Friday, July 19, 2013

Block Island Running 2013

Block Island is a small island off the coast of Rhode Island that is only accessible by ferry. Perhaps for that reason, it is, in my opinion, the perfect ecosystem; a perfect mix of town, open space (over 43% of the island is protected from development), beach, and shrubland.

On my vacation the last two years, I focused on running on the road or beach. This year, however, I really wanted to take advantage of Block Island’s trails. The Greenway, named after the famous UK walking trails,  consist of ~25 miles of trails that wind all over the island – a lot of coverage for an island that’s only about 10 square miles. Since I knew from previous experience that the trails were not well marked, I spent a lot of time studying the maps before I headed out. I was helped by the fact that our rental home was in the heart of the island right next to a major trail (near Turnip Farm).
Trail Entrance
Block Island trails feel incredibly remote, even when paralleling roads. The only other beings I saw on the trails was one runner, numerous deer (BI has a serious deer overpopulation, countless birds, and an a rooster defending his chicks.

My first outing was a combination of roads and the Fresh Swamp Trail. This served as my introduction to the themes of Block Island trail running: extreme humidity, lots of bugs, rolling terrain, and lots of brush to duck and weave around.

On my second run, I hit the beach around the southwest corner of the island. As you can see, the bluffs are dramatic and served as a nice backdrop as I labored through the sand. I had assumed there would be a trail up the cliffs to the Elizabeth Dickens Trail, but this did not exist, so I had to run to Black Rock Point where I found a path up to what turned out to be Black Rock Road. Unfortunately, there were no markers and I turned left when I should have turned right and ended up hopelessly lost in the meadows.  (It didn't help that I had no GPS signal!) Eventually, I made my way Lewis Farm Road (with a minimum of bushwhacking) which lead me back home. The lesson: verify your beach access points before you start out!

The third run I hit up the Rodman’s Hollow loop, a dramatic basin that's only 20 feet above sea level. Despite laboring up and down some intense hills in massive humidity it was a nice run with a fantastic view north towards the end. Afterwards, I ran down Black Rock Road - a disused dirt road perfect for hiking - and enjoyed the views of the southern part of the island.
Path down to the Beach
My favorite run was heading north through Turnip Farm past the Island Cemetery and all the way to the Coast Guard Station. These trails were the most poorly marked, mainly because there are a large number of small spur trails. Still, these were perhaps the most fun, and led to at least one amazing view over the airport towards Old Town. These trails were diverse, and mainly went along the stone walls that you see wherever you look.
One of many Stone Walls
As much as I'd like to say I finished off with a bang, by the end of the week the hard living was catching up with me, so my last run was a short a short run to and from Dories Cove for a (extremely cold!) swim. On the way back the trail took me past old Dodge Cemetery which lived in the bushes above our house.

The Trail past Dodge Cemetery
In conclusion, if you find yourself on Block Island, there's no doubt you should explore the trails - they're fun, challenging, and lead you to areas of the island that feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the town and famous beaches. Just be sure to take along a map and a compass!

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