Winter's Flowers: the Graffitied Ruins of Belcher Cove
From November through April in much of southern New England, the outdoors is a dreary place. The leaves are gone, and right alongside the water, there probably isn't even any snow. It's hard to get excited about an adventure outdoors without much of anything scenic happening.
But there is one magical thing about this long stretch of winter - in the dry clear air, and with all the foliage gone, you can see for long distances. And things that were previously unknown are suddenly revealed.
The East Bay Bike Path running from Providence, Rhode Island to Bristol, Massachusetts offers many such opportunities. Like many "rail trails" - formerly functioning train tracks turned into public spaces of enjoyment - the EBBP hugs the oceanside for a good amount of its length. When the trees shed their leaves, views of the water open up, along with some other surprising sights.
One of our favorite hidden surprises can be found right alongside Belcher Cove and the pumping station, across from Brown Street. You won't see it in the late spring, summer, or early fall, but when it's finally visible by wintertime, you'll wonder how you ever missed it.
Behind a gray, tangled web of winter vines and branches, brick ruins bloom with colorful graffiti. Here lie mysterious remains of an old building - reportedly a former power station used by the rail company. Everything is gone besides some archways, almost totally covered in every shade of spray paint.
In the warmer months, the leaves fill in the forest, and the view of the ruins all but vanishes. Locals in the know unsurprisingly use it as a secret hideout in the summer - giggles and cannabis smoke often percolate through the bushes and archways.
Like all urban decay, the ruins are an interesting intersection of vulgar art and nature's efforts to reclaim and rebuild. Delightful mosses and ferns take footholds in every crack and crevice, next to crass messages shouted out from years past. And like many ruins on the margins of society, litter prevents the otherwise quiet space from being an ideal sit-down spot.
Fortunately, if you want better views, the adjacent Belcher Cove is a publicly accessible strip of beach known for great bird watching opportunities.
What to wear: long pants tucked into socks (beware of ticks and scratchy vines); rainbow anodized pins or bright accessories to match that graffiti.
Where to eat: we love fueling up at Plant City or The Grange (temporarily closed) on the Providence end of the East Bay Bike Path. There's also a lemonade stand and juice bar a stone's throw south on the bike path, although winter hours might be non-existent.
Going up and down the full length of this path takes up most the day, especially if you want to stop and enjoy things, so we love a jolt of caffeine and then plenty of hydration along the way.
Do you have a favorite spot that's only visible in the winter time? Let us know, and maybe we'll head that way someday.