We’re going to follow the story of Marcus Manlius and the Invasion of Rome. Back when Rome wasn’t much more than a city and its local area – not a huge empire as we know it – it was constantly being threatened by its neighbors and threatening them, in return. One time a tribe of Gauls – a Celtic people from southern France – came down the Italian peninsula and attacked Rome. The Romans fled to the well-fortified Capitol Hill and the Gauls besieged them. Let’s see what happened!
Terrain: This can easily take up to three hours - longer if you go after any other letterboxes in the area. Beware – there is some bushwhacking through prickly areas at one point. Some parts of the path can get wet, or, in the Winter, icy. If you go all the way out to Rome Point in January-February, though, you may see seals. Bring binoculars. Many people like this hike, so please be particularly discreet! Post a lookout, if possible.
Caveat: A 'step' is when a foot hits the ground. For counting paces, one pace equals two steps. If you start off on your left foot, then count one pace each time your right foot hits the ground.
First, we’ll go to the new Rome Point parking lot. The easiest way to get there is to take Route 1 to Route 138 East, towards the Jamestown and Newport Bridges. Take the last exit before you get to the Jamestown Bridge, for Narragansett/Wickford (Route 1A). Turn left towards Wickford and follow Route 1A for .8 miles to a new parking area on the east side of the road.
Park in the parking lot. South, along the road, you’ll see a green gate at the head of the trail. Let’s call the trail The Appian Way, after the Roman road built in 312BC that led from Rome to Capua, and later ran 350 miles to Brundisium. There’s also a short SE path that cuts over to it from the parking lot. Go down the path a few paces on until it leaves the cleared area at a vine-overgrown chain-link fence in the trees on the right.
Box #1: Barbarians at the Gate
From the chain-link fence, count 134 steps to get to the first path on the left. You’ll know it by a foot-wide rock in the path with a purple spot on it. Follow that path (with a stone wall on your left) about 60 steps until it is crossed by another stone wall. There’s water in and around the path, but we’ll walk around it to the left. Cross through the wall and stop. Look left, up the wall to the west. Here, you’ll have to bushwhack to find the Gauls. They have a lot of gall hiding in such a thorny place! Carefully take 35-40 steps to a tree with a waist-high faucet growing out of it. Beware the old barbed wire, both metal and natural! Between the tree and the wall, the Gallic invaders crouch!
Box #2: Watch Geese - replaced 11 Aug. 2008
The birds seem to have started a migration. We will advise when they come back to roost!
Enough of these nasty briars! Now go back to the Appian Way. Standing even with the purple-spotted rock, walk down the Appian Way east for about 200 steps to telephone pole #0193, then about 110 more steps to pole #0194 (handy, aren't these poles?), then 145 more steps to pole #0195. Stand on the larger rock in the middle of the path and you’ll see the pole is at 147* (degrees) and a large rock is in the bushes at 130*. Look at 200*. Eight steps for a cedar tree between two oaks. In its branches 3 feet up from the ground you’ll find the Watch Geese.
(This is now a mini letterbox with no logbook, velcroed in place.)
The Gauls were creeping up the cliff-side, sneaking up the Capitol Hill in the middle of the night to attack the Romans. Even the guard dogs didn’t catch them. But a flock of sacred geese that were in a grove nearby heard the Gauls and started up a cackling and clamor! Stamp in the Watch Geese and then we’ll see what happened next.
Box #3: Marcus Manlius
Now stand on the rock in the path again. Go east along the Appian Way for another 150 steps to pole #0196, then another 116 steps to pole #0197. 180 more steps, and there’s a Y in the trail, where you could bear left and follow the poles. We’re not – we’ll bear right to stay on the Appian Way. Continue 145 more steps, keeping a low stone wall on your right and cedars on your left, to a major intersection with another utility pole line. Stop, and look right (south) along the utility lines. There’s a path here, which we’ll take. Walk along this path 50 steps to pole #0373 (the numbers are on its backside. Very handy, these numbers!). Putting your back to the pole, sight 25* through a bush to a tree 10 steps away. Go to that tree and sight 135*. Take two steps that way and look down to see where Marcus Manlius rests.
Marcus Manlius heard the geese clamoring at the Gauls and went to see what the commotion was. When he saw the pile of barbarians trying to scale the cliffs, he grabbed the first one and threw him down on top of the others below. They all toppled down and the other Roman soldiers rushed over to help Marcus. Marcus was rewarded as a hero for saving the city from certain destruction. Rome was saved by the vigilance of a flock of geese! Now that Rome is safe, let’s go see some of the city.
Box #4: The Glory of Rome - replaced on 17 September, 2011.
Go back to the Appian Way and follow it east for 24 steps to see another path, the Latin Way, going north, parallel to the utility lines. This leads to Rome Point. (If you continued on the Appian way, it ends at a nice beach with lovely views of the bay. You can take the extra side-trip to see the beach (and that might help you out a lot later!), but we’re not doing that just yet. Taking the Latin Way for almost 400 steps to a pair of four-foot high posts where the path goes through a stone wall. Continue another 145 steps to an east-westish T intersection. Go east (turn right) to stay on the Latin Way. After 125 steps, you’ll see the first of some obvious paths leading to the top of a tidal slope overlooking one of Wickford’s inlets, Bissel Cove and The Narrows. Very pretty! After enjoying that side path, go back to the Latin Way. Go down the Latin Way another 150 steps. Don't let the view make you forget to count steps! Spy a path going 350* towards a very large rock with its feet in the waterline. Take only 3 steps towards that rock, stop, and look low to your right, under the cedars. There, behind one cedar, you’ll not find the letterboxer’s usual Suspicious Pile of Rocks (SPOR), but a mixed pile of rocks and branches that we’ll call a Suspicious Pile, Quite Rocky (SPQR). Under it lies the Pantheon – one of the oldest of the surviving large buildings of Rome.
You have two choices, now. You can follow the Latin Way all the way East to the tip of Rome Point. Here there are the best views in the state of Fox Island and Wickford Cove. In the Winter, there are seals basking on the rocks offshore, and you must be quite quiet! Bring binoculars, ‘cause they do sort of look like the rocks they lay on. You can return by the path or along the beach to the end of the Appian Way.
Or you can just retrace your steps to your car. Somehow, I don’t think you’ll be choosing this option…