Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stepstone Falls, RI

Sign at the trailhead
Rhode Island's vaunted position as the smallest state in the US left us with a little skepticism as to what its highest waterfall, Stepstone Falls in Exeter, could offer, but we decided to finally give it a chance on a lovely spring afternoon. After all, even a small state could dream big and be gutsy - RI does have claim to the longest state name, and was also the first of the original 13 colonies to declare independence from Britain!

Some internet research dragged up this trail description/guide, which we stuck to for the most part, although actual trail maps of Arcadia management area proved dismally difficult to procure - this shabbily-drawn map was the best that I could find. Having already picked the wrong trail once on our first attempt at finding the falls, I was determined to actually succeed in reaching them this time around. The falls, as we found out, can actually be accessed by car, but where's the fun in that?

We took Escoheag Hill Road to the unpaved Austin Farm Road (the turnoff is unmarked and a little confusing, as it looks like someone's driveway) and parked at the start of the Ben Utter Trail, just before Falls River. Ben Utter winds its picturesque way upstream, hugging the river for about 1.7 easy and flat miles before reaching the cascades.

The woods were awash in golden spring sunlight, the air jewel-bright with dancing iridescent dragonflies, and nature's glorious details made for a pleasant walk. Distracted by the bounties of nature, we missed the old mill site, but did manage to spot some cool flora and fauna, including wildflowers like spiderwort and pink lady's slippers, some fascinatingly translucent corpse plants/ghost plants, and our first woodpecker sightings - we'd only ever heard them before, and we had a ball watching them work their way merrily at the tree branches.

The falls were a pleasant surprise as they actually turned out to be bigger and more widespread than we thought they would be. We were also surprised to see a couple sitting by the cascades in camp chairs, before we spotted their car a little ways away and realized that there was a road that went up to the falls. We pottered around for a bit and checked out the falls from both sides before heading back.

Although it sure was no good slog up a 4000-footer (my personal preference in the North East), Stepstone Falls turned out to be a pleasant half day excursion, and a leisurely stroll in the woods, although I would definitely recommend going after some recent rainfall. More photos can be found on my Flickr page!

Stepstone Falls
Stepstone Falls