Audubon exploration and trip planning

It’s been a busy past few weeks, despite basically being able to set my own schedule. I took the last of the three licensing exams (and passed), have finally finished applying to fellowship, and am most of the way through a bunch of chart reviews. Last weekend we had a surprise visit from two dear friends, and took them to see the Tall Ships and eat fried clams. This weekend was much more of a work weekend–Saturday we spent much of the day hurriedly packing and moving my junk to my new home about 20 miles south on the Bay.

On Sunday, we decided we needed an adventure and hit the highway to the Long and Ell Ponds reservation (Audubon/Nature Conservancy/DEM) to hike. The description on ASRI’s website was succinct, so we had no idea what to expect. Other hikes in this area have ranged from boring to fantastic.

We were not disappointed. Almost immediately the well-blazed trail headed through a rhododendron forest over boulders and wound up a large rock mass to a 3-way fork. One branch led to a lookout on a granite ledge over Ell Pond, a national landmark with a plaque to prove it. A beaten path leads from the far end of the ledge through the trees down to the edge of the pond. The only sounds we could hear as we stood by the side of the pond were the wind and the far-off drone of an airplane.

The middle fork, labeled “Hemlock Forest,” drops steeply down a rocky cleft over rock steps. In my experience, it’s uncommon to find such a rugged trail in this part of New England, and it was a delightful surprise! The trail winds through more rhododendrons, over a brook on well-constructed bridge, and up and down more ledges. It passes the southern edge of Long Pond and eventually breaks out by a parking lot near the end on the pond, then takes a hairpin turn through a dense shrubby forest. At this point, the bugs came out in force and we had to pick up the pace a bit. The trail breaks out onto a large flat ledge where we saw the backside of a white tailed deer crashing through the woods, and a ton of attractive black and white dragonflies. From there it heads back into the trees and snakes around large and s mall boulders, many piled up in rock walls or cairns by farmers long ago. We turned around at the point where the path comes near the shore of Asheville Pond. Standing on the rocks amongst the waterlilies, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. (Later we found out that we were a short distance from another parking area.)

One neat feature of this trail was a section that ran along a ridge of granite that protruded out of the forest around it. H was so taken with it that he had to capture it on film.

On the way back, we took the third branch to Long Pond. This path ran along the tops of rock masses high above the edge of the pond, then dips down into the forest and comes up next to a huge boulder. From the far end of the boulder it was an easy scramble up to the top, and we were rewarded with views of the pond and the forest. By this point it had started to rain a bit, so no pictures. The ominous clouds finally forced us to head reluctantly back to the car.

It was a fantastic little hike. It looks like the trail actually connects to a longer network of trails to explore–and we will definitely return to do so. We are gearing up for vacation in the Whites later this week and this was a perfect warm up.

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3 Responses to Audubon exploration and trip planning

  1. Cumulus says:

    When I through hiked the Narragansett Trail earlier this year I think the Long and Ell Ponds area was my favorite section. I’ve thought of returning to explore it further. Do you know where I can get good maps of the area?

    • Runs Strong says:

      The only map we had was from ASRI’s webpage, and it was pretty limited. It looks like Great Swamp Press has a map of the ponds, and while I haven’t used this particular map myself, I was favorably impressed with their Arcadia map.

      How far and where did you go along the Narragansett Trail, and what did you use to plan your trip?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Cumulus says:

    I have their North-South Trail book, which I used when I section hiked the NST in 2010-11. I should get the L&EP map too.

    A friend and I through hiked the whole Narragansett over two days. Here’s the trip report: We used the Connecticut Walk Book East maps for the Conn. section. I don’t think we had maps for the R.I. section, but the guy I was with had hiked it before and was familiar with it.

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