This past weekend I was able to return to place I used to visit often- SGL 57 and Stony Brook. The September floods on the Mehoopany Creek were unprecedented, causing catasrophic devastation. A bridge was destroyed, and the creek carved a new channel on the other side of a concrete bridge, erasing the road. It was truly a bridge to nowhere. It is hard to imagine the power of water. The creek carved new channels, deposited massive banks of gravel and cobbles, and lined its course with a canyon of trees and root balls that now rise above the water. The village of Forkston is still affected by the floods, and its parks and ballfields look like they had been bulldozed.
The roads are now mostly repaired. Snow coated the valley and made the floods look like a distant memory. But you could still see what remained. Twigs, leaves, and branches were wrapped around tree trunks by the torrent, at times over a hundred feet from where the creek now flows.
I reached Stony Brook and my plan was to hike up the old gravel road that goes to a cabin. That was impossible. The road had become the stream and was cratered with erosion. I took a grade high on the other side of Stony Brook so I could get a better view. What I saw was astounding- landslides tore into the side of the mountain, triggered by the creek flowing against the base of the slope, and completely wiped away the road to the cabin. I don’t see how the road could ever be rebuilt. Stony Brook itself is a small stream, but it left a stripped flood plain almost 100 feet wide. I didn’t know where to hike, until I spied what appeared to be a clearing on top of the ridge between Stony Brook and Mehoopany Creek.
I had thought about hiking this narrow ridge between the creeks before, itself a product of erosion. On one side, Stony Brook is eating away at it, and on the other side the Mehoopany is doing the same. I began my trek up to the top, to realize it looked like a spine- very narrow with steep drop offs on both sides. It also looked like there was a trail on this spine. It was much more difficult than I expected, especially with the snow. I didn’t have crampons and I had to scoot down one section on my rear end.
The skies clouded over and I soon reached the top, which offered great views looking up Mehoopany Creek’s isolated valley.
I continued up the spine to another fine view through an opening in the hemlocks and mountain laurel.
I continued up the ridge and gradually gained elevation. I entered an oak forest with several large trees, covered with phosflourescent lichens. I soon reached the best view, looking up Stony Brook and its incredible flood plain torn through the forest. It has hard to imagine such a small creek carrying that much water.
Although I wanted to explore more, I had to get back. So I retraced my steps and made my way down the snow covered slopes to the Mehoopany Creek as it calmly flowed under snow dusted hemlocks and ice, the water still brown from the floods.