Our Day on Block Island • August 14, 2017
We’ve spent our summer in Connecticut trying to experience life in New England to its fullest, whether that be hiking in the woods, strolling town and city streets, and walking along rocky coastlines. We’ve eaten fresh seafood and overpriced ice cream from local road side shops. We’ve admired fields of sunflowers, colorful hydrangea bushes, beautiful architecture and historic sites. However, there was one more thing that I felt we needed to do in order to make this summer complete: We had yet to get out on the ocean! Seeing as our time on the East Coast is finally wrapping up after over a year and a half, it felt appropriate to really appreciate the Atlantic one last time in a way we hadn’t before. I also wanted to check out just one of the islands, so taking a ferry to one seemed like the perfect way to knock out two birds with one stone.
We chose Block Island because it had a relatively inexpensive, dog-friendly ferry, and the island was small enough that we felt we could get away with walking around and not have to bring our car or rent/pay for transportation on the island. We had considered doing this trip much earlier in the summer, but after seeing the insane traffic heading that way on 4th of July weekend, we agreed it’d be best to try to visit on a weekday. Luckily, Curtis happened to have a Monday off, so we made plans to leave early and go spend the day on the island.
On Monday, August 14, right before heading out the door, I went to the ferry website to double check the ferry schedule when I noticed something strange: For “Holiday Hours,” it listed Tuesday, July 4 and Monday, August 14. What?? How was this a holiday? I googled it and as it turned out, it was a holiday just in the state of Rhode Island — Victory Day, a day to celebrate the Allied victory over Japan during WWII. We realized we might still have to deal with heavy traffic, but decided to follow through with our plan as long as ferry tickets weren’t sold out.
We drove to Point Judith, RI and parked in a lot near the ferry. Thankfully tickets were still available, so we bought 2 for the traditional ferry. There was also a high-speed ferry that took 20 minutes off the ride, but the traditional was both cheaper and more dog-friendly, so that was a no-brainer. (There are ferries that leave from other ports as well — even one in New London — but they were more expensive and didn’t allow dogs.) We climbed on board and sat on the deck second-from-highest. Charlotte went from between sitting on our laps and on the ground, and behaved very well the entire trip. We had dog lovers on either side of us, so she received lots of love the whole way there.
The ride was 50 minutes long, and soon enough we arrived in New Shoreham, RI, ready to explore the island. We picked up a map and had an idea of where we wanted to walk, so we started our trek out of town, passed the crowds of people heading for the closest beach. (Isn’t it funny how people will pay for parking on the mainland and round-trip ferry tickets just to go sit on a beach, something you can do anywhere on the mainland coast?) You can rent bikes or mopeds on the island, but that didn’t seem practical with a dog. Right away we noticed how congested the streets were with pedestrians, bikers, and cars, and wondered why on earth anyone would want to bring a car and have to deal with this?
One of the main attractions that brought Block Island to my attention was the Mohegan Bluffs on the South side of the island. The pictures looked impressive, almost like pictures of the beautiful California coast. We started heading in that direction, taking the fastest route on more inland roads. It wasn’t too humid, but it was hot, and after a half mile we could tell Charlotte was already getting tired. We had brought plenty of water as well as her water bowl, so we took short breaks here and there to let her rest. Originally, we had planned on hiking a 4-5 mile loop to the South end of the island and then back up, but this made us reconsider that idea. We slowly made our way to the South East Lighthouse on the Southern coast, and once there found a spot on the lawn to sit down, have a snack, and rest. It’s amazing how a peanut butter sandwich will bring back Charlie’s energy! We didn’t tour the lighthouse, but Curtis heard of some of its history. It was owned by the Coast Guard until 1992, when they gave it to the historical society on the island for free — all they had to do was pay to fix the roof and have it moved 300 feet back from the cliffs to protect it from falling into the ocean. Only a couple million dollars, so basically a bargain.
Once we were ready to move on, we wandered just a little further West to the Mohegan Bluffs trailhead, which began with a tall staircase which took us to the base of the cliffs and the coast. Naturally, this was the place where all the beach goers were sitting and wading in the ocean, so we continued walking about 20 feet further to get passed them all. We may have looked a little out of place to them, what with wearing jeans, hiking boots, and carrying a big backpack/camelback, but in my opinion this isn’t a good beach to relax, wade, or do whatever they were doing. It was really rocky and the “beach” was narrow, with big crashing waves. After sitting down briefly and watching the waves roll in, we decided to keep walking down the beach. The bluffs themselves lived up to the hype; they reminded me of the Badlands.
We noticed on the map that there appeared to be a break in the cliffs and were wondering if we could walk the entire stretch and not have to return up the main steps, so we continued as far as we could until we reached a point where there were more staircases leading up to the top of the bluffs. However, most of them had signs indicating that they were private property. We finally came upon a staircase without a sign — only to walk up all those stairs and find that they put their “No Trespassing” sign at the top. Whoops! We walked all the way back down, and decided to return the way we came instead of continuing further.
Once we reached the end of the trail, we knew that Charlotte probably didn’t have a lot of energy left, so we opted to take a different road, one that followed the coast more or less, back to the town. It was a little easier walking back, as the majority of the road was headed downhill and we had more of an ocean breeze. Still, about halfway back to New Shoreham, Charlotte decided it was time for a break. This time, she conveniently decided to lie down at a small little roadside park with benches, so we followed her lead and took a seat. We relaxed here for at least 30 minutes — Curtis said this was the highlight of the trip for him, just sitting there all alone in this (mostly) quiet park.
Once back in town, we had a little extra time before the 4:00 ferry took off so we splurged on a little ice cream before boarding. The ride back was much colder, but we were able to see the Northern lighthouse on the island from a distance as we made our way back to the mainland. Once back at our car, we made one more stop to see the Point Judith Lighthouse before heading home. While I’m glad we were able to have this experience, it’s probably for the better that we didn’t intend on visiting more islands like this. Attractions such as these are a bit too crowded and touristy for our taste, not to mention way more expensive than hiking in the woods (which we have managed to do for free all summer). But hey, we’ve now taken a ferry out on the Atlantic, visited a new-to-us island, and had our first actual “beach day” of the year on what is probably the coolest beach on the East coast (not counting the rocky coastlines of Maine)!