Friday, September 10, 2010

Arcadia Forest, Rhode Island

There are miles and miles of old roads and trails running through the massive 14,000 acres of Arcadia Wildlife Management Area in Exeter, Rhode Island. That's a BIG park: about ten times bigger than Sleeping Giant State Park, and about ninety times larger than Indian Well State Park here in Shelton.

The relatively flat sandy areas are covered with pines, scrubby oaks, and blueberries, reminding me of the sandy forests of northern Wisconsin (above). The glacial outwash sands in both Rhode Island and Wisconsin are responsible for the similar appearance and vegetation.

The sand dries up quickly, so plants must be adapted to drought, especially up on Bald Hill (Really? That was a hill?). Not many species can tolerate the dry conditions, so there is not much diversity, and most of the woods are rather open, often covered with a low layer of heaths such as Huckleberry, or pine seedlings.

Arcadia is crossed with miles and miles of sandy roads and unmarked trails, along with a few trails that are actually blazed for hiking. Arcadia Trail (above) is one of the few that has been blazed. The trail maps at the park are nearly useless, since there is a labyrinth of unmarked trails and it can be difficult to know where you are on the map. This is one place a gps receiver comes in really handy. So I naturally lost mine towards the beginning. It's still out there somewhere. The best map I've found online is here. You need to download it and crop to the area you want to explore.

The park was not at all crowded. Over the coarse of seven hours of hiking on a Friday, I passed one hiker walking her dogs, one mountain biker, and two groups on horseback. That's it. The forest is a management area, so there is hunting and possibly logging, and dogs need to be leashed during bird nesting season. I'm sure the healthy forest is due in no small part to the fact that the forest is managed. Over the many miles I hiked, I saw only native species. How refreshing! I can't remember the last time that happened.

Browning Mill Pond in the center of the park is an attraction. The ponds again remind me of northern Wisconsin, a pothole region, although these ponds are actually reservoirs.

This Indian Cucumber Root was growing near the pond.

East of Arcadia Road is a handicapped-accessible boardwalk that just goes on and on. The forest changes to a more typical Connecticut-type forest as the subsurface reverts to bedrock instead of sand.

The boardwalk leads to some picnic alcoves along another pond.

Heading off-trail for a bit, I came upon yet another grid-like series of rock piles on a ridge. Some people think these ridge-top piles were placed by Native Americans for spiritual ceremonies. Others think they were put there by farmers, either White or Native. Since I only find the piles on ridge tops where I would not expect the best farmland to be, I tend towards the first explanation.


sheri said...

I am captivated! I love your writing of the outdoors. can't wait to read more! -- sheri

Tim MacSweeney said...

I hope it's ok that I used this image at a blog called "Rock Piles;" you included a link to an article by one of the contributors.
We're always looking for images like this very fine one by you.
Well, actually a couple photos besides: