The Story of the Yawgoog Trails

Unofficial

Green Trail

Total distance: 0.62 mile (1.0 kilometer)
Total hiking time: approximately 30 minutes


The Green Trail begins near Hemlock Ledge, heading toward the southwest from the Yellow Trail. It eventually passes by the Wilcox Trail on the left (southeast); if hikers follow the route mentioned in this guide they will return to this juncture by taking the Wilcox Trail on the way back. This area of Camp Yawgoog was so badly devastated by the great forest fire of 1930 that it was called Death Valley.

Leaving the Wilcox Trail behind, the main Green Trail heads southwest and arrives at the "Sawdust Pile," in an oak forest. Looking carefully at the ground at this spot, the traveler will notice a slightly raised circle roughly 45 feet (14 meters) in diameter. It is made up of earth and cinders; cinders also lie within the circle. Even the small mounds surrounding the entrances of ant colonies in the circle are made of cinders! It has been thought that this was a burned-out pile of sawdust left behind by the timber operation that existed here at about the time of the Civil War or earlier (Williams and Tracy). It may be more likely that this was a relatively large kiln for producing charcoal. Charcoal was used as a fuel, but coal gradually became more common. In his book, Abandoned New England: Its Hidden Ruins and Where to Find Them, William F. Robinson describes the charcoal-making process:

In the winter, when the sap was low, the charcoal burners cut their wood, preferably the slower-burning hardwoods like beech and oak, which was laid to season until the arrival of milder weather. Come late spring, the charcoal burner stacked the wood into mounds about twenty-five feet across. The mounds, also called pits, kilns, or hearths, were carefully covered with a mixture of sod, dirt, and leaves. The charcoal burner climbed the pile and dumped live coals down inside, igniting the wood.

For the next two weeks he lived by the mound, carefully adjusting the burn by opening and closing holes in the covering. This kept the mound smoldering, but prevented it from breaking out into open flame. Finally he removed the covering and raked out the charcoal to let it cool before bagging it for shipment. (p. 107)

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"Sawdust Pile"
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.684', W 71° 47.560' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

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People tending a charcoal mound off Spring Street in Hope Valley in 1941
(House p. 115)

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Ant mound made of cinders in the "Sawdust Pile"
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.684', W 71° 47.560' (Datum: WGS84)

Two small stone fireplaces, located at Cooning Orchard and next to the Red Trail's juncture with the Symbol Rock Trail, have been referred to as charcoal "pits" or "kilns" (Williams and Tracy); however, it may be more likely that these were cooking fireplaces used by the logging camps. Some of the charcoal may have been used as fuel in the fireplaces.

The Reservation map of 1975 and the 1976 edition of The Story of the Yawgoog Trails show that a trail began from the Sawdust Pile; it led due west into Connecticut to a homestead site off Denison Hill Road (Williams and Tracy). This path appears to have been recreated, but is unmarked.

Upon entering the Sawdust Pile after leaving the Wilcox Trail, the Wo-Jack Trail can be found to the left (east), while the Green Trail also proceeds straight ahead (southwest) and soon ends at the Southwest Marker, where the Red Trail also ends; this last segment of the Green Trail is not marked, but it follows the "Posted" signs that mark the edge of Yawgoog's property.

Back at the Sawdust Pile, the Wo-Jack Trail heads east. This trail is dedicated to early Yawgoog leaders Chet Worthington and Eric Jackson. A short side-trail eventually branches off to the right (southwest) to Symbol Rock. This boulder sits upon a hillside among rhododendrons overlooking Cedar Swamp. Archaeologists have studied the east-facing shapes on the boulder, but no definite conclusions have been made about their meaning or origin -- Native American, pioneer, or natural. Chief Williams believed the carvings, called "petroglyphs," to be of Native American origin and he offered an explanation:

The best thinking is that these symbols represent a tomahawk and arrow head, and were carved on the rock to mark the location of a cache of Indian weapons. Diggings in this area have not revealed anything, but we do know from findings at the Indian cave near Smuggler's Cliffs in the 1920's that the Indians did have hiding places for weapons and instruments on the Yawgoog property. (Williams and Tracy)

(image)
Symbol Rock
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.643', W 71° 47.362' (Datum: WGS84)

(image)
Close-up of Symbol Rock
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.643', W 71° 47.362' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

It should be noted that there is a group of three boulders with carvings a few miles to the north in the Ekonk Hill area of Sterling, Connecticut. The Ekonk Hill site is believed to be an astronomical calendar used by Native Americans to determine the planting and harvesting times for corn (Howe). "Ekonk" is a Mohegan term for "cold spring" of water (Hughes and Allen p. 562).

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One of the carved boulders at Ekonk Hill
Image by David R. Brierley

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Another carving at Ekonk Hill
Image by David R. Brierley

This side-trail, named the Symbol Rock Trail, continues down the hillside, toward Cedar Swamp. The trail then turns to the right (west) and curves around the swamp. The large trees in the area creak with the wind, which is why this place is called the Creaking Forest. Millennium Rock can also be found here, marking the edge of the Richmond Boulder Field; its west-facing, circular grooves are believed to be man-made.

(image)
Millennium Rock
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.587', W 71° 47.381' (Datum: WGS84)

(image)
Close-up of Millennium Rock
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.587', W 71° 47.381' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

The moss-covered rocks of the Richmond Boulder Field form an amphitheatre-like setting on the hillside. After leaving the Richmond Boulder Field, the Symbol Rock Trail then ascends southward to meet with the Red Trail near a small stone fireplace. This side-trail disappeared after Everett "Steve" Westcott's (Troop 24 Providence) map of 1941 was made. On November 3, 1990, Reservation Superintendent Paul Forbes, Assistant Three Point Camp Director Emeritus David Newton, and the author located a new path which, it was hoped, closely followed the path's original route. The group gave the Creaking Forest its name and discovered one of the trail's original, dark blue, diamond-shaped markings. They had also found the probable fireplace during the previous summer. The new trail was marked in 1994 by then Assistant Ranger Paul Forbes and CIT Corps Staffman Justin Lee.

Returning to the intersection of the Symbol Rock side-trail and the main Green Trail, the Wo-Jack Trail continues eastward, ending at yet another intersection. Ahead (east) is the short connector that leads to Hill 407 and Fort Hilton on the Yellow Trail. To the left and proceeding to the northwest, is the Wilcox Trail. It is named after Fred B. Wilcox and his son, Howard. Fred Wilcox was a bank president and benefactor of Scouting; his son was a Boy Scout of Troop 8 Providence who was killed in an automobile accident. More remnants of an old lumber camp were found along this trail during the early years of Yawgoog (Williams and Tracy). The Wilcox Trail leads down into a rocky valley, where a spring used to flow -- possibly the water source of the lumber camp; the Twelve Man Shelter follows shortly thereafter.

The Williams and Tracy version of the trail guide describes the Twelve Man Shelter:

There used to be a spring down in the valley and then as you climbed up steep cliffs to the west there was a jumble of glacial boulders, which used to be noted on the maps ("1931 Map"; Westcott; Main Yawgoog Scout Camps) as "Twelve Man Shelter." Here Scouts of Woonsocket and South Bellingham, caught in a severe thunderstorm after dark, made camp with a couple of shelter halves and several ponchos among the rocks and all 12 hikers spent the night huddled there.

The "shelter halves" used by the hikers from Thundermist District were described by "Gus" Anthony:

Shelter Half - in the old days a "pup tent" was often made up of 2 pieces of canvas [that] when buttoned together made a tent. Either half was a good shelter alone [for] only 1/2 the weight. (Anthony, letter, 15 Feb. 1991)

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Twelve Man Shelter in winter
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.779', W 71° 47.464' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

Just beyond the Shelter, the Wilcox Trail ends when it meets with the Green Trail again, completing a loop. To the left, the trail heads southwest to the Sawdust Pile; to the right, the trail runs in a northern direction back to the Green Trail's starting point near Hemlock Ledge. From the Sawdust Pile, the Green Trail ends at the Southwest Marker, where it meets the Red Trail.

Note: Horses are prohibited in Camp Yawgoog. If horse riders, hoof prints or feces are observed on trails, please contact Narragansett Council. More information is available.
 

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