The Story of the Yawgoog Trails

Unofficial

Yellow Trail - Part I

Total distance: 1.76 miles (2.83 kilometers)
Total hiking time: approximately 1 hour


Caution: Swimming and wading are prohibited in Yawgoog Scout Reservation, except by authorized personnel at designated locations. Yawgoog Pond is patrolled by motorboat.

Yawgoog's Yellow Trail contains part of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Narragansett Trail, which extends from Ashville Pond in the Hopkinton Town Recreation Area in Rhode Island to Lantern Hill in Connecticut. Although this part of the AMC's trail is on Yawgoog property, the AMC is allowed to mark and maintain it. The Narragansett Trail leaves the Reservation's Yellow Trail at Cooning Orchard, where it follows part of the Yawgoog's main Red Trail and one of the Red's side-trails. It is important to note that, during the 1980's, the AMC relocated part of the Narragansett Trail to coincide with part of Yawgoog's Green Trail. This was done because of the swampy southwestern shore of the pond; unfortunately, it caused much confusion on the doubly colored trails! The Reservation has placed bridges there and, consequently, the AMC has restored the Narragansett's original course. The club marks the Rhode Island portion of the Narragansett with painted, vertical, yellow rectangles on trees. These rectangles are about 2 inches (5 centimeters) across and 6.5 inches (16.5 centimeters) long.

Immediately after the mill site on Camp Yawgoog Road, the beginning of the trail can be seen to the left (south), opposite the road to Hidden Lake (White Trail); this is approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 kilometer) west of Metcalf Lodge. Hikers will notice yellow markers on trees heading westward along Camp Yawgoog Road; these are markers for the AMC Narragansett Trail and are not part of the Reservation's Yellow Trail.

The path will cross footbridges, one of which crosses North Brook.

Video of North Brook by David R. Brierley

After leaving North Brook the trail meets with a short side-trail on the left (east) that leads to Pickerel Cove.

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Panoramic view of Pickerel Cove from the Yellow Trail
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.427', W 71° 47.366' (Datum: WGS84)
Larger image
Google Map

Leaving the side-trail behind, the main trail reaches a group of glacial boulders and small caves, called Pioneer Caves. Tree stumps were seen in the water when looking over the pond from the cave area; these trees were killed when the water level was raised by the dam, giving the area the name of the Land of the Dead Things (Williams and Tracy). The small island in this cove is now known as Cranberry Island although it was originally named Neck Island, according to the circa 1954 Reservation map.

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Pioneer Caves
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.373',W 71° 47.449' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

Leaving Pioneer Caves the trail continues southwestward, arriving at a small stone fireplace and a side-trail to the left (east) that heads for the Deer Cove campsite. This site is a popular place for troops to camp overnight and it offers an excellent view of Yawgoog Pond. Deer Cove got its name when Chief Williams and others saw a deer walking on the ice there during the winter of 1919-1920 (Williams and Tracy).

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Stone fireplace near the Deer Cove campsite in winter
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.223',W 71° 47.494' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

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A snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) at the Deer Cove campsite
Image by David R. Brierley

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Panoramic view of Yawgoog Pond from the Deer Cove campsite
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.223', W 71° 47.431' (Datum: WGS84)
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Google Map

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View of Deer Cove from the Deer Cove Campsite
Image by David R. Brierley

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Clouds reflected in Yawgoog Pond at the Deer Cove campsite
Image by David R. Brierley

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Autumn view of the Deer Cove campsite from a peninsula
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.242', W 71° 47.385' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

The Yellow Trail leaves the Deer Cove campsite and eventually descends a rock formation into a swamp fed by the State Line Brook. The Lobstick campsite used to be southwest of this area, according to the Reservation map of 1931, but has become overgrown. The 1976 version of The Story of the Yawgoog Trails says that a path, called the Green Fall Trail, existed here. It led from the swamp and went north to Denison Hill Road (also known as Laurel Glen Road and Laurel Hill Road); it ended at Cemetery Ridge in Connecticut (Williams and Tracy), after passing through the now-overgrown Tamarack campsite, according to Phil Booth's 1975 map. Attempts to locate this path have failed; it appears to have been completely overgrown. A Reservation map, circa 1954, shows that a noteworthy rock formation called Glacier Cave exists in this area. The map also shows that "Polaris," one station of the "Adventure Trails" program of the 1950's (it began in 1954), was located in this region, as well. It served as a training station for map, compass, and stars skills; it got its name from the North Star.

After crossing the swamp and climbing a modest slope, the arrives at the famous Hemlock Ledge. This highly popular campsite stands on a series of large ledges that slope gently into the pond, surrounded by many hemlock trees; these trees were severely damaged by the forest fire but managed to reseed themselves. The most striking feature of Hemlock Ledge is its great view of Yawgoog Pond. Singing from the dining halls can be heard here during mealtimes in the camp season. Ringing of the Memorial Bell can be heard at noon on Mondays through Saturdays; the bell is also rung three times at approximately 12:45 during the moment of silence at the Sunday Dress Parade. The bell is at Camp Three Point; a discussion of the bell and video of it can be found in the Orange Trail section.

Video of the ringing of the Memorial Bell as heard from Hemlock Ledge
(volume may need to be raised)
Video by David R. Brierley

Although the whole point of land is now considered to be the Hemlock Ledge campsite, the Reservation maps of 1931 and 1941 show that three campsites existed there. Hemlock Ledge was located near the main trail; Campsite Deer Point was located on the northernmost tip of the peninsula (an unmarked path goes there) while Campsite Midway was located on its easternmost bulge, midway between Hemlock Ledge and Deer Point. The Hemlock Ledge campsite was also known as "Sourdough" because it used to be a Dutch oven cooking center for the Adventure Trails program.

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Panoramic view of Yawgoog Pond from Hemlock Ledge
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.091', W 71° 47.359' (Datum: WGS84)
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Google Map

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Shoreline vegetation at Hemlock Ledge
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.097', W 71° 47.364' (Datum: WGS84)

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A boulder at Hemlock Ledge
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.103', W 71° 47.364' (Datum: WGS84)

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Panoramic view of Yawgoog Pond from Deer Point
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.173', W 71° 47.377' (Datum: WGS84)
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Boulders at Deer Point
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.173', W 71° 47.377' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

Sadly, an Asian insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), is spreading through New England and has infested many of Yawgoog's eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis). The adult adelgids and their eggs tend to be most visible as small, blue-white or white cotton-like tufts on the undersides of hemlock twigs.

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Hemlock woolly adelgids on the underside of an eastern hemlock twig
Image by David R. Brierley

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Pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule), an orchid, near Hemlock Ledge
Image by David R. Brierley

Leaving Hemlock Ledge, heading south, the main Yellow Trail goes on to meet with the starting/ending point of the Green Trail. The Green Trail goes off to the right (southwest) while the Yellow is to the left (southeast); a campsite, the Twin Hemlocks campsite, once existed on the shore near this juncture. After crossing a footbridge near a cove called the Shallows, the Yellow Trail approaches the Davis Campsite, named after James F. "Cookie" Davis, Camp Yawgoog's first cook. It commands an excellent view of the pond and Phillips Island. The campsite is the former location of the Ashaway Fishing Camp, according to the circa 1954 map.

This region is confusing because two short paths honeycomb into the campsite. Hikers who wish to stay on the main trail (avoiding the campsite) should stay to the right when coming from Hemlock Ledge or bear left when coming from Blueberry Swamp. By hiking northeast on either of the side-trails (marked with double yellow blazes) that pass through the campsite, the traveler will arrive at Armstrong Point, named after Ranger Clinton Armstrong.

This peninsula served as the western base of Slade's Bridge, which was connected to Phillips Island. Slade's Gang, a group of older Scouts who graciously volunteered their time and effort for many camp improvements, built the bridge from 1930 to 1933. Construction was done under the direction of Paul W. Slade, a member of the Third Providence Troop and the seventh Eagle Scout in Narragansett Council. Planning was begun in May of 1930 and it was dedicated on August 27, 1933. J. Harold Williams describes it in The Yawgoog Story:

It was a suspension bridge 195 feet [59.5 meters] long between towers, supporting a single walkway. It was made by this non-professional, volunteer gang with salvaged timbers, cables and hardware. Oh yes, $67. was spent for some materials which could not be scrounged. Slade's Bridge was a magnificent accomplishment and it was a source of great usefulness and pleasure for 15 years. But the salvaged parts began to give way. Slade's Gang had run its course and no other leaders could be found to tackle the repairing. We even tried to have the bridge rebuilt professionally, but no construction company was interested at any price we could afford. So the bridge was dismantled for safety's sake, but the memory of it as one of "Yawgoog's Wonders" lingers on. (Williams and Anthony vol. 1 pp. 31-32)

The accomplishment was noted by Chief Scout Executive James E. West in his November 1933 Boys' Life column, "The Scout World":

Pretty clever chaps are engineers, the kind that build bridges, do great construction jobs and the like, but they are not always right, not at least when they tell a persistent, persevering and earnest group of Boy Scouts with vision that a given task is beyond the means of boys to accomplish.

That was what happened three years ago, when the Third Providence Troop decided that it wanted to bridge a waterway between Phillips Island and the mainland in Yawgoog Pond, at the year-round reservation of the Narragansett Council. A week or so ago saw the completion of the structure, a 195-foot steel suspension bridge, a fine evidence of the ingenuity of the troop. Not the least remarkable feature is the fact that the bridge, built almost entirely of salvaged material, represents cash expenditures of $67.00 only, for cement and some necessary hardware, which the most persistent overhauling of junk piles refused to reveal. The bridge has been named in honor of Scoutmaster Paul W. Slade who designed it, and served as chief of construction on week ends and odd days in all seasons, whenever it was possible to get a working group of Scouts and leaders transported the thirty-five miles from Providence to the camp. Readers of Boys' Life can get some idea of the big job the Scouts had, from the fact that the three-foot-wide walkway of the bridge is supported by four 375-foot cables, suspended from 8-foot towers, with the cable ends anchored in granite ledges. The job of boring anchorage holes in the granite rocks for cables and stays was a long and tedious experience, but now the Scouts with all the hard work behind them have the satisfaction of knowing that they have made a ten-acre island readily accessible for hiking and camping. (p. 50)

All that remains of the bridge are the concrete foundations, vertical supports and rusted cables. The anchors for the main suspension cables are among the shrubs. Slade's distinguished service is also remembered by the Paul W. Slade Award, given to selected individuals who volunteer 100 hours or more of labor to the camps of Narragansett Council.

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1933 photograph of Slade's Bridge
(West p. 23; Yawgoog Alumni Assn. p. 37)

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Postcard showing Slade's Bridge, circa 1937

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A support at Slade's Bridge
Paul W. Slade may be the man standing.
The others may be members of "Slade's Gang."
("Boy Scouts Outguess Hardboiled Engineers")

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Remains of Slade's Bridge on Armstrong Point
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.985', W 71° 47.216' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

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Remains of Slade's Bridge on Phillips Island (magnified view)
Image by David R. Brierley
Approximate coordinates: N 41° 30.980', W 71° 47.184' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

A short distance from Slade's Bridge is the tip of Armstrong Point, which provides a superb view of Yawgoog Pond, Schooner Island and Phillips Island.

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Panoramic view of Yawgoog Pond from Armstrong Point
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.001', W 71° 47.218' (Datum: WGS84)
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Schooner Island
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 31.001', W 71° 47.218' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

Video of watercraft on Yawgoog Pond by David R. Brierley

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Panoramic view of the Southwest Passage from the Davis Campsite area
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.890', W 71° 47.212' (Datum: WGS84)
Larger image
Google Map

Leaving the Davis site, the main Yellow Trail (with single yellow blazes) ventures south and crosses a swampy area on a long footbridge. A second footbridge exists on the rocks of Blueberry Swamp. The remains of an unfinished suspension bridge, begun in 1981, are there as well.

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View of the Southwest Passage from Blueberry Swamp
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.806', W 71° 47.230' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

After crossing the second footbridge the trail splits into two trails. The main trail is to the left (east) and climbs a steep slope, going on to Cooning Orchard. The side-trail on the right (south), called the Veterans' Trail, climbs a less steep ledge to the top of Hill 407 and the site of Fort Hilton. The hill has its name because it is 407 feet (124 meters) above sea level; it was the highest point in Yawgoog from May 8, 1928, when the land was bought, until May 7, 1985, when the Grassy Pond area was bought. At this writing, "Hill 431," located west of Grassy Pond, enjoys the distinction of being the highest point in the Reservation (131 meters).

 

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