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Old 11-13-2010, 08:18 AM
Location: Tucson, AZ
10 posts, read 18,148 times
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I am moving to Providence from Tucson AZ and I am hoping I won't have to hang up my hiking boots. I would love to hear from those of you who are into hiking/backpacking/birding where to go to get a quick "nature fix" and where to go within a few hours' drive from Providence for more extended hikes and camping or backpacking. I do love the beach--are there beaches which are somewhat isolated? Also if anyone has info on Block Island--getting there, what to do there--I've heard it's a good nature preserve. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-13-2010, 10:48 AM
Location: East Boston, MA
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Rhode Island and Massachusetts (much of which you can access within an hour) have a number of great little parks and preserves. The Norman Bird Sanctuary offers great scenery and terrain right next to a great beach. Sachuest Point also offers a lot of area to explore right on the water. A bit further, the Cape Cod National Seashore is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. There are miles of oceanfront hiking, biking and nature watching.

There are some small inland forests nearby too. Big River offers a lot of variety in 8,000 plus acres. Freetown State Forest (30 minutes from PVD in MA) has a lot of hiking and walking trails too. It also abuts some large local preserves (including a few large bodies of fresh water) so the actual connected wilderness is larger than the 5,500 acres advertised. Of course, none of these parks will offer the challenge and variety of terrain you're used to, but it should tide you over until you can hit the big areas up North.

While both Tucson and Southern New England have a wide variety of outdoor options, there are a few big differences. I think the two most noticeable would be 1) the density and extent of forested land here. You can be 10 miles from development in Saguaro National Park and see clearly to the city. In RI, you can be in a 20 acre plot of woods and not see any sign of civilization. This will work to your benefit considering that Providence doesn't have anywhere near the variety and extent of terrain that Tucson does right next door. 2) Rhode Island lacks the micro-climates you have out your way. What you see is what you get. In RI, you have some mild differences between coastal locations and points inland, but nothing like what you have in Tucson. I remember being amazed on the drive up to Mount Lemmon at just how different the climate and scenery was. It may be an adjustment.

While the above locations made tide you over (or a bit more), there is some world class hiking just a few hours away in Northern New England. I think the best hiking is Baxter State Park (Mt. Katahdin) in Maine. Katahdin is only 5,300 feet but since Maine is so close to sea level, it appears nearly as large as some peaks two times its size out West. Katahdin is the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail and offers some of the most challenging hiking anywhere.

Closer than that, you have a lot to choose from in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Even the Berkshires in Western MA offer some challenges and a good amount of beauty.

While it probably won't be what you're used to, there's no need to hang up the boots yet.

There are plenty of beaches. All of them are quiet from Mid September-Mid-May. Some are more crowded than others. The Norman Bird Sanctuary is wonderful and right next to the beach (one of the busier ones, but again, it's quiet during the off season). Sachuset Point is pretty popular, but you can find your own space there too. It's right near the bird sanctuary.

About 25-30 minutes away in Freetown, MA is the Freetown State Forest which will offer you a quiet wooded area to walk and go birding. It abuts a number of local wildlife preserves and sanctuaries so the actual continuous acreage of open space is larger than what's advertised by the MA DCR. Of course, it won't offer the terrain challenges you are used to in Tucson. Big River is closer to the city and also a lot of fun.
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Old 11-13-2010, 12:55 PM
Location: Tucson, AZ
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Thank you irfox, so much, for your quick and thorough reply. I Google-mapped your suggestions and am amazed how short the distances are in the Northeast. Only 108 miles to Cape Cod--amazing! I am greatly relieved by your answer. You're right that it won't be the same, but I did have seventeen years of hiking among saguaros and it has been wonderful; but I'm ready for new terrain. You must know Tucson since you mentioned Mt. Lemmon--what a gem that is! Nevertheless I'm very excited at the prospect of getting to know forest and shore and marsh flora and fauna. Thank you again for your advice!
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Old 11-13-2010, 02:26 PM
Location: East Boston, MA
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You're welcome. I thought I deleted the top part of that post which is why I added the beach stuff in (again) at the bottom. It's a little redundant but it works, hahaha.

It's funny you mention distances. Are you familiar with New England. I agree with you, 108 miles isn't far (and it's not a bad drive so long as there's no beach traffic), but New Englanders are famous for not being willing to travel distances. You'll probably find that a lot of your coworkers and friends view 108 miles as a LONG drive. They probably would consider it doable for a long weekend, but not a day trip. Take office and casual chatter about driving distances with a grain of salt. New England is strange in that regard. Anything more than 20 minutes is a "road trip." If you're comfortable with driving a little, it'll open up a lot of possibilities.

I know Tucson relatively well. One of my favorite greasy foods is a Sonoran Hot Dog (From El Guero Canelo on 12th Ave). I really enjoyed Tucson. I was last there in February and it's absolutely beautiful. The Saguaros are gorgeous but so are the mountains and the vast expanses of wilderness. We just don't have that in New England, but it's not so bad. Like I said, Northern New England is where you'll find the larger hills and more open space; but the ocean is beautiful (personally, I can't imagine living away from it) and there are places to escape civilization, at least for a little while, nearby. Mt. Lemmon is a gem, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

It's going to be completely different, but not necessarily bad if you have the right attitude (which it appears you do). I like the flora and fauna of these old deciduous forests a lot. Wait till you see them in the fall. Good luck!
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Old 11-13-2010, 04:54 PM
Location: Beautiful Rhode Island
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We're loaded with nature....

Visit Rhode Island :: What to Do :: Hiking
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Old 11-13-2010, 05:54 PM
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While not in a rural spot, the Cliff Walk in Newport offers beautiful scenery. Haven't been to Block Island in a long time, but I have friends who go every year and love it.
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:59 PM
Location: Bullocks Point, East Providence
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I recommend the blue hills just south of Boston. It's a relatively small hiking area but there are some nice trails of varying lengths. The benefit of this place is that it's so accessible; right near the junction of 95 and 93 and only half an hour from downtown Providence.
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Old 11-15-2010, 06:32 AM
Location: southwest TN
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I can't believe you didn't mention that Rhode Island is still over 75% forest! You don't have to leave the state to find hiking. Just a few places I took my boys and cub/boy scouts: Arcadia Management Area (includes campgrounds and a lake), Stepstone Falls, Ninigret Beach Conservation area, the Pachaug Tippecansett Loop, Sachuest Point National Wildlife Preserve (east Bay), George Washington Management Area, Pulaski Mem State Park. and there's tons more. We never got to the Blackstone Valley area - mostly Federal and we also didn't do much on Block Island.

Block Island - you get there by ferry or private boat (if you own one). There is also an airfield for smaller craft.

Many of the areas for hiking can be found in the Apalachian Trail Hikers or Mountain Book - can't remember what it is, one of my boys has it. There was also a series published in the Pro-Jo in the 70s or early 80s and was later collected into a book on hikes/walks in RI. A simple Google search should net you tons of walks. There are maps available - I think we got our topo maps at a place on 401 in E. Greenwich - Eagle's something.

Happy Trails.
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Old 11-15-2010, 08:52 AM
Location: Rhode Island/Mass
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RI is 60% forested and that stat has been quoted for over ten yrs now so it's surely less; much of it is quite fragmented as well, though the ocean does make up for the lack of true open space. There are quite some isolated beaches in RI for swimming, most in RI don't even know about. Arcadia Management Area in RI is a great, underutilized place to hike, especially mountainbike, or ride a horse. Beavertail State Park and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are great places to explore cliffs, beaches, trails. 108 miles in AZ will be very different than here, especially on the Cape; yes there is is alot to see in a little area. For 'real' hiking though, you'll have to do a weekend camping trip to the Whites in NH which is what is done around here. 3 1/2 to 4 hrs on highway. Few switchbacks; it gets rugged. IMO the best birding here is in the winter when the Arctic birds and seals come down from the north, Sachuest Wildlife Refuge next to the Norman Bird Sanctuary is very beautiful. For winter birding also, Cape Ann north of Boston, takes it up a notch-very interesting time birding out there.

Last edited by Saltatrix; 11-15-2010 at 09:12 AM..
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Old 11-21-2010, 04:04 PM
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black mountain pond in near by NH is my favorite spot. the book that took me to so many places in ri was ken weber, walks in rhode island. i moved from the midwest 30 years ago and have always been comforted by the natural beauty. horse neck beach holds such memories for me
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