We returned to SGL 57 to explore some new streams and forests. The plan was to first explore an unnamed creek that flows in between Stony and Becker Brooks. We climbed up the steep and rugged glen of this creek which harbored countless cascades and about three falls 10-20 feet high. It was tough climbing up the boulder strewn bed of the creek as it was caked with ice and snow. Wes and Ryan climbed the rim of the gorge as I followed the creek.
We reached the top and turned right onto a gated game commission road that explored a hardwood forest with some huge cherry trees. This soon brought us to the road that goes to the Dutch Mountain coal mine. There was a truck parked at the old mine, it appeared to be someone running hounds. We entered the mine where it was noticeably warmer; a spring flowed out of the depths. A climb to the ledge on top of the mine offered some views as we got a bite to eat. A nice campsite was hidden under some hemlocks.
The trail took us across Red Brook, dotted with mounds of snow, draped under hemlocks and spruce. I had never followed this old trail across Red Brook; the trail wandered into a bare hardwood forest and crossed a few small streams before entering a spectacular spruce forest along Coalbed Swamp. The forests were deep and green, dusted with snow, it was a winter wonderland as the sun began to shine through the breaking clouds. Not happy with just seeing the forest, we decided to reach the swamp. The swamp was more open than others we’ve explored; it had few blueberry thickets. Frozen mats of sphagnum moss covered the sodden ground underneath.
Despite its name, Coalbed Swamp is pristine and is one of the most diverse places in the state, being the home to several rare species.
Hiking into the frozen swamp soon lost its excitement and we re-entered the incredible spruce forests. The diversity of SGL 57 never ceases to amaze. The hounds barked on the far side of the swamp.
After retracing our steps, we turned on another trail that took us to the outlet of Coalbed Swamp, and the source of Red Brook. The name of brook soon became obvious; the water was a deep amber color thanks to the decaying vegetation in the swamp. The remainder of our journey was to follow Red Brook.
We battled through spruce to be treated to a hidden cascade in a grotto of conglomerate boulders and ledges. We crossed the trail we hiked previously and continued down the brook. Red Brook is one of the most scenic streams in SGL 57, featuring many cascades and small falls, old growth beech and hemlock, and deep gorges.
The first highlight was a dramatic falls in an incredible grotto framed with ice flows (in the picture above). An old railroad grade soon came into view. The grade was rocky and still had ties in it, but it was easier hiking than bushwhacking along the brook. The grade passed cliffs with frozen springs and huge boulders along a steep slope. The top of the second falls soon came into view.
We scrambled down to the falls and it was an impressive sight, the main drop was about 30 feet as the water roared down. Smaller falls were both above an below the main drop. We couldn’t reach the bottom due to the ice. After getting more to eat, we continued down the old grade. Our hike continued along another old grade above flood torn Stony Brook back to the car as the sunlight faded on the tops of the mountains.