The call of the wild beckons in the town of Franklin. Alongside a rural road sits Ayers Gap – an 80-acre reserve that truly captures what a New England landscape can offer.
Pulling into the small parking area in front of a wooden sign, my friend Cheryl and I climbed out of the car to begin our adventure.
At first, we noticed a couple of simple, unmarked trails that looked like a natural entry into the woods. Looking at my friend, I noted, “Not so bad, right?”
That is, until we saw the true trail. Blazed in white and on the right of the sign, the sight of it evoked an incredulous, “That’s the trail?” from both of us.
From the start, the challenge begins. The trail is a straight shot up the face of a rocky outcrop. Intimidating? Yes. But, it did look fun to conquer.
So, we gave it a shot and began the climb. With all its nooks and crannies, there are plenty of spots to gain purchase. And we took short breathers along the way whenever necessary. But, by the time we reached the top of the small ridge – we realized it wasn’t all that bad.
Once on even ground, we traveled deeper into the heavily-wooded preserve. I was immediately struck by how quiet it is up here. The hemlocks provide an insular environment broken only by the sound of a few chattering birds.
Swaths of ferns also grace the property – which was preserved in 1988 by the Nature Conservancy due to its rare plant habitat. This delicate fern is known to only exist in five other Connecticut locations and thrives in what’s known as Bailey’s Ravine in the heart of this reserve.
There’s another notable takeaway - that at first - I couldn’t put my finger on. I never once came across a piece of litter or debris on the entire hike. That’s not always easy to do. And for the volunteers and officials that help keep it clean – hats off to you.
Eventually, we made our way through the ravine and came upon a lovely waterfall within the crags of exposed rock. Water levels have been low lately, so the power of these falls weren’t at its peak. But, there is enough of a flow to indicate its potential might.
The loop pretty much ends here with the trail leading out to a quiet countryside road. We rounded the corner and was greeted once again by the rocky cliff we tackled at the start of this adventure. Once again, its picture-perfect stance just reaffirming my belief that the call of the wild truly exists in small-town Connecticut.
DIRECTIONS: Take CT-2 E toward Norwich to exit 13 for CT-66. Take sharp left onto CT-66 E. Turn right onto CT-85 S. Turn left onto CT-207 E through Lebanon into Franklin. Parking is on the left on CT-207, by the preserve sign, about a mile past Route 32.
TRAIL DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate
TRAIL DISTANCE: 1.25 miles
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