cap draped over a fallen tree. Someone had lost it somehow – but why had they not turned back to pick it up? Were they in a hurry? Were they being chased? A short distance further I saw a single glove. Did it belong to the same person? Why were they losing their clothing? What had happened to them? Further along I saw an empty can of diet coke. Now I knew something was wrong. Nobody gives away soda for free. I saw now that this was a dangerous area where unsuspecting travelers might be chased by woodland fairies who would strip them of their clothing and take food right out of their mouths! At that moment I remembered the strange voices near the pond and realized I might already be a target. I would have to be on my guard.
Walking quickly, I crossed a stream and happened to look to the left. This is when I finally understood. A recent windstorm had knocked over the trees – but instead of uprooting, they had pulled up the carpet beneath them – exposing the true nature of the park beneath! This was no park at all! No wonder the trees did not have leaves! No wonder the topography was so strange! It was some demented fairy’s idea of what they thought a park was supposed to look like so that they could trick and trap unsuspecting explorers!
I instantly broke into a run, screaming like a baby. I did not even stop to take a picture and have no idea how it got into my phone. As I tore through the web of crisscrossing trails, I began to worry that I might never make it out alive. That is when I saw the signs. Branches laid against trees spelled the letter “Y.” It being a letter used only by humans, I thought it might be showing a way out of the woods. I also thought it could be a fairy trick just to toy with me and prolong my suffering, wearing me out before they closed in for the kill. I had little choice; I took a chance and followed the mysterious trail.
I followed the path as it ran along the top of a tall, narrow ridge, its artificiality blatantly obvious now. How could I have been so stupid? I passed around an unusually large patch of green briars and went near another pond. There I heard the fairies speaking even louder than before. They sounded angry and I took it as a sign I was headed in the right direction. I ran and ran past more of the signs. I still don’t know how the pictures got into my phone…
At last, I found myself at the parking lot where I had come in and scurried to the safety of my automobile. The fairies would not catch me that day, and I would never enter that trick park again.
A few days before Halloween I was driving through the several towns surrounding the University of Rhode Island. The roads in this area seem to have grown organically like roots with no forethought that humans might one day need to navigate them. Fortunately, my grandfather’s century-plus of experience living in the area guided us home. “Left, left, right, straight, right,” he said. I’m not sure how he does it.
This area has a strange mixture of urban and rural qualities. Everywhere we were surrounded by trees, but there were closely-spaced houses among them. The roads were narrow and winding, yet heavily trafficked. There was nowhere to safely stop and take a picture. The nine-foot, pumpkin-headed being depicted above was actually sighted on a separate trip several miles north of this area. Among the houses are numerous local businesses with creative signs and facades, reminding me of a fairy village. I started to imagine that I might have took a wrong turn into the fourth dimension somehow and I was now trapped driving in circles forever.
Every yard had a stone wall going all the way around it. Some bordered right on the road. Some had fitted stones and were very neat. Others were sloppy. Some had jagged stones and some had rounded stones. Some were made of very large stones. There were even stone walls partitioning lots full of trees and boulders with no houses. One yard had a very deep valley running through it. The topography was always interesting. It seems like a cozy place to live.
There were book shops, flower shops, and antiques dealers. Every other residence seemed to be selling hay, firewood, mulch, or eggs. Returning a few days later to explore, I was disappointed to find some of the stores still without power from a recent storm. Among the open stores was The Purple Cow Company, a gift shop selling clothes, jewelry, cards, joke books, incense, geodes, and various carved figures. I was intrigued by the locally-made mini-houses made from smooth beach stones stacked and glued. Glass was used for windows and doors. It was a fairy village within a fairy village. I also stopped to look at the Tillandsia plants, which look like cute Lovecraftian horrors. Next door is the The Green Line Apothecary, which in addition to selling drugs, supplements, lotions, and providing screenings and immunizations, also has a bar where they sell soda, ice cream, shakes, floats, coffee, tea, lime rickeys, and whatever the heck egg creams and cherry phosphates are. I was not in a sugar-mood (unusual for me) and so I just had iced coffee with milk.
One day I shall return.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.