This day tried to deceive us. The sunshine was brilliant in the deep blue skies. Not a cloud to be seen. But the cold was absolute and limitless. I walked out to my car at 11 a.m. It was 4 degrees.
I was prepared with layers of fleece and anything else I could fit over me. To keep my feet warm and dry, I wrapped two Walmart bags over some dress socks, over which I wore my hiking socks. Don’t laugh, it worked perfectly.
I met Ryan and we were soon hiking up Windy Valley/Dutch Mountain Road. At the second parking area, which was on the left, we hiked down through a spruce plantation on the old Meat Trail. The wide and ice-covered Mehoopany Creek soon greeted us.
The plan was to hike up to Somer Brook Falls to check out the ice flows. It is far easier to see the falls by taking the game commission road up from Noxen. However, we were on the wrong side of the mountain, and besides, that other way isn’t much of a hike.
We found a snow covered log across the frigid creek. We scooted across on our butts; we could not take the chance of falling into the water on such an arctic day. Safely across, we tip toed on exposed rocks protruding above the ice. We soon found the old Meat Trail, still with some yellow blazes, as it climbed steeply. The sunlight was sharp and brilliant as it pierced the bare forest. We reached an old forest road, Southbrook Road, on which we turned left.
The climb was gradual through the open, silent woods. Despite the cold, I was warm and even found the hiking enjoyable. With the right clothing, you can hike in almost any weather.
The stone cabin soon appeared and we took a break to eat. I couldn’t stand still for long, I could feel the intense cold invading. We left the old road and dropped down to Somer Brook. There was a beautiful spruce forest, the canopy was green and glowed in the sun. But this forest seemed to hold onto the cold, it was freezing. The top of the falls soon appeared and we made our way down. The falls have several drops, totaling about 80 feet. The ice flows were beautiful between the cliffs as the sun lit the hemlocks. The creek made a strange sound, like a hammering sound between ice. An ice chunk was trapped in the current, slamming against the frozen surface above it. It was a little eerie, but the sound soon went away.
We scrambled down to Mashed Potato Falls, a fifteen foot drop so named for its buttery and creamy ice flows. Below was the rugged gorge of Somer Brook- big boulders, frozen pools, rapids, and ledges. A beautiful place, encased in snow and ice. Hemlocks rose through the canopy.
We retraced our steps back to Mehoopany Creek as the sun was setting, electrifying the ice over the clear water. A beautiful sight in the wilderness.
One of my favorite trees is the hemlock. As you may know, the hemlocks are dying from an invasive insect- the woolly adelgid, an aphid that sucks the sap out of the tree. However, when it gets to about -5 degrees Fahrenheit, the adelgid begins to die. As a result, I love sub-zero temperatures. There is a silver lining to everything.
Approximate location of the falls (can’t see them through the trees).