Just when I think I know every hill in the city of Providence, I’m thrown a little surprise. And given that Bowen was the hill that inspired this blog, I think this qualifies as a major surprise. I just happened to be driving down Prospect today and turned onto Bowen headed down to Congdon where it deadends into Prospect Park. I noticed something I hadn’t before, namely a series of cement posts and what looked like a small path going into a thicket of trees separating Prospect Park from the neighboring house.
So I drove around to Pratt to see what it looked like from the bottom, and remembered that there was, in fact a small section of paved road (still called “Bowen”) that continues from Pratt, where I customarily stop. But what I noticed this time was what looked like a small path to the right of the bit of chain link fence.
I went home, grabbed my camera and got the Strava app ready on my new tablet toy and headed back. Not time to try biking it today, but I figured it was worth a stop and walk-up, which would tell me most of what I needed to know about whether it was suitable for biking anyway. There is indeed a path, and it is fairly bikeable, I think. The surface is probably a little rocky for a road bike, but if you were willing to risk a flat, you might even be able to do it with skinny tires. Cross would be better. The biggest problem, in fact, is a branch that runs across the path, but at worst, I think it might call for a quick dismount, or you might be able to just duck under it.
Once you hit Congdon at the top, you can continue on Bowen for one more block of easy climbing. The addition of these two sections increases both the overall length (obviously) and the section from Pratt to Congdon is the steepest part of the whole hill, continuing at almost the same grade as the final 30% section of the cobbled part below Pratt. The whole thing also compares quite favorably with the Koppenberg in terms of average gradient and steepness. The dirt section is probably difficult enough to make me give it the nod as the harder of the two hills, but I’ll reserve final judgement until I get over there with my cross bike.
Also of interest, the top of the cobbled section is now covered with a nice (but not too tall) layer of crabgrass that makes the ground much more firm than it was when I tried to ride the cobbles all the way to the top (I tried this just after I got the cross bike, but couldn’t maintain enough momentum to not have to dismount in the 30% section), so I think I may now be able to ride the cobbles all the way to Pratt (or just before it).