Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge
“I would like this land to stay open, I would like this land to breathe because it has been very good to me and for me” –Maxwell Mays; R.I. artist, philanthropist-
By guest Bloggers the Rice family
A few Scout meetings ago a friend of ours passed out copies of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s ‘Passport to Nature Exploration’ booklets. Printed inside along with the address & map of each property there are directions to finding a hidden symbol with descriptions of the terrain. Once you find the hidden symbol there is a spot in the book to make a stencil. Prizes are awarded at the end of September for completed books handed in.
So Saturday morning we figured we still had plenty of time to hike around these properties and picked Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge as #1 on our list! With packs in the car we hit 7-11 for a few snacks and took a ride out to Coventry.
The area that is now the refuge has been part of Rhode Islands history since 1738. These surrounding 295 acres were once home to a working farm owned by the Carr family, and produced the areas needs throughout the entire Revolutionary war (Very cool). The property was then purchased by Mr. Mays in 1941. After serving in WWII he settled here producing many historic R.I. paintings.
Like most Audubon properties there are numbered stations along the trails that educate the visitor about the history and nature in the area. I’ll leave that for you to discover when you visit. Our hike began from the large parking area and we stopped by the map box for a look……….MAPS!!! Yes! There are maps and information about the area, some of which I mentioned above.
The terrain is described as “moderate to difficult” and being a 3 mile loop. At first site the trail looked anything but. It was a neatly manicured lawn that traced an open meadow of Milkweed and tall grass. Not to many wildflowers left here to see, but a lot of buzzing things. Making our way around we found our first opportunity to ditch the hot sun and headed for tree cover. Blazed white the Carr Pond trail began to our left; well blazed, wide and beaten down with pine needles, there are few rocks or roots and it’s almost flat. The hunt for our hidden symbol was on!
Hiking along the Carr Pond trail was a breeze for a bit. We joked along the way about how we should have brought the bear spray since there had been so many sightings lately in CT & RI. Before long we reached a junction of the CP trail and the Hammitt Hill trail. The HH trail is a new section developed with help from Rhode Islands AMC chapter volunteers. Yellow blazed and again widely beaten down, Hammitt Hill is not so flat and rocks & roots are beginning to appear, and more often.
The Hammitt Hill trail lived up to it’s name, we steadily hiked uphill at just enough of an incline to let our heart and legs know about it for quite a distance. We took a short snack break just before we discovered the hidden symbol we’d been looking for. The directions in the passport lead us right to it. Scotty etched the stencil into the book and we continued on!
Etching the symbol
Scotty atop of what we named ‘Frog Rock’
By looking at the map Carr Pond had to be getting close. The HH trail passes just beside it and we were looking forward to taking a break to relax beside the pond. Unfortunately to our disappointment the trail only led us by with not even a single shoreline access trail……disappointed about this. Crossing a small foot bridge you can get barley a glimpse.
A glimpse at Carr Pond
One reason they keep the pond so secluded may be that the Audubon offers a lakefront cottage that once belonged to Mr. Mays that can be rented for (no joking) $200 daily! Click the link for more info on that.
After passing the pond we came across another one of those lone standing chimneys that seem to be all over RI. We’ve read that it may have been and old shelter long rotted away. Still really neat and it offers a nice seat for another snack break. Here we again picked up the Carr Pond trail. The CP trail headed right & left, either would lead us back towards parking.
No hike in Rhode Island would be complete without bumping into a historic cemetery. This one belonged to the Carr family. Most of the headstones are still standing but it was overgrown in spots and needs a bit of care. One of the graves marked a Marine veteran. His flag was missing from the staff someone placed beside the stone and was nowhere to be seen. If we know we may pass a historic veteran cemetery we carry a small flag just in case, but with us not expecting one on this hike I didn’t have one today. From now on I’m going to make it a habit of carrying one.
Carr family cemetery
Not long after we broke out of the trees and re-traced the meadow towards the parking area. Our GPS marked us just short of 3 miles. Besides some Fox scat we didn’t see any wildlife today but we really enjoyed the area. Here you can get away from the sound of civilization and just listen to the wind.
Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge, 2082 Victory Highway. (Rt.102) Coventry, R.I