New Year’s Eve: To the border, beyond, and back.

On Sunday, 12/28/14, Brian and I ran from downtown Coventry to Rte. 102 via the Washington Secondary Trail: an impressive new multi-use path that connects Cranston to Coventry along an abandoned rail corridor. Our route was an out-and-back, with the turn-around point being about 0.3 miles west of Rte. 102: at the Summit General Store in Greene, RI.

The Summit General Store

The Summit General Store

From the turn-around point, we saw that the paved path continue west, but how far west? We set out to explore this question on Wednesday, 1/31/14, meeting at the Summit General Store at 11:33am to run west to the CT border. There was designated parking for path users, which averted any anxiety that might have come with utilizing the store parking.

Parking area for path users

Parking area for path users

We stepped out onto the path, and turned west to find an immediate answer to our question: The paved path ends about 100 meters west of the Summit General Store.

The end of the paved part of the Washington Secondary Trail

The end of the paved part of the Washington Secondary Trail

We had been looking over satellite images since Sunday’s run, and it was clear that, paved or not, the trail continued west, so west we went. The path was wide and clear, and usually straight and level, as far as the eye could see. Some sections contain a regular pattern of bumps, separated by about 5-10 meters, and with heights varying from very small to about one meter. These so-called “doop de doos” were initially annoying, then funny. Is there a training benefit to running this terrain? We don’t yet know the answer, but the soreness in my glutes might be a clue.

Abandoned railway conversions always produce trails without sharp bends or steep hills.

Abandoned railway conversions always produce trails without sharp bends or steep hills.

A few short sections were flooded out, forcing us to run around the frozen edges of the puddles. Several times we had to abandon the trail altogether, but at these points there were clear secondary trails that ran alongside the main path.

Some doop de doos hold water

Some doop de doos hold water

We encountered an obstacle at about 2.2 miles: an abandoned iron bridge. The bridge once carried trains over a river, but only the truss remains. We tiptoed carefully across the truss (not looking down). In the photograph, you can see a granite stone that has somehow fallen onto the truss. The stone bears word “ZEPPELIN,” written as graffiti.

The Zeppelin Bridge

The Zeppelin Bridge

The next bridge crossing occurred at 3.3 miles. This bridge was much higher than the Zeppelin bridge (approximately 60 feet high compared with perhaps 15 feet) and spanned a more substantial waterway.

The 3.3 bridge

The 3.3 bridge

Looking down from the 3.3 bridge

Looking down from the 3.3 bridge

A train cannot climb anything but gradual hills, so railways are necessarily quite flat. As a consequence, the railway bed is often built up quite high in low areas, offering scenic views of the surroundings. The photo below was taken at about 3.7 miles, where Carbuncle Pond can be seen beyond the marshy area.

A view of Carbuncle pond from the heights of the trail.

A view of Carbuncle Pond from the heights of the trail.

We estimated our pace to be about 8 min/mile, and, from the time, we estimated that we were closing in on the CT border. We expected no “Welcome to Connecticut” sign, so our plan was to was to turn around when we reached Plainfield Pike, which we knew to be just across the CT border. We first spied Plainfield Pike through an opening in the trees that, in an erie way, appeared perfectly circular from a distance. Looking through the circular hole and seeing cars pass confirmed our conjecture that we had, indeed, passed into CT and wer

Plainfield Pike in the distance

Plainfield Pike in the distance

Crossing Plainfield Pike

Crossing Plainfield Pike

We decided to cross Plainfield Pike and continue on the path for a few more minutes, turning around at 0:47:00 on the watch. On the way back, we stopped in Greene (RI) center and took a few pictures.

Map showing Coventry in relation to Rhode Island and Greene in relation to Coventry

Map showing Coventry in relation to Rhode Island and Greene in relation to Coventry

We learned, from a monument placard, that Greene was once a rail stop along the Washington Secondary Trail, with the rail built in the early 1850s.

Greene center

Greene center

Monument to the rail

Monument to the rail

We completed the return trip in fewer minutes than the outbound trip, and called the total distance 12 miles. The Summit General Store claims to be Rhode Island’s only real general store, and we saw no reason to disagree. There was no indoor seating, but they did serve food and coffee, so we each purchased a muffin and coffee, got in our cars, and drove home. (The muffins were delicious, by the way.)