- Access: Take Route 117 west through Coventry center and turn left on Stone Gate Drive. Turn right and proceed to the end of Bramblebush Road at a kiosk.
- Parking: Available for several cars at the trailhead.
- Dogs: Allowed, but must be leashed.
- Difficulty: The blue-blazed trail is easy. The yellow-blazed and the white-blazed trails are moderate to difficult.
COVENTRY — The opening of a new trail is a cause for celebration for the volunteers who built it, the donors and officials who preserved the land, and the hikers who get to enjoy another walk in the woods.
Last month, the Coventry Land Trust opened a short, new trail that runs over a heavily forested hilltop and connects to an existing network of trails in the Beaudoin Conservation Area.
The path winds through former farmland, crosses Quidnick Brook and passes giant erratics left behind from the Glacial Age. There’s quite a bit of history, too. A side trail leads to an old mill site after crossing a bike path built on a raised railroad bed.
I missed the dedication of the trail, which attracted 50 supporters to the new 95-acre Janice L. Sullivan Conservation Area, named for a Coventry public school teacher and principal who died in 2017 after a nine year fight with cancer. Her brother, Fred Schick, donated the property in her memory.
Earlier this month, though, I explored the new preserve on a clear, warm early-fall morning. I enjoyed the hike.
Plans to convert open field to a native plant garden and meadow
I set out alone from the trailhead in the Bramblebush neighborhood on a wide, wood-chipped, blue-blazed path that ran up a long slope. A cabin just off the trail near the hilltop is long gone. There are also some thinly wooded fields that may have once been farmers’ pastures.
The trail runs about a quarter mile before it passes the site of an unfinished homestead that was removed after the acquisition of the property. The land trust plans to develop the open field into a native plant garden and a meadow. The path leads to Ledge Road, where an information kiosk marks the entrance to the 175-acre Beaudoin Area, named for a prior owner, and continues as the blue-blazed trail.
The trail descends slightly and passes under a quiet forest of oak, pine and beech trees and near some large outcroppings and boulders. Just off the path are several vertical percolation test pipes installed when the land was to be developed as a housing subdivision.
As I walked without seeing another soul and became lost in thought, I enjoyed the solitude but was startled to hear a loud creak. I looked up and realized that the sound had come from a high tree branch, swaying in the wind as it rubbed against the trunk of an oak tree.
The blue-blazed trail leads to an intersection, where I turned left on the yellow-blazed trail and descended down a gentle slope. I noticed small boards placed over rocks in the middle of the path that may have been put there to warn hikers of the bumps, or possibly as jumps for bikers.
After about a half mile, I passed several double-wide stone walls running near a white-blazed trail that opened on the right. They were once part of Cyrus Comstock’s farm, where he lived with his wife, Elizabeth, in the 1800s and raised livestock.
In 1853, Comstock, a colonel in the Kent County Brigade, sold three acres of his land for an easement, which bisected his property, to the Hartford, Providence and Fishkill Railroad to run tracks west into Connecticut. The line was constructed in 1856 and part of it was abandoned in 1968.
Unmarked path leads to remnants of Comstock farm
I walked south to the end of the yellow-blazed trail at the railbed now called the Coventry Gr
eenway, Washington Secondary Bike Path or Trestle Trail. Several bicyclists and dog walkers were traveling the paved path.
Across the trail, past an opening in a wooden fence, is an unmarked path that leads down an embankment into the other section of Comstock’s property, which the land trust preserved as part of the 81-acre Neylon Conservation Area. I crossed a bridge of tree branches over fast-running Quidnick Brook, a trout stream that flows between the Quidnick Reservoir and Coventry Center Pond.
I also found a long, earthen dam on the brook that once held back a pond where Comstock may have watered his cattle. A channel, now overgrown, was dug from the brook to near a large, 6-foot, stone foundation that could have been a barn or a mill. After circling the remains, I retraced my steps across the bike path and along the yellow-blazed trail to the white-blazed trail. This time, I took it west.
Rock-hopping on a twisty trail
The narrow trail turned rocky and twisted up and down hillsides before I rock-hopped through a muddy section and a feeder tributary of Quidnick Brook. Mushrooms of all types sprouted along the wet path.
After the brook, the trail climbs through some downed trees. Pay attention to the white blazes so you don’t lose the trail as it climbs small hills and through a boulder field. The path continues for about three quarters of a mile before reaching a former carriage road on the western edge of the property.
If you turn left, you’ll return to the bike path. I turned right, though, and walked between fields on the left and woods on the right. The path continues to a parking lot at Williams Crossing Road, but I didn’t go that far and turned east on a yellow-blazed, rugged, up-and-down trail. There was a swampy area to the south and plenty of glacial erratics to the north.
The trail passed through a break in a stone wall and an area that may have been farmed years ago. The path then widened and intersected with the blue trail.
I turned left and followed it back across Ledge Road to return to where I’d started.
In all, I hiked about 4.5 miles over two hours.
Walking RI:Hollywood wow factor on Hopkinton trail
As I was leaving, I met a local resident walking his dog who said he was glad the area had been saved from becoming a housing development. He also noted that he sees all types of young and older hikers walking the easy, moderate and more difficult trails.
Take your pick. Wherever you walk, remember the Rhode Islanders who continue to work to preserve some of the most interesting parts of the state.
Trail Tip: How to read trail blazes
Many public trails are marked with rectangular blazes painted on trees. Because public preserves often have many trails, each path is blazed with a different color.
The blazes are placed just above eye level so the hiker, while walking, can glance up and pick up the trail.
There is no universal standard for blazing trails, but the photo of this key shows the most common markings.
If you go …
Access: Take Route 117 west through Coventry center and turn left on Stone Gate Drive. Turn right and proceed to the end of Bramblebush Road at a kiosk.
Parking: Available for several cars at the trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed, but must be leashed.
Difficulty: The blue-blazed trail is easy. The yellow-blazed and the white-blazed trails are moderate to difficult.
John Kostrzewa, a former assistant managing editor/Business at The Providence Journal, welcomes email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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