Tuesday, July 7, 2015


On a warm, partly sunny and fairly humid late afternoon I undertook a bushwhack up the Gorge Brook ravine on Mount Moosilauke to the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Cascades. These cascades have an interesting history. Legend holds that one of Rogers' Rangers, exhausted after the retreat from the 1759 raid on St. Francis in Quebec, collapsed at the base of these cascades and was rescued by a trapper. Warren locals sometimes visited the brook in the 1870s. The "Pleiades" name was applied by two AMC explorers in 1880. For a brief time in the 1930s they were accessible by a Dartmouth Outing Club trail, but that has long since been swallowed by the forest, and the bushwhacking is very rough.

DOC trail crew humor was on display at the Ravine Lodge entrance. Actually, the classic and beloved log structure, built in 1938, has outlived its lifespan and is slated to be rebuilt, perhaps starting in 2016.

The view up to Mount Moosilauke from the corner of the Lodge, after stopping in and getting some trail work beta and a delicious chocolate chip cookie.

The 2012 relocation dubbed the "Wales-Carter Connection" is one of the nicest sections of the Gorge Brook Trail. It replaces a section along the brook that was washed out by Tropical Storm Irene.

I left the trail at 1.6 miles, at "Last Water" and the Ross McKenney plaque. For s short distance the woods were open in a broad part of the valley, but soon the ravine walls closed in.

This was typical terrain higher in the ravine: very rough with numerous potentially dangerous holes, making for slow going. This was noted by Thomas Wentworth Higginson in "A Search for the Pleiades," his entertaining article that appeared in an 1880 issue of Atlantic Monthly and later in a collection of his writings. Higginson's party descended into the ravine from the ridge above, then climbed back out through a heavy thunderstorm. It's hard to believe there was a trail through here in the 1930s.

Presumably this was one of the Seven Cascades.

More cascades. In places I clambered right up the brookbed, which sometimes was easier to navigate than the gnarly terrain on either side. The scenery, however, was wild and beautiful. Of his 1880 visit, Thomas Wenworth Higginson wrote, "We could not have asked for a sweeter rest after our descent or for a lovelier bower of peace than we found in the valley of the Seven Cascades."

Approaching the highest of the Pleiades, measured at 107 feet by another 19th century visitor.

I scrambled up the streamside rocks for a closer look. It had taken nearly an hour-and-a-half of slow, careful whacking to reach this point.

It took another 15 minutes to whack up, around, and down to the top of the big waterfall, where I could see these cascades upstream.

Looking down from the top.

The full scene from the ledge perch at the top, with a view out to the southeast. This ledge can be seen from spots along the Ravine Lodge Road, especially in winter.

The view includes Kirkham and Sayre Peaks on the Blue Ridge, Mt. Cushman, Mt. Kineo, and Carr Mountain.

Bunchberry was blooming by the top of the falls. When bushwhacking in special places like this I proceed carefully both to prevent injury and to avoid trampling vegetation as much as possible.

A down-look from another angle.

The bushwhack back down to the trail was as slow and challenging as the way up. I was glad to reach the trail by 7:45 pm. This photo shows the upper bridge crossing on the Gorge Brook Trail.

An important FYI to loop hikers on Moosilauke: the bridge over Gorge Brook on the Hurricane Trail (a section I adopted last year) has collapsed. It is slated to be replaced by the DOC trail crew in the next couple of weeks.

Another FYI for Moosilauke hikers: to preserve parking for guests at Ravine Lodge, Dartmouth requests hikers to park farther back on the road, before the junction with the service road.


  1. Great report about a mysterious, wonderful spot, Steve. Many thanks.

    1. Thanks for reading, Steve - the history of this spot is fascinating.


  2. Excellent report Steve about an excellent adventure!

    Have never done a trek nearly as complete as yours in terms of scouting out the full length of this series of cascades. Closest I've come was about 7 years ago when I did a weird whack up the Gorge Brook Ravine and eventually intersected the Carriage Road between South Peak and Mt. Moosilauke. Along the route, I occasionally popped over to Gorge Brook to take a look at some of the cascades that sounded particularly loud!

    At the time of doing my "whacky-whack", I didn't have a full appreciation of the significance of the Pleiades. But, thanks to your writings, and conversations we've had over the years, I have a much deeper appreciation of these magnificent cascades, and really should make a return visit someday for a more focused adventure such as the one you described in this report.

    1. Thanks, John! I read your whacky report, which was quite an adventure itself! I first went to the big cascade in 2007 and my notes indicated it was a rather gnarly bushwhack, but it seemed harder this time, maybe I'm just older and wimpier. Plus, I started late in the day and felt some pressure regarding available daylight. It certainly is wild and beautiful in there.