What to do with 3 hours of daylight left after a long slog at work on a cloudy day? A quick bushwhack excursion to an obscure waterfall seemed to fit the bill, so I found myself at the Franconia Bike Path around 7:30 PM with a few supplies, flashlight, camera, and tripod.
The trip up to the falls begins on an old path that is easy to follow, beginning off the side of the bike path just north of where the brook passes under the old bridge by the Gallen Circle. The path goes along the side of the embankment at an easy grade, descending towards the brook. There is even an old, mossy AMC-style log bridge across a muddy section along the way, so it appears that this used to be an old official trail of some sort.
After a while, the trail meets the brook at a stone foundation, where it vanishes. This is where the bushwhack up the ravine begins. I started by keeping mostly to the left side of the brook for about a quarter mile. As I got further up the brook, the walls of the ravine got closer and steeper, making it necessary to ford the brook to the other side several times due to one side being impassible. Far above me, I could see open ledges above steep rocky walls which caught my interest – something to check on the way back!
Deeper into the ravine with a few more hops across the brook, I came upon old rusty pipes running along the south side of the embankment. Far ahead, I could see the waterfall above through the trees. This is the roughest part, as the walls of the ravine don’t allow much space to move between the brook and the rocky cliffs. A few scrambles holding on to trees and rocks, and I reached the large open area below the falls.
Lafayette Brook Falls is about 40-50 feet high and has two tiers. The water pours out underneath and through a rocky cave at the top of the falls and comes down a smooth granite slab into a pool midway down, spilling over the edge into a larger pool at the base. To the right of the falls is a large natural carved bowl in the side of the rock wall, similar to the giant pothole at Lost River. It is quite a sight during high water… tonight, though, the water flow was fairly light.
Running up the side of the falls are a series of metal pipes which end at the cave on the top. These pipes are rusted and lead nowhere. I can only speculate as to what these pipes were originally for, but being almost a mile up the ravine from the road, it seems an odd location for such a structure.
It was getting closer to dark, so a few photos were taken at quite a long exposure. I’ll have to go back soon for some better attempts, as the view from the top of the falls is also a good one, but there wasn’t enough time tonight. (The first photo you can make out the pothole to the right of the falls).
Soon, it was off again through the scratchy spruce and slippery rocks, working my way back downstream. Halfway back, I explored the base of the cliffs a bit and found a way up the side to the top. Above, there was a nice open rock shelf perched over the canopy of trees. There was a great view up the inside of the Lafayette ravine to “Sleeping Chief” ledge. A glowing sunset was visible to the west, but the angle of the ledges was such that a good view was not easy to get from here. Perhaps further exploring in this area during the daylight would reveal some interesting views, but at this point, getting back to the car before dark was the priority.
Some scratches and scrapes later, I was back to the car by 9 PM a bit wet and a bit bloodied. An interesting way to end the day!