Westerly Grills All the Things

Posted By on April 19, 2020

Westerly Grills All the Things

5.5 miles; Westerly, RI

[This is a post from the distant past. I’ve been poking through the vast number of Draft posts on my site to see if there’s anything that might still be of interest. Thought I’d throw this one into the mix.]

Way back in the Before Times, I had planned to lead a hike on the wonderful Westerly Land Trust property called “The Grills.” In preparation for that I wanted to scout out a route that hit ALL the highlights but without too much backtracking. I think I succeeded. This would be a good hike, if the weather and the virus ever cooperate!

River view

From the parking lot, the route follows the combined blue/orange trail, and when the blue trail takes a hard right, so does this hike, where the trail quickly slopes down to the banks of the Pawcatuck River. For me, this stretch is the highlight of the whole hike, with water views to either side.

High Water Cairn

High Water Cairn

After crossing Kedinker Island on the blue trail, your next highlight is the High Water Cairn. This marks the highest point of the 2010 floods. It’s an astonishing 8 feet or so tall. And off on the right-hand side of the photo is the next highlight…

shiny new polly coon bridge

Polly Coon Bridge

…the magnificent Polly Coon Bridge. This was a joint project by the Westerly and Hopkinton Land Trusts, and connects the two Grills properties. Not far from here the blue trail intersects with the yellow trail. Oh, and there is a canoe landing on the blue trail, and two canoe landings on the yellow.

Former Camp Site

The above photo is on the yellow, or River Loop trail, at the first of the two canoe landings. When I first started coming here this was the site of a major camping/party spot, with a massive rock fire pit and lots of junk, like plastic chairs and metal grates and discarded trash. Westerly Land Trust volunteers cleaned the spot up brilliantly a few years ago, and converted the big rock fire pit into a cairn.

Larkin Farm Foundation

Also in the last year or so, several new trails were opened up on the property, including the newly-blazed white trail that goes by the site of a very old farmhouse foundation. I joined the white trail from the yellow.

View from atop Big Hill

View from atop Big Hill

Eventually, the white trail intersects the red trail, and I followed that to the next highlight, the imaginatively-named Big Hill, which gives a view out over Newton Swamp. At this point I went off the blazed trails, and followed an old farming road down off the Big Hill and north to intersect the blue trail again.

A Revolutionary War Soldier

“A Revolutionary War Soldier”

A bit further down the blue trail there’s a short side trail that takes you to an old OLD cemetery. It’s in a lovely spot that overlooks a bend in the river.

big rock on the x-country trail

“Big Rock” on the old Westerly HS Cross-country Trail

From the cemetery I followed the blue trail back out to the old road, where I shortly picked up the orange trail, which is also the former Westerly High Cross-Country trail (the team has since moved to Woody Hill Management Area for their runs), where we find the similarly imaginatively-named Big Rock. To be fair, it’s a really pretty big rock…

Handicapped Access Deer Blind

The only bit of backtracking I had to do on this whole hike was to see the Handicapped Access Deer Blind (the Grills is an active hunting preserve, remember), just off the orange trail. It’s quite luxurious.

From here I backtracked to the part of the orange trail that follows the old road, and then to the teal trail, a.k.a. the Douglas Park trail. This is a weirdly paved “trail,” and somewhat mysterious, or at least it was the first time I hiked it.

Another Mystery

Another Mystery

However I wrote to the Westerly Land Trust to ask about it, since I couldn’t find anything on line, and here was their reply:

Back in the early 1900’s when BDA (Bradford Dye Association) was in their glory days, many of the mill workers lived on Bowling Lane (the street leading up to Grills Preserve). Because of this, BDA decided to build Douglas Park to give their workers something to do. This was a park for baseball and soccer and could hold up to 300 fans! The park was built in 1920. After numerous years of use the park became abandoned. In its place trees began to grow and now a pine forest stands. This area is now a permanent part of Grills Preserve. The road that you see was the road that people used to get to the park for games.
So, mystery solved. There isn’t anything much to see besides the pavement on the trail… nothing now remains of Douglas Park.
The teal trail connects back up to the orange trail, which takes you back to the parking area. And that is my Westerly Grills, All The Things hike.

You can find out more about The Grills and download an excellent trail map from the Westerly Land Trust website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.


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