On a crisp, 40 degree, late autumn afternoon, 22 hikers joined the Springwater Trails hiking group to go hiking on the trails of the hunter safe Stony Brook State Park, south of Dansville. We began at our meeting spot, the main parking area at the lower (north) entrance. Our trek lead us 500 feet, up to the top of the gorge, at the upper (south) end. 13 hikers in the fast group, lead by Mark and Duffy, went up the woodland trail on the east side, and down to the start, via the gorge trail. Your writer, helped by Nicky and Tasha, lead the remaining 9 hikers, up the gorge trail, and back by the woodsy trail on the west side.
The views, on these trails, were among the most spectacular, of the trails we’ve been hiking. For many, the highlight was the the 3 magnificent waterfalls. We constantly heard the sound of clicking camera shutters, to capture this beauty and, a few of the best pictures taken by Char, are included in this report. (Just click on any image if you would like a larger, higher resolution version).
The hardwood trees had, by now, shed their summer leaves. Looking on the ground, as we negotiated the steep trails, helped by steps, we could identify leaves of red oak, white oak, sugar maple and beech. However, the tree, that populated well over 50% of this forest, was the coniferous eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis. While these hemlocks looked beautiful and healthy, there is, unfortunately, a serious threat to them, looming east of here, as close as Schuyler County. This is the invasive insect, the hemlock wooly adelgid, Adelges tsugae, which has already killed thousands of hemlock trees. Their damage can be seen by walking into the east end of Watkins Glen State Park. Unless ways can be found to stop their westward advance, the Stony Brook forest will look very different, in the not too distant future.
Many of the hikers liked the idea of a future hike in this park. A good time to return might be in the midst of next summer, where we get relief from the heat in the swimming pool, that was created by damming up the brook, and enjoy the great picnic area, after hiking. And maybe a railroad hike – “a ‘sploring Hike Plan for Stony Brook” in the early spring before the weeds are too high.
Finally, a partial answer to the source of the stream Stony Brook (from Google Maps). Two creeks enter the south end of the park. The eastern stream is called Stony Brook and comes up from the south near the Girl Scout camp Pinewood. A bit north of the camp, Mill Creek joins the brook from the east.