Saturday, December 20, 2014



BUSHWHACK TO ZEM ZEM: 12/19/14

On a cloudy morning I enjoyed a sweet snowshoe bushwhack up along a steep tributary to Lost River on the north slope of Mt. Waternomee. I'd explored this area three times last summer, twice with fellow Kinsman Notch enthusiast Erin Paul Donovan. I was anxious to see what two major attractions on this route - the "Waternomee Waterslide" and the "Zem Zem Glades" - would look like in winter.

I started at a pulloff on Rt. 112 and whacked up through snowy woods. The 12-16" of snow was soft at the start, but became more supportive with a firm crust at times as I climbed higher up the slope.



Overall, the off-trail snowshoeing has been great so far this season in Kinsman Notch.


A pretty scene along the nameless brook.


One of several muffled cascades on the approach to the waterslide.


After an hour of trail-breaking, I emerged above the pool at the base of the waterslide.


Looking up the waterslide from the pool. This open ledgy swath ascends more than 100 feet in elevation.


The buried brook below the waterslide.


It was great fun 'shoeing up this hardpacked snowy highway.


Looking back down to the pool.


Wide open!


The icy cascade at the top.


The view down the waterslide from the upper end. It looked like a downhill ski trail, and would indeed make an interesting if short run for backcountry enthusiasts.


Ice formations along the edge.


I went partway back down the waterslide to a point where I could exit into the woods, then whacked up past its top and along the brook above, passing this yellow birch leaner.


Farther up was a favorite cascade, frozen and smothered in snow.


After a steep push through the woods, I emerged atop the cascade.


Looking upstream, I saw the form of a wandering turtle. Friends who have viewed this photo have seen a rabbit, or a bird emerging from the snow. Could be all of the above!


The gateway to the Zem Zem Glades.


Amidst some gorgeous birch and hardwood glades is this cryptic sign, which Erin Donovan and I stumbled upon last summer. We thought it was perhaps placed by an adventurous backwoods skier. A Google search reveals that the name "Zem Zem" is sometimes associated with the Shriners, a fraternal organization affiliated with the Masons.


The glade below the sign.


The sign is placed along a century-old logging sled road.


Heading up the slope through the glades.


Open woods with powder atop crust = snowshoeing nirvana.


It felt like being in The Kilkenny - with a much shorter drive!


Hardwoods!


A wonderful place for winter wandering...


It was tempting to continue farther up the slope to an upper birch glade, but it was time to head back and open the store for the afternoon.


Following my tracks back down through the glades.


Back down on the waterslide, the peak above the Dilly Cliffs had emerged from the clouds.


Parting shot up the waterslide.


Pushing through hobblebush on the descent. The rewards were well worth a few whacks from the branches!


Thursday, December 18, 2014


OLD GORGE BROOK SLIDE: 12/16/14

Despite a forecast for a partly sunny day, dreary skies prevailed in the morning, and I cancelled a plan to climb Mt. Moosilauke. Plan B was a bushwhack off the Gorge Brook Trail to a remaining open patch on the southernmost slide on the west slope of Gorge Brook Ravine.

A series of slides on this slope fell, according to reports I've read, during the big rainstorm of November 1927. As shown in this Google Earth image from 1992, this particular slide is lower and farther south than the main series of slides.  (The largest one seen in the photo was the route of the DOC Gorge Brook Slide Trail, opened in 1968 and abandoned around 1980.)  The southern slide is now mostly revegetated except for a couple of small open patches near the top. Visiting this old slide has been on my wish list for a while. I decided to take the chance that the fog would lift enough to reveal a view from this spot. Alas, it was not to be on this day.



The hardwood branches were snow-coated on the 1.5 mile walk up the Ravine Lodge Road from Rt. 118.


The new Dartmouth Class of '65 Bunkhouse is nearing completion.


The Ravine Lodge is all buttoned up for the winter. Built in 1938, the beloved log structure is in need of major repair and different options for its future are being considered by Dartmouth.


The Baker River from the footbridge on the Gorge Brook Trail.


New DOC trail signs replacing those stolen last winter by unknown vandals.


A nice routed old trail sign.


Gorge Brook from its first crossing on its namesake trail.


The start of the relocation cut by the DOC in 2012 after part of the original trail was washed out by Tropical Storm Irene.


Gorge Brook at the second trail crossing, well up in the ravine. This was my launching point for the bushwhack to the slide, and also the point where the legendary Hell's Highway ski trail came down to the brook.


Most of the whack to the slide was through fairly open woods.


Part of the old slide track, down near the bottom.


A semi-open patch on the slide, almost fully revegetated with small spruce and fir.


The upper open patch of the slide.


The deceptively open area was actually "spruce trap city."


The track I pushed through the spruce traps. This was slow going, but short.


I hung out on the most open spot, hoping the persistent fog would lift for a view over the Gorge Brook valley.


There were a few tease of blue overhead. Would there have been undercast views on the summit of Moosilauke? Possibly, but views were reportedly minimal on Liberty/Flume and Cannon this day.


The fog briefly parted for a hint of the view over the valley. I'll have to return on a better day to see what the full vista is like.


Looking back up the Gorge Brook Trail.


The Class of '97 Swimhole on the Baker River, reached by a side path off the Gorge Brook Trail.


A winter etiquette sign placed by DOC along Ravine Lodge Road.