Hey! Take a Hike!: The Big River Management Area is the perfect spot to hunt for signs of spring

Down in fabled south county Rhode Island you’ll find the Big River Management Area. This beguiling name belongs to one of the largest chunks of green you can find in our state. It’s a little more than 10 square miles in size with trails for hiking, biking, fishing, and, during the recently passed hunting season, bagging a deer or two.

It’s one of my favorite hiking spots in Rhode Island. Located just past a breakneck turn from Route 6 into a dirt parking lot, it’s only a half hour drive from PVD. Hilly trails loop around towering evergreens, fern-packed hollows and the restoratively calm Capwell Millpond. A quick jaunt into the woods will get you the peace you may be seeking. The millennials among us, myself included, will take some comfort in knowing that this patch of land is not nearly isolated enough to lose cell service. My AllTrails app has yet to let me down.

The truth of the matter is that you’d have to work hard to get truly lost. You can hear the highway’s familiar hum no matter where you go. However, some of the trails aren’t particularly well-marked and you may find yourself wondering just what loop you’ve wandered onto and just which small pond you’re looking down into, so take some precautions. Bring water, a little snack, another layer to wear and some bug spray. It gets chilly quickly once the sun goes down. Wear some decent boots. Pick up your trash and maybe someone else’s while you’re at it.

It’s nearly guaranteed you’ll run into someone out there in the limited wilds — Rhode Island has only so many hiking areas — but folks on the trails tend to be friendly. Many seem to be gearing up for longer hikes, hauling gear bags that may someday make it through the Appalachian Trail or across the Great Smoky Mountains. Or maybe they’re all picnic lunches. I recommend savoring the mystery.

Keep your ears open for two-wheeled cruisers — you’ll find fresh mountain bike tire tracks on most trails. Every cyclist and dirt biker I’ve encountered has taken pains to be noticeable, but being struck by a careening fat-tired mountain bike would no doubt end any transcendent moments achieved in nature. As always, it’s good form to step aside for our momentum-minded nature-seekers. You’ll likely be rewarded with a friendly wave along the same lines as those given from Jeep drivers to fellow Jeep drivers. The outermost trails are more frequented by bikers than the steeper, rockier ones inside the management area, but we’re all prone to flights of fancy.

As winter trudges back up north for the year, signs of spring appear. New growth is abundant. Managed areas of clearcut forest burst with fluffy, juvenile pine trees. The last of the winter’s snowmelt courses over a manmade waterfall. Birds call to each other, asking if they can believe this great weather we’re having. Buds pop out from every tree branch. The scent of spring is a portent of summer loafing to come.

If you find yourself with a few unplanned free hours on a sunny day, or are looking to get the kiddos out into some good old Mother Nature, head on down to the Big River Management Area. You’ll be glad you did.

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