CHECKED - OK 25 March 2011
The Lil' Rhody Runaround is a trail race hosted annually in November by the Westerly Track & Athletic Club at picturesque Burlingame State Park in Charlestown, R.I. It is a fast, flat 7.9 mile loop around Watchaug Pond on the yellow blazed Vin Gormley hiking trail. Stephen Herrera of Waterford, Ct. holds the course record of 44 minutes and 1 second, but it will likely take you quite a bit longer!
This nice loop trail has it all: piney woods, pond views, streams and a bit of wetlands. The course is mostly flat, and the trail is well marked with yellow blazes, but there are some unmarked paths branching off. I have heard of runners who have gotten off track by not paying sufficient attention, but this is unlikely to happen to you. There is a water stop halfway and a prize at the finish. This is a poison ivy-free hike (unless the Rhus Radicans hitchhiker shows up!) All and all, this is a super fun run, bike or walk!
The picnic area has a parking fee ($2) during the summer months as it has a lovely little beach, but otherwise access is free. It was the site of the 2001 Fall Gathering and the Great Gathering box may still be found there. Please wear orange during hunting season (2nd Saturday in October through last day of February) as hunting is permitted in the northern part of the park.
Most of the first mile is along paved roads. There isn't much traffic, but keep to the left shoulder as you follow the yellow blazes east out of the parking lot, north on Prosser Trail, and northwest on Kings Factory Road. After nine tenths of a mile, the trail turns left off the road and into the woods. There is room here for a couple of cars if you want to avoid the summer picnic crowd and parking fee, but you will still have to walk the road portion at the end of the loop unless you have "spotted" two cars.
The first rest stop is at the Chair Tree on the left (west) side of the trail maybe a mile from the road. While you are resting, wander 20 steps further along the trail and note a stretch of slickrock ahead. Turn right and walk 20 steps along the blue blazed Schoolhouse Pond Trail to a ledge with a blaze painted right in the middle of the path. Go 10 steps on a bearing of 250 to the top of a low ledge - hop down, look under and stamp in! (If you are really "Feelin' Good", a brisk 10 minute side trip east following the blue blazes will lead you to the Falling Leaves letterbox, and about another 1/2 hour will get you to the Schoolhouse Pond letterbox.
After your first rest, continue along the yellow blazed trail heading generally north. After a while you will head mostly west and the blue blazed North-South Trail will come in from the right. Now you will have two colors to follow. There is a short stretch west along paved Buckeye Brook Road that gets you across a swamp, and then you head mostly south. The second rest stop is at the third stone wall passage from the paved road. Have a seat on a stone, drink some water, and admire the 6 plus foot boulder that makes up the left side of the wall. While resting beat the bushes about 10 steps along the SW side of the wall to get about 15 feet past the boulder and 2 feet before the remains of a fallen tree. Check out what's behind the trap door rock and stamp in.
The next rest stop comes after perhaps another 1/2 hour of face-paced hiking south from the road. The trail crosses a small brook on a quadruple 2x4 plank bridge, and in about 200 feet passes through a stone wall. STOP! Do not pass through the wall [It's bad luck. ;-) ], this is your third rest area. Between the bridge and the stone wall you can find a path going west. Follow this path 20 steps to find the end of the stone wall on your left. Walk 20 steps along the west side of the wall and look at what's in the stone shelter. When you are done resting, walking another 15 steps along the wall brings you to the far side of that wall opening such that you need never pass throught it. Continue to follow the yellow blazed trail as it continues to the south and then swings sharply east.
As you pass through the Final Stretch of the race course, you will lose the blue blazed North-South Trail as it turns right off the causeway and heads south to Blue Shutters Beach. You will soon cross the Burlingame Campground, the children's playground and the Audubon Society's Kimball Wildlife Sanctuary before joining the rough, crumbling Sanctuary Road that goes northeast to the picnic area. You might like to check out the Trailing Arbutus for which this sanctuary is known. You are expected to walk your bikes and leash your dogs while passing through this area.
You reach the finish line as you pass the toll booth at the Burlingame picnic area. To claim your prize from the reward Troll, proceed north a couple hundred feet and locate the high point of the stone wall that marks the northern boundary of the area. The Troll is rarely at home but you will find his hiding place under the wall 6 steps west of his rectangular, cut stone perch from which he keeps watch on the toll booth at 195 degrees and gives everyone who does the whole loop "First Prize".