A Hike on the North South Trail in Western Rhode Island. Click on the map below to view the larger version. Warning: the file is 5mb so it will take a moment to load.
Keri and I hiked roughly 40 miles total. This was the first real hike with a full pack and all the gear that I’ve done since 1988 when I hiked the high Sierras to the summit of Mt. Whitney. This was also Keri’s first real hike ever.
Day One – August 13th, 2010
We got a late start after missing our morning bus to Chepachet. The next bus got us there around 2:30. From Chepatchet we hiked west on Route 44 toward Durfee Hill Road where we would find the North South Trail. Keri and I decided to check out Cady’s Tavern for a late lunch of nachos, onion rings, and beer before hitting the trail. The food was so-so but the ‘Gansett was cheap! Buck fifty a pint. After lunch, we trekked back to the trailhead and made our way south on Durfee Hill Road. About a quarter mile down this road we turned onto the Gray Squirrel Trail which eventually met up with the old Sweet’s Logging Road which merged with Willie Woodhead Road. We hiked down this way until about 7 or so and started to look for a place to stealth camp for the night. Soon we found the remnants of another old logging road veering off the path to the right. We chose a spot a couple hundred yards down to set up for the night. Sleep was restless here. Keri had never camped in the wild like this and was spooked by the thought of rabid racoons mentioned in our guidebook. “No worries,” I said, “They can’t get in the tent.” All kinds of animal noises and an occassional gunshot pierced the night. Sometime in the middle of the night Keri sat up straight which woke me right away. Rabid raccoons! Holy shit! “What is it? What do you hear?” I ask. “Nothing.” We both try to sleep. In the morning Keri told me it was the complete silence that woke her. Not a sound to be heard.
Day Two – August 14th 2010
Woke up around 5:30 in the morning. I’ve always found it pretty easy to get up when camping. Anything is better than another moment on the hard ground. We were all packed up and back on the trail by 6:30. Not even 5 minutes after leaving our campsite we made our first trail discovery. Out here, deep in the woods, an abandoned homestead. I saw the shape of the house through the trees ahead. As we got closer, a side trail opened up and lead us past the ruins of a stone foundation and basement of a house that must have stood a couple hundred years ago. All that was left was this stone lined hole in the ground with a fireplace in one side and several trees growing straight up out of the ground floor. To the left of this was another house. This second house had been partially burned and dismantled but 3 rooms remained that still had a roof above them. A sign greeted us, “Keep Clean Please.” Beyond this was an empty shed and a clear flat rockless ground perfect for camping. If only we had discovered this place the night before! Damn!
Onward and downward… Continuing on Willie Woodhead Road we hiked South. The road itself is not much more than dirt and rocks shaped by the wheels of offroad vehicles. Eventually, the road transformed into a maintained gravel road lined with power lines and “For Sale” signs. Before long we started passing driveways and houses and came upon Old Snake Hill Road where we turned West onto hard pavement. About a mile down this road we came to the junction with Route 94. We asked someone working in their yard where the nearest store might be. “A couple miles down that way,” she says, pointing South down 94. We decided to go ahead and find this store to replenish water supplies and get some snacks and cold drinks. The store turned out to be a gas station. Good enough. The station is at the junction of Route 94 and Route 101. Looking at our map we realized we could hike down 101 and catch the trail again. This would allow us to skip the portion of the trail that heads into Connecticutt. As a bonus we made our second trail discovery on the way back to the NST. Jerimoth Hill.
The short trail to Jerimoth Hill is on the left hand side of Route 101 when you are traveling West. The trail itself is not long. Jerimoth Hill is the highest natural point in Rhode Island. 812 feet above sea level. On the walk up I found the perfect walking stick for the trip. At the top there is a clearing that is used by Brown University for their Astronomy program. Next to the clearing is a small outcropping of rock. This is Jerimoth Hill. Ha. We stopped here for a short break then headed back toward the NST. South on East Killingly Road put us back on the path. This portion of the trip is almost all on back country paved roads which are very hard on the feet. It wasn’t until a few miles southward that we got onto the Tom Wood Road which was by far the best trail to walk on. Dirt, roots, rocks. The forest canopy shading us from the sun. Little frogs and tadpoles in puddles by the wayside.
Onward and upward and southward until we came to the Shady Acres Restaurant on Route 6. We stopped here for lunch and topped off our water bottles. Today was going to be a long hike. By the time we reached the restaurant we had already hiked 12.5 miles. One thing we noticed was that stealth camping was not going to be an option again. Every optimal place to camp was either fenced off or had no trespassing signs or had homes forbidding us from camping. The nearest campground was 6 miles South of the restaurant just off the trail. 6 more miles…. We called them up and confirmed an open site and 4 hours later arrived dead tired and sore. They were amazed we walked there. Who does this in Rhode Island? Not Rhode Islanders that’s for sure. The campground is the Ginny-B. I wouldn’t call this place a campground. It’s more like a mini town in the middle of nowhere. The majority of the sites have plumbing, electricity, and satellite tv. I shit you not. There is a store, communal showers, laundry facility, baseball field, beach and pond, horseshoe pits, and a fishing pond. Almost every site is occupied by a big camper vehicle. Some even have fencing and wooden decks surrounding them complete with “Beware of the Dog” signs. Kids riding bikes everywhere. BBQ’s grilling and bonfires blazing. Laundry lines strung up between the trees and mingling with Christmas lights. The people in the campsite right next to us had a big roaring campfire going and a big tv next to it where they were probably watching the Patriots kick a ball around. I do not think the majority of Rhode Islanders know the meaning of the phrase, “roughing it.” Anyway, we had no choice but to shell out the 30 bucks for the night so we took advantage of the free showers to sooth our tired bodies. It wasn’t long before we passed out in our little primitive tent.
Day Three – August 15th 2010
We awoke at quarter to 6 after a somewhat more restful sleep attributed to the previous day’s long hike and exhaustion. The camp store opened at 7 so we decided to pull our sleeping bags out and lay outside to look up through the leaves of the trees to the lightening sky.
We felt sore and accomplished but we had decided that we had to end the trip today. We had several reasons for this. First, feet…really…hurt. The hard pavement and lack of proper hiking footwear are killer on the feet. Second, there really isn’t any option to camp other than in these expensive “campgrounds” that are way too far apart to hike to. The nearest one to the Ginny-B southward was another 12 miles and another 30 bucks. No thanks. Third, there are no stores anywhere out in this part of Rhode Island. No gas stations. Nothing. We were lucky that we were prepared and carried enough water and trail bars sustain us but that gets old real fast. Fourth, the pack I used was an old Peak1 Coleman that was just not comfortable. There were many times I wished I still had my old Jansport pack.
7 o’clock rolled around and we walked up to the camp store for hot coffee and cold danish. Back at the campsite we wrote in our journals and mapped out our route homeward. The plan was to continue on the trail south to Greene which looked to be a “town” on our maps in the guide book. From there we’d see if we could either find a bus back to Providence (unlikely since it was Sunday) or at least get cell phone reception again and get someone to pick us up. Greene was only about 6 miles away. We left the Ginny-B at 10:30. A well-deserved late start. After a couple miles or so of hiking we came to Moosup Valley and found a haunt.
After a short break here we continued on to Greene, stopping every so often to check for cell service and always with an eye out for some kind of store. When we finally reached Greene we realized it’s just more of the same back country roads. We decided to get off the trail here and take Route 117 East toward Summit. A local said there was a store “a mile or so” down the road. I don’t think Rhode Islanders know how long a mile is because this turned out to be almost 3 miles of pure walking hell with only one bright spot. About halfway down this road while in search of a clandestine spot to piss in I discovered the ruins of a house just off the road. Pee break! I imagine this would be an awesome place to practice archeology. The house itself is almost all caved in. Several walls still remained standing in steep angles. The floor had rotted away long ago leaving the basement filled with rusted appliances and bedsprings. Off behind the house was an intact shed and several dumps filled with old soda bottles and vintage kitchen enamelware. Behind the shed, covered in pine needles and branches lay the rusted hulk of an old Ford Fairlane convertible.
The rest of the hike seemed to drag on forever. We were walking slower and slower. Still no phone reception. Feet aching. Rest stops every 15 minutes or so. Just the steady tunk two three four tunk two three four sound of my walking stick hitting the asphault. Finally, at 4:30 we arrived in “Summit” at the junction of 117 and 102. No store except a closed hardware store. Grar!!!!! Luckily, a working Coke machine stood guard outside. Not only that but cell service came back and we were able to reach our friends Meg and Murray who gladly drove out from Pawtucket to give us a lift home.
6 responses to “A Hike on the North South Trail”
Sounds like a cool trip! I’ve ended up in a RV ‘Camp grounds’ once before as well. Many of the people didn’t seem to understand that camping generally requires a tent; not a RV with television and a kitchen! After 5 days on the trail getting a nice warm shower, and free beer and food from the locals was a pretty nice change of pace.
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. We plan to do this trip again but do the full length of the trail on foot and by bike. The whole trip was a spur of the moment kind of thing. We found the guidebook for it at our library and thought we’d give it a try. Now that we’ve been on it I definitely think it’s a much better idea to do a hike/bike trip next time and that’s really only because the campgrounds are so far apart, stealth camping is almost impossible, and stores are hard to come by out there.
This trail connects with a trail in Massachusetts which then connects to one in New Hampshire. I think the total length is close to 200 miles. I may try it one day. Personally, I’d much rather hike the high Sierras again.
Was wondering if you ever got to go back and do the whole North South Trail?
I’m hoping to hike all of it this June, and maybe the Midstate Trail in Mass. as well and was looking for some pointers.
Hi. Thanks. No, we haven’t had a chance to do the trail again. We’re planning to do it again this summer but we’ll be taking our bikes this time. Most of the “trail” is on paved road which was totally unforgiving on our feet. haha
I had heard some of it was road walking, just not “most”. That’s actually part of the reason I gave up on thru hiking the Bay Circuit Trail. Oh well, we’ll see how it goes in June. Thanks again.
The part we hiked was mostly road. That was from around Pascoag to Greene. Awesome trip but absolutely nothing out there. No stores or anything. We weren’t expecting that at all.