Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Confessions of An Outdoorswoman 3. Little River Nature Trail

It's hard to believe that a former highway off-ramp could be a worthy destination, but this one is an easy bike ride with lovely natural amenities, and close to home.

Access points are either from Storey Ave., just west of Atria Merrimack Place, or off Hale Street just east of the I-95 overpass. Look closely for the modest sign that marks the Hale Street end of the trail, and be prepared to walk your bike along the switch-back start of the trail. It may be a tad muddy, but is generally passable.

The paved trail has been conscientiously cleared by volunteers, with encroaching vegetation cut back and debris moved to the sides of the trail. It still bears paint marks from when it was a public road. Potholes are minimal, ahnd the ride is easy withlittle change in grade riding in either direction.

The trail soon crosses the Little River where and Eagle Scout built observation platform overlooks a beaver pond and bird-filled marsh. Leave the paved path and follow the trail opposite to see an active beaver lodge, and maybe get a glimpse of the resident rodents. Further, another grassy trail forks off and climbs a wooded ridge toward the highway. The only downside is the constant highway noise, even when the road is not visible.

Although the trail passes between lovely oak-covered knolls as it approaches Storey Ave., several non-native plants have certainly taken over along the roadway. Asiatic bittersweet, multiflora rose , and particularly autumn olive are the predominent species. The latter was commonly planted along highways when I-95 was built, before it was recognized as a rampant invasive. Tiny olives hang heavy on the shrubs, making me wish they were edible.

Walkers and dog-walkers will find this an appealing destination as well, but it is particularly rewarding for bike riders who will find that the roads leading to the southern end of the trail are comparatively lightly traveled, with a sidewalk besides, and not too steep. The roads around the Artichoke Reservoir (Turkey Hill, Rogers Street, Garden Street and Middle/Plummer Spring Road) make for a longer ride with maximum enjoyment.

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