Bailey’s Ravine/Ayers Gap Falls, Franklin
There are, quite literally, still thousands of things for me to do in Connecticut. Many of those things are not exciting. Many are. Very few land on the mythical list of “stuff Steve thinks Steve really should have seen by now.” This is one of those places.
Which is sort of unfair to me because no one can expect anyone to have had many opportunities to explore the dark corners of Franklin. And so it was, one pleasant September Sunday that I decided, “hey, Calvin, let’s continue our rural adventure and go check out a waterfall.” And so it was decreed. And so we did.
The little hiker’s lot was filled once I slid my car into a tight space, and we were off. Calvin and I bumbled off into the woods up a trail to… we had no idea. We’re ADVENTURERS darnit! But this page is only about the falls rather than the Nature Conservancy land and its trails. (Suffice it to say, we hiked a around the woods quite a bit before finding our first falls.)
We hiked a very circuitous, unpopulated, and unheralded counter clockwise-ish route that led us to the very top falls first. I now realize that probably less than 1% of visitors to the preserve share this route experience with us. Oh well. And I’m also guessing very few even make it up here to these topmost falls.
They’re missing out, as it’s a really cool area. I do regret not having Calvin pose as though he was ripping that rock open himself though. Next time…
After the upper falls, we followed an old woods road down to the more popular lower falls area. Here tumbles the main attraction of Bailey’s Ravine. The 10-foot plunge is pretty on its own, but it’s the massive Scotland Schist rock wall that really commanded our attention. What was most striking to me is that this is in eastern Connecticut; among the flat farmlands of Franklin and very near Lebanon. One doesn’t think of waterfalls cutting through huge slabs of metamorphic rock when one thinks of this part of the state.
At least I don’t. I think of mushroom farms and hayfields.
And Asplenium montanum of course. You don’t know Asplenium montanum? Fair enough. Surely you know its common name, mountain spleenwort? Huh? You don’t? Well, perhaps if it wasn’t an endangered species in Connecticut, found only in a handful of places including Bailey’s Ravine. Sure, the towering hemlocks and oaks dominate the faunal scene, but the Nature Conservancy purchased this land in 1989 mostly because of the humble little fern known as the mountain spleenwort; a hardy little thing that grows in hard-to-reach rocky settings.
I’m sure this area would have been preserved whether or not the mountain spleenwort lived here simply because of the ethereal beauty of the place. But still, I wanted to recognize the fern.
I like ferns.
To reach the lower, more popular falls, there are a few routes. The shortest is to park at the lot on 207 and roadwalk to the winding drive to the farmhouse and follow the trail into the woods across the stream. It’s pretty much right there.