Thursday, September 10, 2020

Breadtray Basin: 9/8/20

Ray "Jazzbo" Caron and I spent a hot and humid late summer day wandering in Breadtray Basin, the remote, now-trailless valley on the SW side of Mt. Osceola. Along the way we saw historic artifacts and interesting natural features, traced part of a long-abandoned trail, and visited the lower parts of two slides.

From Tripoli Road we made a short bushwhack to the grade of the Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad, which conducted an intensive logging operation in this area from 1909-1914. This large sheet metal artifact rests on the old railroad bed.

Nearby is what looks like an old cooler.

A timber and spike from the railroad trestle that spanned Eastman Brook.

After some more bushwhacking we found the corridor of the former Breadtray Basin Trail (also known as Breadtray Ravine Trail and Osceola West). This trail ascended Mt. Osceola from Thornton Gore and was laid out in 1915 by Osceola fire warden C.B. Schiffer. It was abandoned in the 1950s. Strung along the trail was the telephone line for the fire warden. Pieces of the phone wire are strewn about in places along the route, as shown here by Ray.

The trail corridor is still clear in some sections where it follows an old logging road.

Keen eyes may also spot guy lines for the poles that supported the phone wire..

On the floor of the basin is this neat gravelly opening with a glimpse of Breadtray Ridge.

We took a break here in the sun, then saddled up for the next part of the exploration.

After pushing through some dense growth, we reached the site of a remote logging camp of the Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad.

One of two collapsed stoves in the vicinity.

We thought this ferny glade might have been the site of a camp building.

A logger's boot sole and heel iron, perhaps used for traction on icy sled roads.

We unearthed several bottles, then reburied them where we found them. (Note that it is ILLEGAL to remove any of these logging artifacts from the WMNF. And not fair to others who might want to see them.) This bottle contained Atwood's Jaundice Bitters, "Formerly Made by Moses Atwood, Georgetown, Mass." Patent medicines were popular in the lumber camps.

We proceeded up to the top of a ledgy cascade on the brook that drains the two slides of Breadtray Basin.

We followed the ghost of an old sled road up the valley.

Old corduroy on the sled road.


We emerged at the lower end of the rubbly slide that fell in the mid to late1990s off the south (right) fork of the brook. The slide runout continued down the brook below the junction of the forks, ending in this pile of rocks and mangled trees.

Sloping ledges lining the slide track.

Ray makes his way up.

To avoid these slick-looking slabs, I skirted to the left of the boulders. That turned out to be a  mistake, as I stirred up a swarm of yellow jackets and sustained at least four or five stings.

Our uppermost objective was to go at least partway up the slide on the north (left) fork of the brook, which most likely came down during the 1938 hurricane. The lower part had several chockstones to scramble over or around.

We took to the dense woods along the side, then came back to the slide track.

I knew from a fellow bushwhacker that this slide was mostly a series of wet, slippery ledge slabs. Not the kind of slide that can be readily climbed.

After another tussle with the scrub we came out to the first large slab on the slide, with Middle Osceola rising beyond.

Middle Osceola, spotted with ledges.

From the dry top of the slab there was a limited hazy view to the SW.

Nice spot to relax and ponder our options.

Ray takes in the scenery.

Nasty wet slabs continued up the brookbed. The footing was too treacherous to make any progress this way.

We opted to make a short, steep climb to the crest of the ridge between the two brook forks/slides, hoping to climb to a point where we could drop down to higher slabs on the slide.

Emerging at the top.

The woods looked promising at first.

From the edge of the steep slope we found a nice view of West Osceola and its crags.

In a short distance the woods turned into a spruce swimming nightmare as far as we could see up the slope. We pushed up through it for a few minutes, but it was very slow going as we couldn't see what we were stepping on or into. With the humidity taking its toll, and with the day wearing on, we decided to turn around. Going down through this stuff was even slower,- we had to place steps very carefully.

We veered over to the friendlier slide on the south fork of the brook, which I had ascended with Mark Klim two years earlier. Seen from the bank above the slide was this milky view of Mt. Moosilauke.

We dropped down onto the slide and descended back towards the fork in the brook.

Looking up the slide, where revegetation is well underway.

Undercut bank.

A SW spur of West Osceola encloses the valley on the west.

Ray takes a break on a "redrock."

A rock face displaying classic jointing.

We continued down the valley, avoiding the bee's nest with a detour into the woods, and revisited the ledgy cascade.

The cascade from below. It would be a pretty sight in high water.

Another artifact found, examined, and replaced in its resting spot.

Wandering across the broad floor of the basin.


Late afternoon light on Breadtray Ridge, from a small open meadow.

This white ledge on the SW ridge of West Osceola is a fine remote viewpoint.

West Osceola peeks up in the distance.

This bottle was mostly buried in a random spot along the route of the old trail. It advertises "Guaranteed Full Pint." We placed it back in its hole.

Farther down, Ray spotted this heart-shaped horseshoe.

Final sighting of a very interesting day: sheathing on a rotted pole that once held up the phone line.

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