A Trip to Purgatory

December 12, 2015.

Company down for the weekend and to keep my hiking streak alive Mike and I are going for the relatively short hike to Purgatory (Falls). The girls wanted to go shopping so it was just the two of us and since I have never been to the north trailhead we spotted a car there and then drove to the south trailhead to begin the hike. For the middle of December it is a pretty nice day. There is no wind to speak of, the sun is shining and the temps in the 40's climbing into the high 50's for the day. It doesn't take long before we reach Lower Purgatory Falls which is about a quarter mile up from the parking lot.


I have always found the Lower Falls to be more impressive since you can see the whole thing. Middle and Upper are also impressive but just not in the same way. It wouldn't be complete without a video of the falls and a view downstream.

At the top of the falls to the right of the old dam is a small stone foundation with the outside coated in cement. Not sure if this was part of a holding pond or what it's purpose was. I do know that there once was a mill in the area but I think it is further downstream and something I have yet to find it's exact location. The mill site dates back to 1811 and ceased operations in the 1950's when it was destroyed by fire. Yes it is on my ever growing To Do List! Heading further upstream and the brook is off to our left as the trail follows the winding waters. At one point across the stream Mike notices a sign I don't recall ever seeing before. A zoom in on it reveals there are more trails on the other side that aren't listed on any map I have seen. The bottom third of Purgatory Brook is the "rougher" section where the water moves quicker and has plenty of boulders in the stream.


Taking it slower affords me more time to see things that I have not noticed on my other trips along this trail. Along the shore are the remnants of a bridge that washed downstream at some point. Right next to it is a large tree with barbed wire running right through the center of it. It must of been nailed to the tree when it was a young sapling then grew around it. Following the trail and there are more trees with the same barbed wire going through their centers also.


The trail pulls away from the brook for a bit as the rushing sound of water disappears where the brook becomes wider and much more mellow. When the trail returns back to the brook I get my favorite shot of the day as the calmness of the brook gives me a great reflected shot.

Up ahead the brook becomes rougher again as we reach the snowmobile bridge. Turning right on the trail right before the bridge and we drop down into a spot where we are deep in a ravine. The tree lined walls are high and steep. It is amazing how the terrain changes so much on this three mile trail giving you a lot of variety in one hike. Walking high above the brook bed and just before Middle Falls we spy something down in the brook. It is a piece of debris from another bridge that somehow washed down the waterfall.


Making our way down the steep embankment and we get a good view of the very large curved wall that was carved out of the bedrock by a whirlpool probably back when the glaciers retreated.


Reaching Middle Falls and again it is not as impressive as Lower but has its own uniqueness about it. It is a narrow gorge and I find the top of the falls more interesting where the water has carved a sluice in the ancient bedrock.


Just upstream and there is a small cascade that I don't recall seeing before. Another benefit of taking it easy today and enjoying the woods and surroundings. A few more minutes up the trail and Mike spies another sign and the curiosity sends me down to it. It has to be a joke because there is no way any wheeled vehicle could make it down into this rough area.


Checking out the sign has a bonus to it though as right next to it the brook is stagnant and dead ended. But the sound of moving water can be heard just not seen. Somewhere underneath this earthen debris dam the water is moving steadily down through. It is just a few more minutes and we reach the last fall along Purgatory Brook, Upper Falls.


Unfortunately there is no way to get the full perspective of the waterfall as it winds down and parts are hidden by its curved flow. But the base is impressive with its shallow pool and large craggy wall. Hard to believe someone died out here last winter. Apparently she slipped on the ice above and fell down the falls and getting trapped in the pool under the ice drowning. One of the articles about the accident can be found here.

Up to the top of the falls and I show Mike the Devil's Footprint and Pot on the other side. These are impressive holes created again probably when the glaciers retreated. I can not fathom that recent water action created these two features considering the layout of the brook. You can see the current level and water path with the pothole off to the right by the old steel fence posts.


Across the bridge that leads to the northern parking lot and before we head out I take Mike down the opposite side of the brook to where the footprint and pot is back at the head of the Upper Falls. Temptation being what it is I jump down into the Devil's Bean Pot to get a better idea of how deep it is. Not one of my smarter moves as it is about ten feet deep and with very slick walls providing no traction to get out. Mike was concerned that when I jumped down what if the bottom was not the bottom and that leaf matter was sitting on a pool of water. Being here a few times before I had a pretty good idea of how deep it actually was. Besides I would have never done this if there wasn't someone with me to help me get out. I wasn't that stupid as before I jumped in I had my eye on a downed tree branch that I could use to get me out if it came to that. Well it did as there is a small shelf in front but up higher than my leg can get up to get a grip. So after a few attempts Mike (my hero) came to the rescue and got the stick for me to grab while he pulled. Only thing I didn't think about was what if I pulled him in while trying to get out. After a few more attempts I got just enough grip and with Mike pulling got out of the Devil's Bean Pot.


So in one day in a matter of a few hours Mike and I went to Purgatory and saved me from the Devil! Sorry Mike.

Final numbers: 3.1 miles, 3 hours and 40 minutes.