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Two Feet, Two Bucks: Melville Park

So far, Two Feet, Two Bucks has introduced a very accessible Audubon wildlife sanctuary, as well as a walk through a park to a lifeguarded beach and miles of adventure along bay shores. Yet, we have only begun to explore the scenic byways that are yours to visit when you know where to request a stop on RIPTA’s #60.

Portsmouth’s Melville Park is one such gem hiding right next to a bus stop. Pondside trails wend by a waterfall in a gorge and interesting relics of Navy base waterworks, while secluded spots offer marvelous views of Narragansett Bay. The well-blazed, five-mile network of footpaths and quiet lanes provides options to add or subtract distance and adjust your visit from under an hour to half a day. The layout makes it easy to spend just enough time hiking and resting so as to emerge from the woods and catch the hourly bus with minutes to spare.

Ask the driver to stop at Melville Elementary School at Bradford Avenue on West Main Road. Through Portsmouth and Middletown, #60 buses alternate between West Main and East Main Roads, so make sure you board a West Main bus. The Providence-bound stop is across four lanes of traffic from the park. Speeds can be deceptive here. Allow time to wait for a safe gap in traffic from both directions if you must cross upon your return.

EXPLORE THE SCENIC BYWAYS

Melville Pond. (Photo: Melville Park Recreation Area)

In about 10 minutes you come to a two-rut lane. Up to your right, you pass the start of an orange blazed loop trail through an impressive pine forest, an optional extra half mile. Straight ahead is a gate by the highway but crossing or walking to a bus stop from there is very ill-advised. Look instead for a sharp left into an arrow-straight lane to the bay, visible in the distance.

For the most direct path to the bay from the end of the green trail, turn left. When you come to a kiosk across from the trailhead parking area, follow a yellow trail behind the bulletin board, cross a footbridge, and keep left. Up to your right is a huge rusty old standpipe, relic of Next. The brook on your left drops over a waterfall into a gorge and large pond. Turn left onto a blue trail hugging the shore. It emerges at the bottom of the aforementioned lane beside a dam with a long concrete spillway. The lane ends at a bench and picnic table, a superb spot to sit and watch boats go by. Across the tracks of the Rail Explorers Northern Ramble you can find a short, jagged, brambly clamber down to a rocky beach. Below the dam, the blue loop trail crosses the spillway on a curious line of stepping stones. Don’t miss the view from atop the dam. Directly across Narragansett Bay’s East Passage are quaint cottages on Prudence Island. To the right, buildings in Providence — 20 miles across the water — are visible on a clear day. The blue trail continues along the pond, past the waterfall and back to the lane where you turn left to the bulletin board. A little farther is the Green trail leading back to Bradford Avenue.