Long and Ell Pond Hike - 11/10/12
"This was my first hike with the Rhode Island Sierra Club. It was a great hike with just the right balance of rock scrambling and scenic overlooks. The weather was great, the group was very friendly and the leader was knowledgeable. It was a really nice day." -Karen
"The hike around the ponds was one of the most athletic Sierra Club outings I've been on. Who knew Rhode Island had such steep rocks and big boulders? Each steep climb ended in a vista, each more gorgeous than the last. By the time we started to scale that last rocky incline, some of us complained that we'd seen enough -- or at least as much as our knees could handle. But, when we got to the top, we were rejuvenated -- the sun shone down below on an expanse of flat water surrounded by wooded banks, and we could hear hikers in the distance." - Sarah
Eight hikers set out together on the November Outing to tackle the ups and downs of the Long and Ell Pond trail in Hopkinton. The hike followed the well-blazed and relatively challenging Narragansett Trail from the parking area just north of Long and Ell Pond on North Road.
The hikers wound their way through a tunnel like rhododendron forest while climbing steadily to the first view point of Ell Pond. Unfortunately the overlook is blocked by trees that have grown tall over the decades, but the pond could be glimpsed through their leafless branches.
The hikers descended from the view point to a creek crossing conveniently bridged by the AMC, then began the challenging part of the trail. Outings attendees scrambled up and down a series of steep and rocky hills as the trail followed the southern side of Long Pond. While difficult, the boulder strewn landscape and glimpses of Long Pond through the trees provided incentives to travel on. On the opposite shore, was a giant rock face that dropped dozens of feet down to the water. Also visible were houses along the north shore, one of which had floated a large raft and waterslide onto the lake. No one was using it on this slightly chilly Saturday in early November.
The outing took place shortly after both Hurricane Sandy and a subsequent nor'easter tore through the North East and, as a result, the hikers were regularly confronted with newly fallen trees that blocked the path. The number of fallen trees was surprising.
After reaching the eastern side of Long Pond, hikers continued along the Narragansett trail, which winds its way though pretty forest to Ashville Pond. Along the path the group spotted a rib cage of a recently killed animal, a casualty of hunting season. That scene, along with the relatively frequent sound of gun shots left the hikers feeling less self concious about wearing their neon orange vests to announce their presence to any hunters who may have otherwise mistaken them for dinner.
Ashville Pond's old swimming area offered outings attendees clear views of the tranquil pond. Blue skies and the sun on the trees lining the opposing shore reflecting in the water made for a great photo op. A few remaining lily pads also dotted the water close to the old beach.
From the swimming area hikers followed Stubtown Road east. They stopped to admire a well kept historic cemetery that contains tombstones dating back to the 1700's. The young ages etched into many headstones reminded the hikers that it was not long ago that death was a much more frequent occurrence among family members.
Turning onto Canonchet Road hikers headed north along a canal that once supplied power to a local mill. Just past Ashville Pond's designated fishing area the hikers stopped for lunch at a scenic overlook on a large white rock 10 feet above the water.
The outing continued along a trail heading to Blue Pond. In 2010, the dam holding back Blue Pond's water broke draining the pond and leaving behind what could more accurately be described as a large stream surrounded by a grassy meadow. The speed at which nature has reclaimed the landscape is amazing. Also amazing are the still in-tact stumps of trees that were flooded a century ago when the dam was built. This one view of grassy fields and stumps rising from water has the power to remind people of two things. First, what seems permanent to humans can quickly be reclaimed by nature, and second, a century feels long to humans but is the blink of an eye to Mother Earth.
Heading back to Canonchet Road, one group of hikers spotted blood on the leaf strewn trail. Their tracking instincts set in and led them to the remains of another deer carcass that had likely been shot by a deer hunter with an arrow.
Canonchet Road quickly looped the hikers back to Narragansett Trail which they followed along the south side of Long Pond towards the trail head. The trail had gained in popularity since they set out earlier in the day and was now populated by an assortment of people including families and hiking groups all exploring the magnificent woods.
After crossing back over the AMC bridge and climbing an extremely steep section of trail, hikers took a short side trail to the Long Pong look out area, which offered the best views of the day. This lookout site was used as a filming location in the recent Wes Anderson movie, Moonrise Kingdom. The overlook is situated atop the same giant rock that could be seen from the south shore earlier in the day. As the sun lost altitude and lit up the hikers’ surroundings, the group enjoyed and photographed the scene from many feet above Long Pond. A perfect end to a long day on the trail.
Sierra Club Rhode Island
Ben Jones, Outings Chair