The Cowarts take Washington...County
Right in our own backyard: Our adventurous summer ‘staycation’
This summer, we embarked on a Staycation.
The term “Staycation” seems to be a relatively new one, derived from the need for people to feel as if they’re on vacation while maybe not having the either the means, or the time, to take the full time off or away. This summer, we found ourselves with the opportunity to have a Staycation when we thought we might not be vacationing at all. A huge home renovation project would be underway at our house for much of the summer, and would be taking up all of our extra funds, even though we might have the time to take off. However, about a year ago we were presented with the opportunity to use another family’s two weeks stay at Fisherman’s Memorial State Park campground in Point Judith as our own for the first two weeks of July 2017. Those weeks are like gold in the camping world. Fisherman’s costs just $20 a night to camp, and includes full hookups (sewer, electric and water), which is a bargain compared to renting a beach house in that same area, or staying in a hotel. At Fisherman’s you can either tent camp or camp with a camper, and we have a travel trailer-style camper.
Early bird gets the worm
Those who wish to camp at Fisherman’s must go online a year in advance to the day, starting at midnight and try to get their desired spot during their desired weeks. Our friends had gotten two sets of two weeks, one for a spot they liked, and one for a spot they liked even more. So while they wanted to keep one set, they did not need the other. We opted to buy it from them, and all year long we’ve looked forward to the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate in a much-desired tourist location, camping in our camper at Fisherman’s for the first two weeks of July while still being close to home.
Fisherman’s Memorial State Park is located within walking distance to beaches and restaurants and local sightseeing destinations, like the Narragansett Sea Wall and its nearby shops, and the Point Judith Lighthouse, for example. A state beach pass is just $30 for the season and gives you access to all the beautiful state beaches all summer long. The park itself is a treasure-trove of sights to see. There is a lookout deck on the hill from where you can see sunsets that are photo-worthy, a new and different one every night. There are wildlife encounters that include fox, deer and rabbits on a daily basis. There are historic locations right in the park, an old war bunker and a winding path up a hill, which leads to a concrete lookout spot from which you can imagine soldiers watching for unfriendly fire during a war. There are paths for walking and roads for riding bikes. Every campsite has a fire ring for campfire cooking or just for enjoyment. Kids and adults alike, ride their bikes all over the campground at Fisherman’s and the kids play outside until long after the proverbial streetlights come on. We were lucky to have this opportunity for two entire weeks.
We are native Rhode Islanders and I grew up in South County. We both attended the University of Rhode Island for college, but we were determined to make it a point to explore places we had never been in to, and to continue to appreciate some of the places and events we love to frequent in the area. We wanted our Staycation to be a mix of both new and traditional memories, and it definitely was.
A Staycation allows you to see things that normally blend into the landscape on a typical day, with new eyes, whether it’s a walk along the ocean, a view of the sand stretching for miles, or the beautiful beach roses dotting the walkway. It gives you a chance to breathe and to remember to appreciate what you are lucky enough have in front of you all the time. It also gives you the opportunity to unplug and get back to a simpler time. Over our two weeks’ time, we had the chance to rest, read, relax and rejuvenate, as well as to explore and enjoy. Our days were filled with reading, napping, bike riding and playing games of tennis, none of which required screen time, which was kept to a minimum by all of us. There were hours-long games of cards, dice, and board games and there was even a Sunday morning Farmer’s Market at Fisherman’s that we couldn’t wait to visit. None of these things are all that unique, but yet many of them are things we just don’t often have the time to do during the rest of the year, and we were excited to be able to take advantage of them now.
Independence Day and beyond at Fisherman’s
The Fourth of July at Fisherman’s dawned bright and sunny, with just the right amount of clouds in the sky to be picturesque, without being overcast. The temperature was a perfect 80 degrees or thereabouts, and it was a great beach day for us at Roger Wheeler State Beach. At night we cooked on the campfire, eating dinner first and then toasting marshmallows for S’mores before heading up the hill to the lookout spot to watch 360 degrees of fireworks displays going off in every direction on the horizon, in front of us, next to us and behind us. The moon was high in the sky, shining down over us and the show we were watching all around.
With the University of Rhode Island just down the road, we took the opportunity to do a college tour, having saved one of the closest schools to us for last. As two URI graduates, this was again an opportunity for us to look at something with new eyes, a place where we had each spent four years of our lives more than 25 years ago. The day was beautiful and we toured the campus as visitors, remembering the days when we were once residents.
On July 7 we attended the Rhode Island Philharmonic’s free concert on Narragansett Beach. It was the 41st year for this big event, and we have hardly missed any. The weather was rainy to start the day but cleared as the day went on. We took our seats on the sand in a prime spot near the walkway and enjoyed the music as we have done each and every year for as long as I can remember. This was an event that we would check off our list of summer traditions once again this year.
We spent many sunny days at the beach during our trip, making full use of our beach pass, and of the good weather. However, even on the days that weren’t perfect beach weather, we took the time to grab a sweatshirt and head to the beach just for a relaxing walk along the shore. Watching the fishing boats come in and the ferries go out at Galilee never gets old, and we learned about the Osprey that nest across from the beach as we watched them hunt and fish or sit in their nests high above us.
Being in Narragansett, you can’t pass by some of the local favorite seafood spots without getting fish and chips, chowder and clam cakes, so we were sure to check that off of our list as well, making that the celebratory dinner on the last night of our first week camping, and changing it up from cooking over the campfire for one night.
“Close to home, yet far enough away”
During the second week of our trip we had the chance to visit a couple of spots that were new to us. We went with friends from the campground and hiked at Black Point, which we have actually driven by thousands of times, never even realizing the spot was there. The hike is not for the faint of heart, and you definitely need to wear good sneakers and be sure to stay hydrated, but the views of the ocean and the rocky shore were breathtaking, and we could not believe we had gone so many years without having experienced this treasure.
One new spot we discovered came about when visiting a spot we’d been to before. We took one of the more overcast days and headed out to the Pt. Judith Lighthouse, exploring the grounds and spent a good amount of time there, taking pictures and walking around the area. On our way out, we noticed another sign we hadn’t ever noticed before, for Point Judith Fisherman’s Memorial. We turned down that road and came upon the Camp Cronin Fishing Area and the Point Judith Fisherman’s Overlook, small beachfront and a gorgeous memorial display dedicated to those lost at sea. We spent a long time there as well, exploring and taking more pictures of the beautiful compass rose, the rocky area, the hydrangeas and roses, and of course, of the ocean. Once again, we couldn’t believe that we had never found this spot before, in all of our time spent in South County over the years.
We rounded out our list of new areas to explore that week with a visit to a scenic bridge we’d seen many times as we traveled Route 1A over the years, but had never taken the time to stop at. It was directly across from the John Chaffee Wildlife Refuge, and according to the sign, it dates back to 1920. We watched as kayakers floated by beneath us, enjoying what had turned into a beautiful, sunny day. We added the Chaffee Wildlife Refuge to our list for next year and finished off our day with a trip to Brickley’s for ice cream.
All in all, our Staycation was a complete success. We were close to home, yet far enough away to enjoy what so many people drive hours to get to. We had a fun, two weeks’ vacation without having to break the bank. We made sure to enjoy our annual summer traditions, but made new memories as well, and we came home rested and ready to take on the rest of the summer. It was a Staycation we won’t soon forget.