I didn’t really discover walking until I moved to Westerly and began to take our two dogs, Magic and Willie, a Labrador and a Beagle, out for a walk twice a day. Rain or shine, summer or winter, “the boys” as we called them had to have their walks. It got pretty boring doing the same route every day so I started trying new routes along the shore. Winter is my favorite time to walk. There are fewer people, no ticks and fewer restrictions on dogs.
Magic and Willie have passed and now my walking partners are a 10-year-old Beagle named Winston and a new rescue Beagle mix named Lucy. If anyone knows anything about Beagles you know they rule the house. When it’s time to walk Winston will go to the door and give what my wife and I call the Jedi stare, it’s a type of mind control that dogs use on humans.
It makes me get up and put on the gear, collect poop bags, dog cookies, hat, gloves, boots, water, cell phone, sunglasses, wallet, and camera or binoculars. The Beagles excitedly chew on their toys knowing that it takes me awhile to get this all together. By this time I look like I’m starring in Nanook of the north. Now that we have the two Beagles my wife has joined the pack to help.
The good part of all this walking is the health benefits. I’ve lost weight, I’m stronger, and it has reduced my stress level. As I walk gazing at nature and bonding with Winston and Lucy the troubles of the world seem to slip away.
However, all is not perfect and walking can become more adventurous then you might think. Weather is the biggest factor it can and does change fast in New England. On one of my walks in March to the end of Napatree Point in Watch Hill the wind picked up and a snow squall came in.
I found myself walking back facing into a gale of wind-driven snow. The wind chill dropped below zero and the snow started to accumulate. My boots became clogged with a mixture of snow and sand and became very heavy. It felt like Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.
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Napatree Point is exposed to winds from the north and west. Misquamicut and Weekapaug beaches are exposed to winds from the south and east. If it’s blowing on Napatree Point go over to one of the beaches on the ocean side, the sand dunes and cottages will protect you from the wind. The difference can be amazing. I like to start the walk into the wind so that when I’m tired and cold on the return trip the wind is helping to push me from behind.
My favorite walks include the Avondale Preserve, Napatree Point, Moore Woods, Weekapaug Beach, and Misquamicut Beach. Each walk has its own unique flavor. Of course in the summer season you are only allowed to walk your dog on the beaches and Napatree Point before 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m. from May 2 to Labor Day and all dogs must be leashed.
If you’re out of shape or just starting to walk the Avondale Preserve is the easiest. The paved road has a flat half mile circle with convenient parking areas and is never crowded. Remember that spring and summer are tick season. Wear light-colored clothing and check your self, pets, and children carefully as ticks carry Lyme and other diseases.
Beach walks can be more demanding because walking in sand is a lot harder than walking on pavement so the feel like distances should be doubled. You will need a good pair of walking shoes, sneakers, or boots.
Its great after a brisk winter walk to come inside and have a nice hot cup of cocoa or tea. Some of us New Englanders prefer something with a little more authority. Mulled wine is nice or Irish coffee but I sometimes revert back to an old frostbite recipe called whiskey soup.
The recipe is simple. You take two 15 ounce cans of V8 juice and bring them to a boil, then pour in a bottle of whiskey. Believe it or not this tastes a lot better than it sounds. In fact, on a subzero day, it’s downright delicious. One cup warms you up, two cups and you’re feeling really good, three cups and you’ve decided to make your next walk to the top of Mount Washington.
The Westerly Land Trust has a number of wonderful properties that are open to the public. You can get information about them at westerlylandtrust.org. If you have a favorite dog walk I’d like to know about it. In the meantime, if you see two people and two Beagles walking give a wave.