|Upper Fay Falls|
A Photographic Scramble
It's looking like waterfall season is coming to an end here in southwestern New Hampshire, not because the water has stopped flowing, but because the buds are beginning to explode on the trees. Once the greening starts there is nothing that can compete with the daily progression of colors that make our spring a worthy, but softer, competitor to the flashy brilliance of autumn. But, before I start getting disgustingly poetic about the miracle of new life, here is one more article about waterfalls, without which, the early barrenspring would be hopelessly uninspiring. This early spring I have been focusing my waterfall explorations on my home region of Cheshire County, New Hampshire. I started with an article
|Houghton Brook Below Fay Falls|
My first quest took three tries and two blogs, but I finally discovered Pulpit Falls. The waterfall was spectacular, but my primary goal became to improve upon the confusing directions to Pulpit Falls and some of the other lesser known falls. My next targets were Fay Falls in Walpole and Ashuelot River Gorge in Gilsum. Neither was especially difficult to find, both were well worth the search, but both were notable for rather treacherous approaches down steep gorge walls. Great care was needed.
Waterfalls are notoriously dangerous places to navigate especially for photographers who are always trying to get just a bit further off
|Emerald Pool, Downstream |
|Jumbled Fay Falls|
Fay Falls is tricky to find and once found it requires a steep descent down the side of the gorge on Houghton Brook to get to the best photographic vistas. On my visit last week the falls were quite nice with the exuberant spring flow. The falls cascade over a couple of drops as it descend a steep and jumbled path. There are a number of locations along the left side of the falls that open to views of all or parts of the drop.
Directions: The falls are located off the County Road in
Logging Road Begin the Bushwhack
- Parking: 43 01 49.489, -72 24 20.579
Hike the logging road downhill toward Houghton Brook, but if you follow the road all the way to the brook you will be substantially downstream from the falls. I did this on my first attempt and found some lovely cascades but not Fay Falls. The best way to go is to follow the road just a 100 yards or so until you see a large multi-trunked pine on the right. All but one of the trunks has been cut away. I can't guarantee that any of the tree will remain when you get there, but If you reach the stone wall, you have gone too far. At the pine you will need to start bushwhacking to the left toward the sound of falling water and the precipitous bank of the Gorge. From here it is not far. The bearing is roughly 115-120 degrees. The bank to the falls is steep and shouldn’t be attempted in excessively wet or icy conditions. And there you are. Enjoy the cloistered drama of the falls and perhaps take a picture or two. The good news is that steep banks are generally easier to climb than to descend.
- Fay Falls: 43 01 46.480, -72 24 16.46
The Ashuelot River flows through a deep Gorge in Gilsum, New
|Gilsum Stone Arch Bridge|
- Directions: Head north from Keene, New Hampshire on Route 10 (Gilsum Road). Approaching Gilsum, the stone bridge is impossible to miss on the left. Immediately after crossing the bridge, park in the entrance to a dirt path which heads upstream. A sign here describes the bridge and it's history. Walk a short distance west on Surry Road and you will see a rough opening in the side of the road heading down the bank to the river.
There is no distinct trail but you can see routes taken by others as they have slithered down the side. Once again, be very cautious, plan every step, and keep your hands free for scrambling. On a couple of occasions I surrendered to the need to slowly slide on my butt through especially questionable sections. Hold on tight, but be careful not to contribute to erosion by digging up the bank. The drama at the bottom is dependent on the strength of the flow and, of course it is most impressive in the spring and after substantial rains. The pictures will be great, but don't forget to take some time to quietly enjoy the awesome power of nature and without a thought about f-stop or shutter speed.
|Falls and Rapids|
After all this scrambling, I can't resist offering one bonus waterfall. I'm not sure this one has an official name, but when the water is flowing it can be quite lovely. It is just a short way from the Ashuelot Gorge, further north on Route 10. Perhaps most importantly it is right by the side of the road. No scrambling required. The only danger is the risk of getting mangled by a passing truck. The falls are located about 1.4 miles north of the Stone Arch Bridge on the right side of Route 10. There is a small turnoff, but it can easily be missed without careful attention. It is not large, but when flowing strongly, the falls have a nice meandering pattern.
Well I think I have talked enough about waterfalls for awhile. After all of this, if you don't have a strong urge to pee, a urology consultation is indicated. It has been exciting to find some new falls in my own backyard and I hope my descriptions will be helpful as you explore some of these lesser known attractions of Cheshire County. Enjoy, be careful and most of all be respectful of our abundant natural treasures.