As winter sets in, we seem to have small windows where ice-free trails may be available, but there is no guarantee. The ground is freezing up, we’ve had some rain, some snow, then more rain, so avoiding ice is a matter of strategy and hope. We headed out to Lincoln, RI to the area near Chase Farm, figuring that it was south of us, closer to the coast, but not far from home. If it was not safe, we hadn’t spent hours driving to learn it was a bad choice. As it was, we guessed right.
We passed Chase Farm and parked at the next parking area east of there, called Gateway Park. Lincoln, RI has a series of trails that connect several properties, and this was one we had not explored before. The area immediately next to the parking is easy walking, on crushed stone pathways. We knew the path would take us eventually to Chase Farm, but we were in for a few surprises.
The first surprise was how hilly the area is. We climbed a steep set of stairs to the top of the hill overlooking the area near where we parked. Once at the top of this rise, we then headed back down on the other side, and spotted a wet area down below.
Thankfully, a small wooden footbridge offered an easy path across the stream we needed to cross.
The trail was well marked throughout our path as we headed back to Chase Farm. But suddenly we were in someone’s back yard.
Hmm, the trail markings made it clear that we were supposed to go right along the edge of the houses in a very nice neighborhood. Crossing the quiet street, we resumed our path, following the signs past another family’s home, and reentered the woods. We were grateful for the signs making clear that we were welcome to cross through where we did.
I love walking in woodland and coming across old stone walls. They are such a quiet reminder of how much life has changed, and how these woodland areas were once open fields used for farming.
Once we got back to the edge of Chase Farm, we spotted several trees nearly suffocated by bittersweet vines. The sloping fields must have been ideal for fruit trees to grow when this was an actively farmed area. The vines use the trees for handy framework, and at least offer hiding places for birds and other wildlife. As we skirted the edge of the field, we spotted a curious dog-like critter loping quickly, with purpose, toward another group of vine-covered trees. We weren’t able to grab a photo, but its behavior was much more like a coyote than any of the multiple dogs we see on our visits to Chase Farm, with their owners.
We stopped by the small farm pond which was mostly frozen, and spotted a pair of mallards. I grabbed a picture, and it was only upon returning home to go through the photos that I realized the pond was also sheltering a single merganser, hidden on the edge of the pond.
I love the huge sycamore tree standing near the walkway at Chase Farm. It’s one of the few trees I can feel confident about identifying even in winter with no foliage. The tree is also simply lovely on blue-sky days. We picked the perfect time to visit.
The coming winter days will offer challenges for those of us less firm of foot. Take care, know that spring will come, and look for chances to get out when you can. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.