It’s hot. Crazy-pants hot, and humid on top of that, making neither one of us interested in doing a whole lot of anything. However, after two days of sitting inside darkened and air-conditioned rooms, eating ice cream and watching Netflix, we got up this morning determined to Go Do Something – the heat be damned.
The VEB suggested we drive west to Royalston to visit Royalston Falls. We had visited Doane’s Falls earlier this year, and the VEB knows the area fairly well. Despite this we got a little off track, and wound up going in “the back way” to the Falls, which is the aptly named Falls Road off Route 68. The road turned to dirt and then became so rutted and washed out that the VEB parked the FJ Cruiser and we decided to hike it in. We met a woman who said “it’s just up the road, take a right”, and armed with a brand-new bottle of bug spray we set off up the road.
The good news was, it was cooler in the woods. The bad news was, the bugs were AWFUL. The worse news was, we hiked good and long, and took a right — but we never got to the falls. We did, however, come upon this marker:
We did not understand what this meant until we saw the other side of the marker:
Now, normally, the VEB and I are very careful hikers. The VEB is an experienced backcountry hiker, and I am related to my extra-careful father, and thus far we’ve always been really well prepared. We weren’t in any danger – we just didn’t have a map and we couldn’t find the right trail (or so we thought). On the way back, we did follow a little trail labeled “connector” for a little bit, but we still could not hear or see the falls so we turned around and went back to where the car was parked. Happily though, just as we got back to the car we met an older couple in a pickup truck who gave us a spare map of the Tully Lake area. It became clear that had we stayed on that “connector” trail we would have eventually come to the falls. At this point I was starving and the VEB was covered in bug bites. We decided to go get some lunch and some After Bite then try again, this time armed with the map so we could find the main entrance off route 32.
We did find the entrance, and initially it was an easy hike. The bugs, though…oh lord, the bugs. I could have easily entitled this “The One Where We Almost Were Eaten Alive”, because the mosquitos were terrible. Then, the trail got more tough – lots of muddy spots, and couple of steeper spots that were challenging to navigate. The path takes you down, more or less, into a ravine where the river flows, and there is a camping hut there for thru-hikers (the Royalston Falls trail being part of two longer trail networks, the Tully Trail and the Metacomet-Monadnock trail). After crossing the river on a little footbridge, the Falls trail takes a sharp right and follows the river.
At this point, I started to feel like something wasn’t quite right. My legs were barely working anymore, and I felt unsteady on my feet. The VEB was cursing the bugs (they like him more than me, apparently), and by the time we got to this point we were both underwhelmed:
Was this what we had driven and hiked to see? Was this it????
The VEB voted to turn around, and that’s when I hit a wall that I’d never before experienced. Even climbing Monadnock last year, I never had my legs just seize up on me. I felt like I was going to fall down with every step I took. And every time I stopped, the bugs would swarm. Between the VEB’s encouragement and counting steps (in this case, 50) I got myself up and out of there, but not without bursting into tears at one point. The VEB kept telling me he was proud of me, that it was a hard trail, but I just felt like a big wuss.
Back at the car, I Google’d the Falls. Apparently, what we were looking for were falls with a 50-foot drop, like this. Falls that, as best I can figure, we would have hit had we hiked another 5 or 10 more minutes downstream. I was a bit crestfallen, but immensely cheered when I read that “this is not an easy trek”. No, indeed it is not.
We’ll go again, in the fall, when the mosquitos aren’t out for blood. In the meantime, I had a glass of sangria at dinner and just hope I can walk tomorrow.