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Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

Some of the sign was worn off, I think. It looks like a warning that a giant pincer might grab you from the cliffs.

I have a few days left to tell you about my two-week trip to New England in May. I’ve been busy at home so it’s taking me a long time wrap up this trip. Today I’m happy to show you some great scenes I captured with my iPhone.

The morning dawned lovely so we thought it would be a good day to visit the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, where we were staying. The Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail designated in 1975. It is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) with the sea on one side and beautiful old mansions on the other. Once we finally found a place to park, we joined the trail with many other people who had the same idea. There are a couple places where you can get to the water, but it’s safest to stay on the trail. The private residences typically had tall barriers to keep the public out, so views of the places were best at a distance. We only walked a portion of the trail because we had a lunch date.

Mansion on the beach

“Join me at my beach house this weekend?”

I noticed this photogenic snail shell along the way.

Next we drove up to Boston again to have lunch with my friends Romain and Madhawa. After that the day was warm, and I love the heat, so I thought the perfect activity would be a long, tough hike up a hill that overlooks Providence.

We found the trailhead of Wolf Hill Forest Preserve. I was interested in this one because one branch of the trail was named World War II Memorial Loop and I wanted to see the memorial. We started off in high spirits though it was muggy that day and Will indicated that he does not love heat as much as I do. Right away I noticed one of my favourite wild plants ever: wild orchids. These were lucious, fat, extravagant beauties and I dropped to my knees genuflecting before them as I gushed in pleasure. I do not know what kind we found, and I have not seen this type before. I was impressed by their size and showiness.

Low angle of the sun lights up a wild orchid.

Another decadent flower lit in golden sun.

As we climbed up the hillside, stopping every so often to gasp for breath, we were both feeling the effects of early summer, which tends to drop a hot day on you when you least expect it. We both drank a lot of water.

It wasn’t long before we found the memorial, and it was more than I expected to see up there on a trail in the forest.

On this location 5 August 1943, three US servicement perished in an aircraft accident. Otis Portewig, Herbert Booth, and Saul Winsten.

All too common at the time, there was an engine failure and the airplane they were flying plummeted, landing here and deposting part of the fuselage onto that big rock. The rock now holds small rocks that people have placed in honor of the servicemen. Now I understood why a memorial was in such an out of the way place that was difficult to get to. There is another memorial in town, for people who cannot make the trek.

We were grateful for the shade. I spotted this murky pond and splashed my face and arms.

Lovely bunches of flowers near the top of the hill.

Will pointed out this sight. One might call it a dead tree. We saw life.

Splendid green beetle caught my eye.

We continued climbing the hill. My hiking app on my phone told me there would be views at some point. We thought we might be close, so we kept going. The trail was not well marked, so I used GPS on my trail app to keep us on the path. A bit tricky.

And viola! We crested near a broken down chimney. Someone had built a house up here and enjoyed the spectacular view for a while. Likely the only thing remaining was the thing that got rid of the rest of the house. We sat down on a rock and looked out over the high buildings of Providence that we could see over the tops of trees. Someone doing trail maintenance had cut down all the trees in front of us so that the view was not blocked.

Will walks up to the chimney at the top of the hill.

All that’s left of someone’s dream home.

And here is the view. The white specks are the high buildings of downtown Providence.

We sat until we felt well rested, and drank more water. Then it was time to head back down. It was evening by this time but there was no respite from the heat and humidity, and we suffered. Will looked at his map and found a public beach we could visit. I reminded him that we had parked right next to a pond. He didn’t remember the pond and it sounded too good to be true. I kept talking about the pond, to keep his spirits up. I was sure I remembered it. I began feeling very badly that I had let my joy of heat and hiking get in the way of looking out for my friend. He never said an unkind thing, and barely complained, but the conditions were too much for anyone not in love with strenuous activity in the heat, the way I am. The trail seemed to get longer the more we walked.

The sun went behind the trees and light grew more dim. It wasn’t dim enough to dim my excitement when I found more orchids near the bottom of the hill.

I just couldn’t get enough of them.

Finally we reached the car and I exhaled in relief to see that my memory was correct. We had parked 60 feet from a pond and fishing area. First we drank all the warm water from the water bottles in the car, since our own bottles were long empty. Then we walked to the shore and sat on some roots and stripped boots and socks off and put our feet in the water. I splashed myself and splashed Will (which was not appreciated but I was doing it for his own good). We sat with our feet in the water a long time and finally decided that the only correct thing to end the day with was ice cream. We got our shoes back on and found Powder Mill Creamery, a darling ice cream shop that was clearly a local favourite, since there was a line stretching through the parking lot. By the time we had our ice cream it was almost completely dark outside. We made our way to picnic tables in the grass around the ice cream shop and sat with other happy and hot people and enjoyed our dessert.

Statue of William Ellery Channing, Unitarian preacher of the early 1800s, born in Newport, Rhode Island.

We packed so much touring into our next day in Newport that I’m going to split it into two posts. We began at Touro Park to see the Newport Tower, the remains of a windmill built approximately 1660. The round stone structure is beautiful, and I am reminded that arches are one of the strongest structures humans have ever built.

Newport Tower remains standing after nearly 400 years. Maybe because of the strength of the arches.

Inside the tower is also interesting. You can see Perry through an arch.

After exploring the tower, we stayed in the park for some time. There are multiple monuments surrounded by examples of period architechture. We admired the statue of Matthew Calbraith Perry, who was instrumental in bringing the Japanese into commercial and diplomatic relations with the West in 1854. The bronze bas reliefs on the pedestal reflect scenes from Perry’s life.

Mounted on the cast iron fence surrounding the pedestal were two plaques. One in Japanese and one translated. The title in English is The 2012 Shimoda TOMODACHI Declaration. I recalled that name from when I was staying at a Navy base in Japan, and said to Will, “Oh hey, Tomodachi is the name of the operation in which US service members helped out the Japanese after the tsunami wiped out the nuclear plant.” I kept reading, and rather than find a different use of the word tomodachi, the plaque referred to exactly what I was thinking of. It’s a Thank You from Shimoda City, acknowledging the beginning of Japanese-US relations 150 years previous, due to Perry’s work, and the continuing good relations today. Since I’m always pointing out Indian perspectives in an attempt to shed light on the nuances of our relationships, I think it’s only fair to point out that our “good relations” with Japan today are a result of the Japanese choosing to be an extraordinarily polite and accommodating people, after being bombed and invaded (and still occupied) by Americans. I do not at all assume our countries are friendly without deeply complicated undercurrents. Anyway, it was fun for me to recognize the name Tomodachi.

Naval Officer and diplomat Perry. You can see the Tomodachi Thank You plaques.

Scenes from Perry’s career.

Interesting handles of this flower pot in the shape of fauns, sitting on the heads of goats.

From there we walked to the Touro Synagogue, down lovely streets filled with late spring colour on the trees and in flower gardens.

We stopped first at the small Colonial Jewish Burial Ground, since it was on theme. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about this cemetery, called The Jewish Cemetery at Newport. Another author, Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) wrote about the cemetery and the synagogue. It is the first Jewish cemetery in Rhode Island, acquired in 1677. Abraham Touro had the first protective wall erected, and his brother Judah Touro established a trust to care for the cemetery upon his death in 1854.

Colonial Jewish Cemetery was locked so we couldn’t go in for a better look.

We arrived at the Touro Synagogue just before a tour began, so we quickly paid and ran up the hill to listen to the tour guide tell us about the site, the oldest synagogue in the United States. We sat in the pews and listened while the older man intoned, and it was clear he was used to teaching and used to people listening. He invited questions, and I tried to re-state in my own words something he had said, to make sure I had understood his point. He was not at all pleased with my attempt, and moved on with his story. I felt like I was 9 years old in Bible School again. It was very sweet and funny.  Even though he denied my description of the story, I still think what he explained is that since Jews in the 18th century had been welcomed in the Netherlands, when Jewish emmigrants were looking for a new home, they hoped for a warm welcome from the Dutch colonists on the American east coast. It didn’t go as well as hoped, but there was enough tolerance to allow a Jewish community for some of early Rhode Island history. The Jewish community grew in Newport, and in 1763 this house of worship was dedicated. I can promise you that the guide would explain it with different words! 🙂

Interior of the Touro Synagogue.

The inside of the synagogue is gorgeous, but we were not allowed to take photos from inside. We were invited to stand outside, at the doorway, and photograph into the building, however. The architect knew nothing about synagogue construction, and it is assumed for the interior that he relied entirely on the guidance of members of the congregation, some having only recently left their Jewish communities elsewhere. The tourguide told us to notice two important things about the outside: first that its orientation is east (facing Jerusalem) rather than perpendicular with the street, and second that it is built to blend in with the colonial construction of the time, and not stand out and probably irritate the other settlers.

Facing east, and thus at an angle compared to the other buildings.

The lovely site includes the Loeb Visitor’s Center, the Touro Synagogue, and an inviting garden between them.

In 1781 a Town Meeting was held here during a visit by George Washington. Later, when he was President in 1790, Washington wrote a letter to the Newport Hebrew community that the whole nation should be proud of. I had never heard of this letter, but copies are provided free of charge at the visitor’s center. The text includes this,

…happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

How much less of a country we are today because our leadership embraces, rather than rejects, bigotry and persecution.

Our next stop was to find Castle Hill Lighthouse, the 7th lighthouse of the trip. We parked at the Castle Hill Inn parking area, and crashed the rather posh grounds, walking across manicured lawns, past white lawn chairs filled with paying guests, and up a hill to a spot where we could see the lighthouse above the bushes along the rocky beach. It was windy and cold and we didn’t stay long. We were near Fort Adams State Park, and we went there next. I’ll talk about the rest of the day in my next post.

Castle Hill Lighthouse as viewed from Castle Hill Inn.

Looking toward the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge

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.

Dragons!!!

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.

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