July 2002


Peter had the week off (sort of) and suggested we drive to Newport, Rhode Island — he hadn't been there before. So off we went, on a hot, humid day, taking local roads through Blackstone Valley towns of Cumberland and Pawtucket. And staying on the eastern peninsulas of RI (look at a map, this is such an interesting state geographically) we passed through beautiful Barrington and Bristol. After crossing the bridge to the Newport island, we stopped at a scenic overlook above Narragansett Bay. Now there was a farm on a broad hillside; in 1778 this was the scene of the Battle of Rhode Island, the largest clash in New England during the Revolutionary War.

After arriving in Newport, we drove along Ocean Avenue (above), then on Bellevue Avenue, where many grand mansions stand. We decided to do the Cliff Walk, starting from the beginning, Easton's Beach. Right off, huge flowering hedges line the way, and there it was: that wonderful fragrance. The hedges' white flowers — a kind of honeysuckle? — brought back memories of my childhood, somewhere. I couldn't remember specifics, only good feelings.

We walked across the cliffs above the ocean, by huge mansions, most of which I couldn't imagine living in(or wanting to).The Breakers is the largest, built in the 1890s. There were a few "smaller," more inviting places however, and the views were beautiful. We went almost to the end, where the trail deteriorates, through rocky and weedy spots. Then we turned around and retraced our route. (Next time we'll know to catch the trolley!)

Heat, Fireworks & Smoke, oh my.

The week of the Fourth was the hottest of the year. And I finally got out to play some golf ... on the hottest of the hot days. Peter, Kurt, Dan & I sweated out a round — no question about using a cart today. It was 97.5 degrees on our deck when we got home.

We stayed home on the Fourth because all we have to do is sit on the deck to see fireworks. People who live around our lake shoot them off from their yards, and/or from boats. It's pretty neat to watch them appear from different locations, and to hear the clapping from all around as the good ones develop.

The strangest thing happened at the end of the week. The sun seemed a bit muted on Saturday, even though no clouds were around ... then on Sunday, it was obvious something weird was in the air. I read in the morning paper about fires in northern Quebec, and how smoke was moving several hundreds of miles south. As the day went on, everything took on a distinct yellow-orangey cast. There was a slight smoky smell, and the sun was a tiny glowing dot. It created the oddest atmosphere ...

More Blackstone Valley.

I tend to obsess over things/places until I'm satiated. And I'd only just started with the Blackstone River Valley. More hikes were to be had, and history to be learned. One surprise was finding out that we live in a National Park. Now, you would think that would be common knowledge, but it seems to be a well-kept secret around here. The deal is that the John H. Chaffee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is a "special type" of park. One that contains over a half-million residents, and many cities and town in two states. Unlike other national parks, ours isn't owned by the federal government (whew), but is taken care of by local groups and RI and MA state governments. How 'bout that?

Peter & I walked another portion of the Canal tow path and River in Northbridge and Uxbridge. This one included the Goat Hill Lock. It's amazing that the locks were only 10 feet wide with 82 feet between the end gates ... the barges had to be so narrow to fit. As we climbed Goat Hill, we walked alongside an old stone wall that went a long distance. These are all over New England, beautiful, defining icons. And I always wonder who did all this work and why, especially on a heavily wooded hillside with huge granite outcroppings. Part of this trail also took us past the Rice City Pond, the marshy area of the river visible from Lookout Rock.

I'm becoming a Valley tour guide of sorts. Liz came down for a day, and we visited many places in Millville, Blackstone, and Woonsocket. She especially enjoyed the Chestnut Hill Meeting House in Millville, the oldest (1769) in MA still in its original condition. There's an old cemetery next to it; we spent a while reading the grave stones and wondering about the people.
More guiding to come ...

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