Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bowl Slide: 11/17/20


On a chilly late fall day with intermittent flurries, I wandered into The Bowl, a favorite off-trail haunt of mine over the years. This deep, bowl-shaped valley is a glacial cirque enclosed by Mt. Whiteface, Mt. Passaconaway and the Wonalancet Range. On the broad floor is an old growth hardwood forest that has never been logged. The Bowl was saved from lumbering about 1915 through the efforts of Katherine Sleeper Walden, Edgar Rich and other members of the Wonalancet Out Door Club. The land was then added to the WMNF, and today The Bowl Research Natural Area includes more than 1,500 acres. A great deal of ecological research has been conducted here. There are no trails leading into the main part of valley, which is drained by the Wonalancet River; it is skirted by the Dicey's Mill, Tom Wiggin and Rollins Trails. Please note that camping and fires are prohibited in The Bowl Research Natural Area.

In addition to meandering through the marvelous hardwoods on the valley floor, I wanted to visit the lower part of a long, narrow slide on the steep east slope of Mt. Whiteface. I had been to this spot twice in winter, when it boasts an impressive ice cliff on a headwall near the base of the slide. I wanted to see this in its snowless guise.


 The heavily used parking area at Ferncroft has just been expanded through a joint effort of the Wonalancet Out Door Club (WODC) and private landowners. Thank you!

The classic trailhead scene at Ferncroft, looking up at Mts. Whiteface and Wonalancet.

Thanks to the homeowners who allow the trails to pass through their property.

Welcome to the Wilderness.

The Dicey's Mill Trail has many excellent rock waterbars, courtesy of the WODC.

Fine hardwood walking on Dicey's Mill Trail.

I left the trail about two miles in and crossed "Passaconaway Brook," the east branch of the Wonalancet River

As I entered The Bowl, I was on the lookout for interesting and unusual trees.

Some of the hardwoods on the valley floor are thought to be 250-300 years old.

Chaga tree.

The long crest of Mt. Whiteface looms on the west side of the valley.

Bear tree.

An old leaning maple on the bank of the Wonalancet River.

The Wonalancet River flows gently through The Bowl.

A stout yellow birch.

Another fine sugar maple.

This rubbly track comes down from the southernmost slide on the east side of Mt. Whiteface, which I visited in 2013.

A beautiful open seep, up on the west side of the valley.

I found and followed the runout from the "ice cliff slide."

Perched boulders left by one of three old slides whose tracks converge at the base of the steep slope.

A tongue of hardwoods leads up to the base of the slides.

The headwall cliff in sight ahead.

Coming in from the right, the runout from the northern of the three slides. For another day.

A semi-open area of old rubble at the base of the other two slides.

Approaching the base of the main slide.

Looking back.

A swath of wet ledge leads up to the headwall. Too slick to ascend, so I took to the woods on the side.

A track joins from a narrow slide that parallels the main one a short distance to the north. Slides, slides, everywhere slides.


Without a cloak of snow and ice, this is an impressive rock face.

Close-up look. The cascade on the left would be impressive in high water.

Overhang on the right. From here I hoped to find a way up and around to the top of the most open part of the slide. I had tried once in winter but had been foiled by ledge walls that repelled an attempt to ascend on snowshoes.

I climbed a steep slope beside the headwall, and cut across to the narrow slide just to the north.

Looking down the narrow slide.

I found a way up the first ledge wall and came upon this neat rocky corridor.

I followed the base of the second ledge wall out to the edge of the slide.

Big drop below, with the Wonalancet Range in the distance.

Wild terrain above the second ledge wall.

View of the slide farther up. Not a slide to climb directly, very wet and icy today. Also, I avoided stepping on sphagnum moss along the edge, which is especially fragile when frozen and not protected by snowpack. Bushwhackers can minimize impact by choosing steps carefully.

Emerging on a little shelf at the top of the open part of the slide.

I worked down through thick woods to a spot with a view of Mt. Passaconaway, but snow squalls were blotting out the vista. Darn!

The snow squall moving out - yay!

There's the view!

Close-up of the headwall of The Bowl, below Passaconaway's summit.

Zoom on the great slab on the Bowl headwall.

A small slide on the lower part of the headwall that I visited last November.

Looking up today's slide from my turnaround point. Still a long way up to the summit crest of Whiteface!

View from the edge of the slide on the way down.

Tight terrain.

Paid another visit to the narrow parallel slide on the descent.


Icicle art on the headwall.

Scene below the headwall.

Parting shot.

A fallen giant, down in the valley.

Heading back down through The Bowl.

A tree with character. Lots of these to be found in The Bowl.


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