HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

Road Trip – Cascades Trail – North Adams MA

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844d5bbc-6e09-4f6d-adc5-03c58c514c0bMy wanderlust is flaring up something serious right now. 45 work days working from home. Today is day 50 of the social-distancing, quarantine, stay-at-home order for the area I live. 50 days! I have watched the end of winter and the beginning of spring as buds swelled and flowers emerged.

I realized quite some time ago that inserting myself into nature is how I cope. When I am sad, depressed, anxious or angry I turn to trails through the woods and the delights of nature to restore my spirits, give me hope and grant me perspective.

My 50 days have not been without connection to nature. I am lucky enough to have a wooded back yard and gardens and live in a rural enough area to be able to see frogs and flowers along my daily walks. But there is no substitute for a good hike along a new trail.

Glimpses of wildflowers or waterfalls, and in the very best cases, both,  are frequent goals of mine on these walks. Arriving to an elevated vista is also something I look to find.

While we are still closed down, though there are murmuring of a slow reopen, I continue to think back to the trails I have explored and making lists of places I want to go.

The Cascades Trail was a funny trail. I followed signs for it along the sidewalk and through a suburban neighborhood. I felt kind of funny traipsing through a quiet neighborhood with my hiking poles and backpack walking past people raking leaves and moving mulch around.

New to the area and on a solo adventure, I selected this trail for the reported waterfall at the end of it. The Cascades trail is a 2.2 mile out and back trail with a stunning waterfall at the end. It is very well travelled and good thing too because I lost the trail markers once I entered the woods. The trail markers on the telephone poles were very clear.


My mid-week, mid-day hike left me solo much of the time in the woods. Once off the sidewalks and out of the neighborhoods you could easily forget you are minutes away form the local YMCA and the towns of North Adams and Williamstown, Massachusetts.

One of the things I love best about hiking through the woods with a waterfall as the final destination is how you hear the sound of the waterfall get louder as you approach. The trail follows along the scenic bubbling Notch Brook flowing over ledges and between moss-dappled boulders.


Notch Brook, Cascade Trail, North Adams MA.

This one was particularly rewarding as you didn’t catch much of a glimpse of the falls until you were nearly right on top of them, but as you got closer the roar of the rush of the falls got louder and louder. I love the anticipation of what I will find when I reach the source of the noise.

Of course along the way I found some wildflowers. I always factor in photo and stopping and stooping time into my hikes, because I spend a lot of time doing all of these things as I go. The hikes are never quick, even a 2.2 mile flat easy hike like this one.


Rose pink flowers of purple-flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus), a colonizing native shrub.


Clusters of pale lavender flowers top Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)


A wide variety of native ferns covered the forest floor, the species changing with topography and soil moisture. Here a Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)  and a Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) buddy up.


Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) was introduced to the US from Europe.


Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sylvatica) another European Introduction

Often along well-traveled trails close to suburban and urban areas you will find a lot of invasive plants along the trail. I was pleasantly surprised at how few invasives there were. The ones I did find were primarily located close to the trail head and closer to the lawns and gardens of the homes in the area. This is not unusual.

Quickly the invasives at the edge of the forest and tarilhead gave way to a relatively uninvaded forest.


Notch Brook


And eventually you arrived at the destination.  The raucous of the cascading waterfall.


This waterfall was much more substantial than I imagined. I never dreamed this stunning cascade would be so close to backyards, roads and commercial businesses and so easily accessed.

It did not disappoint.

While loop hikes are nice because you get new scenery the entire time, out and backs are also great because you get to see what you saw before from a different perspective. Heading in to the woods i did not notice this lovely cone-studded path of white pine needles but it drew my attention on the way out.


Perspective, that is what nature has to offer.

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