Sachuest Point and Newport

Vistior’s Center at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge near Newport, Rhode Island.

For my birthday this year (January 9), I took a cold & windy walk along the Atlantic seashore at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor’s center was closed because the government is shut down. No comment.

My five days in Rhode Island were to see my friend Will, who was my guide and chauffeur. Will and I picked a path and started, since one doesn’t need a visitor’s center to go for a walk. As soon as we struck the trail, we met a woman leaving who was excited to have spotted some wildlife. She told us we would not see the Snowy Owl, as though she suspected that was our specific goal.

Our goal was simpler: just to be outside and look at the landscape. For my birthday I asked Will for two of my favourite things: a walk in nature and seafood.

The Ocean Trail wraps around the peninsula and has stunning sea views at all times.
Looking back the way we had come, along a tidal strait called Sakonnet River.

We drove south from Providence to a large island in Narragansett Bay, that is officially named Rhode Island (also called Aquidneck Island), from which I must assume the state takes its name, since this is the location of the earliest settlements here. Sachuest Point NWR is “242 acres that provide an important stopover and watering area for migratory birds,” as it says on their trail map. I liked this place from among other trails in RI because it is surrounded by the sea. If I was traveling from one ocean to another, I  would spend at least one day at the Atlantic, to truly make the trip coast-to-coast.

More than 200 species of birds visit this refuge, and we quickly spotted ducks that were too far away for a photo with the lens I brought. They might have been part of the largest winter population of Harlequin Ducks on the East Coast, but we didn’t identify them for sure due to distance and the raging wind making me reluctant to hold binoculars to my face for very long. Harlequin Ducks are wonderful to see. Here’s a photo I took of Harlequin Ducks near the end of a different post from 2016. Sachuest Point hosts a bunch of different kinds of raptors (hunting birds – I love them!), but I didn’t spot any. Much of the time I had my head bent into the wind, with a foot behind me bracing myself so the wind didn’t blow me over! It was hard to spot birds under these circumstances.

Will spotted a dark animal in the underbrush that we couldn’t identify until another one ran across the trail in front of us later on. It was a mink! I have never seen one in the wild. It was black, and fat, and just exactly as I imagined them. We also spotted a small group of white-tailed deer. The deer were like my “pet” deer at home, in that they let us get very close to them and were unconcerned. They were unlike my deer in that they are a lighter, golden colour, and are bigger and fatter.

A view from Prince’s Neck Overlook. See the two people in the lower left?
Will spotted deer! I was too short to see them until I stood up on my tiptoes.
…but then we rounded a bend and came upon these two beauties.

It was early afternoon, and since it’s winter, that means the sun was setting. Not really, but the sun was low on the horizon for a long time, making it seem like we were experiencing a three-hour sunset. Despite the frigid biting wind coming at us from the sea, we gazed out over the water much of the time. We noticed massive swells rolling in and then crashing as waves once they got closer to shore. I made a comment about how exciting those swells would be if I was still surfing, and Will said there were probably surfers out today. I thought he was joking around with me, but when we left the point that day and passed a different beach (sans all the huge and deadly rocks), sure enough, the water was filled with surfers!

Sun is low over Narragansett Bay
Swells roll into Narragansett Bay
Look at that smile! What cold wind?!

It had been at least an hour out there in the ridiculous freezing wind, and I could no longer feel my ears. I took off my scarf and wrapped it around my head because I had neglected to bring a hat. That helped immensely. I was still very very cold and unable to enjoy the sights much anymore, so we stopped most of our lollygagging and trucked on down the trail back to the visitor’s center. The sunset just got prettier, and I stopped for a few more photos because I’m incorrigible. I did force Will to endure some extending whining about how cold I was. I have lived in places of deep winter and below freezing temperatures most of my life, but more than a decade of living near Portland, Oregon has wiped out all my tolerance for other peoples’ winters.

Light on the water was so beautiful I stopped for more photos, despite wind chill in the single digits.

On the last stretch of the trail I spotted a beautiful church in the distance. When we got back into the car, I asked Will to take me there so we could explore up close.

What I had spotted was St. George’s School, an exclusive, prestigious boarding school. Still in the remaining light of our long sunset, the buildings at the school were illuminated and needed to be photographed.

From the grounds of St. George’s School, looking back toward where we had just come from.
Photo taken by Will, looking down the hill to Sachuest Point where we had walked.
A building at St. George’s School.
The front of the school
And of course the classic gothic chapel, the tallest structure around, on top of the hill, and drawing me here.
Irish pub?
Our raw bar selection

It was time for my next request: Seafood! We drove into the town of Newport and had the place mostly to ourselves because of the season. I could easily see this is a tourist town, and must be packed with humanity on warm days. We made our way to the docks and saw that my birthday sunset just kept going on and on, and made a few more stunning scenes. We wandered for a little while around the characteristic old sea town, but could no longer resist the pull of a good meal, not to mention heated indoor seating. We walked into The Mooring, and were told that Wednesdays are half price on the raw bar. We couldn’t resist that, and chose a selection of raw oysters, clams, shrimp, and lobster claws. Will isn’t an oyster lover, so I greedily ate them myself, liking the Rocky Rhodes the best. This fresh food only wheted our appetites and then we ordered full meals. I finally got warm. We had a window seat and watched the sun finally set for real.

Streets of Newport are clear in January.
Black Pearl and Cook House, two seafood restaurants that called to us.
A view from the docks.
The longest birthday sunset I can remember, lingers over Bannister’s Wharf.

16 thoughts on “Sachuest Point and Newport

  1. What a most excellent, if a bit chilly birthday you had! Sea food and a walk in nature would be two of my wishes as well. And you used to be a surferess? 😮 That’s my wish for the next life. Oh, and I’d love to be a mermaid too. And one of those people who jump from roofs and balconies for fun. And flamenco dancer! Great photos and happy you, doesn’t get any better.

    1. Ah, I knew we must have things in common. It would be lovely to celebrate birthdays together, since we like the same things! (In fact, I snapped a photo in Providence of a door because it reminded me of you! ha ha!)

      Yes! I used to be a surferess! I wish I knew you then so I could have used that word. I lived in northern California and surfed all year ’round one year, when I was a student (2002-3) and got hooked. I moved away the next year, but surfed when I came back on visits. Now I live near the sea again, so I keep telling myself I’ll get back to the water, but so far I have not done it.

      You would be a perfect mermaid. You have the right perspective and the right hair, of course, which is important for mermaids. I can totally see you dancing flamenco, too. In my next life I will be an astronaut, and I will also be a musician.

      1. Great. 🙂 I wish us both plenty of lives for all this. Go go, back to the water. It’s clearly where you belong. That you took a door photo because of me is the best I could hear. This is how we ripple, mermaid-style, and why we do what we do. Thank you so much. I hope you post it for my birthday, it’s May 16th. 😉

  2. Glad you had a good birthday and did something somewhat out of the ordinary to celebrate. Had a good friend from Rhode Island but never been there. Love the accent though. 😉 That Atlantic cold goes down to the bones. I lived close to the boardwalk in N.J. and nearly froze to death. It is beautiful there.

    1. I’ve lived in New England twice, so I have flown into and out of the Providence airport, but I have never explored Rhode Island itself. It was all new and a bunch of fun for me. I’ll post some more about it soon.

      The one silly thing I really wanted to do was drive from one border of RI to the other. Will said it would take one hour. One hour! Across the whole state! But we couldn’t fit that in, so I’ll have to do it another day.

  3. Sounds like the perfect birthday to me, Crystal, although like Will, I would pass on the raw (or cooked) oysters. Last year, when Tony was overseeing plebs at the Coastguard Academy, we took some trips through the area. Happy belated Birthday wishes. –Curt

      1. Gosh we were there and it was a thousand degrees with 900% humidity. I’ve never been so hot and I’m from California! But I still loved it. I felt fancy while there. Lol.

      2. HAAAA!!! Exaggerating much?!! I guess it makes sense about the humidity since it’s right on the water…but so is California. Hm. Anyway, it was 16 degrees with wind chill that day. After an hour I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. Not sure which I’d prefer: 16 degrees or a thousand degrees with 900% humidity.

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