On this hike, I returned to a place I had been to several times before. The first time I saw the Crystal Cascade, I was surprised by how beautiful it was. It wasn’t tall; it’s beauty was more subtle. Stony Brook slid and dropped over rounded, mossy boulders into a series of deep, clear pools. Hemlocks and spruce framed the creek. Nearby, the trail tunneled through the spruce. It was a hidden, secret place. The floods from several years ago changed the cascades, but its beauty has remained. This hike follows part of the challenging Hike No. 12 in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.
I walked up the flood damaged road along Stony Brook, retracing my steps from countless other hikes. The weather was warm and sunny, and I was a little overdressed as I walked. I crossed Stony Brook, which had more water than I expected. I then crossed Red Brook as it tumbled over boulders and underneath fallen trees; I thought about hiking up Red Brook to see its two falls, but I decided to wait until there was more water. The past floods along Red Brook were truly seismic-entire slopes had collapsed down to the creek, leaving fault lines through the forest. I walked up the old grade as large maple trees rose over me. The grade was wet in places. Far below, I could hear the roar of Stony Brook.
The grade entered a spruce forest and soon reached the tunnel of spruce and hemlock. I then reached the Crystal Cascade, as beautiful as I always remembered it. I walked upstream to see more cascades and pools. My goal was not simply to see the cascades, but to also explore some large rocks further up the slope. I climbed up and the rocks soon came into view. A jumbled mass of large boulders covered the slope. I reached the top and picked my way among the boulders and soon came across a deep cave and a rock house where boulders were stacked on top of each other, creating a room beneath. I had a strange feeling that I was not alone here, that this was bear habitat. My imagination started to run wild and I thought I heard the breathing of a large animal from deep within the rock. I soon retreated back down the slope.
I veered into a remarkable spruce and moss forest above the cascades. There were also some large hemlocks. It reminded me of the Emerald Forest. Why did this spruce forest happen to grow here? It is because this spot has a cool, moist microclimate. This forest is on a north facing slope and grows over a slope of boulders, which holds cold air longer into the summer. The nearby streams supply the moisture.
I retraced my steps back to my car, waiting along Mehoopany Creek.
More pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPFy97r
How to hike to the cascades:
- Park at N41 28.009 W76 09.645
- Follow dirt road.
- Cross Stony Brook at N41 38.563 W76 11.077
- Cross Red Brook
- Follow old forest grade to spruce forest and next stream crossing, where the cascades are located (about a mile from Red Brook)
- Total hike about 3 miles (one way).