Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Nancy Cascades, Ponds & Slides: 9/26/23

The Nancy Pond Trail leading out of lower Crawford Notch ascends to one of the most interesting areas in the Whites - a high plateau cradled by peaks of the Nancy Range, harboring a large stand of old-growth spruce forest and two beautiful mountain ponds. Along the way the trail passes the lofty Nancy Cascades. My ultimate objective for a hike into this area was an exploration of the slides on the steep SW face of Mount Nancy. The eastern of these two slides is easily accessible from the unofficial path that ascends (steeply) to Nancy's 3926-ft. summit, one of New England's "Hundred Highest." I had visited that slide a couple of times on ascents of Mount Nancy, but had never been to the two-pronged slide 0.1 mile farther west.

A display on a kiosk near the trailhead notes that campfires are not allowed in the Nancy Brook Research Natural Area, shown in dark red.

The first 1.9 miles of the trail mostly follows various old logging roads.

The crossing of Nancy Brook at 1.6 miles was pretty easy with low water. Beyond the crossing the trail navigates through a jumble of boulders caused by storm washouts.

After the 1938 hurricane knocked down thousands of trees in the Nancy Brook valley, the Lucy family of Conway undertook a major salvage logging job. One of the most visible remnants of the mill site located here is this old brick furnace beside the trail. The '38 hurricane also shut down the Nancy Pond Trail, which had just been cut by the AMC. It wasn't reopened until 1960 by crews from Camp Pasquaney on Newfound Lake. The Pasquaney crews still maintain this trail.

A peek inside.

At 1.9 miles, shortly after passing the Lucy Mill site, the trail turns up onto a major relocation built by the Saco Ranger District trail crew to bypass washout from 2011's Tropical Storm Irene. This well-constructed section features numerous switchbacks and good footing.

Along this section I made a short, steep bushwhack up to the only open vestige of a Hurricane of 1938 landslide that obliterated part of the then recently-opened trail.

After a second crossing of Nancy Brook, the trail reaches the base of the Nancy Cascades, which are several hundred feet high. Only the lower drop is visible here, and it is impressive.

Above here the trail is very steep and rough as it ascends the slope adjacent to the cascades, with several switchbacks. After the first switchback it provides a view of the next level of the cascades.

This is a gnarly stretch, especially on the descent.

At the top of the cascades the trail abruptly eases off and winds up through a mossy, densely-grown virgin spruce forest. There's a sense of otherworldly remoteness on this high plateau, and this isolation probably saved these trees from the axe and crosscut saw in the early 1900s. The Forest Service established the 1,385-acre Nancy Brook Research Natural Area in 1991. It is one of the largest tracts of virgin spruce-fir forest in the Northeast.

After a long meander through spruce woods and wetlands, the trail runs alongside dark and mysterious Nancy Pond.

Numerous plank walkways installed by the Saco Ranger District crew ease passage through the wetland areas.

A view of Mount Anderson to the west.

Into the largest Wilderness in the Whites.

There's not much open water left in Little Norcross Pond.

Seven-acre Norcross Pond is the watery gem of this region.

From its east end the view includes Mount Bond, Mount Guyot, South Twin and North Twin.

A profile of Mount Anderson across the water.

The view is even better from the ledges below the pond's outlet.

A fine look into the rolling wildlands of the eastern Pemi, backed by the peaks of the Bond-Twin Range. Franconia Ridge peers over on the left.

Up behind this vantage point a natural ledge dam holds back the waters of Norcross Pond.

Looking SE down the length of the pond.

After an extended lunch break on the sunny ledges, I followed the first part of the unmarked but well-trodden path to Mount Nancy as it traverses an old logging road.

Where the path turns right for the steep ascent, the eastern of the two Mount Nancy slides is a short distance ahead. This spot offers a long view across the Pemi Wilderness to Mount Hancock, Northwest Hancock, Mount Flume and Mount Liberty.

This slide is a mix of gravel and loose rock, with a pitch of about 31 degrees.

A good view of Mount Anderson from the eastern slide. Note the tamaracks growing in the enter of the slide. In September, 1885, AMC explorers Eugene B. Cook and Hubbard Hunt made a two-day bushwhack excursion over Mts. Nancy, Anderson and Lowell. As reported by Cook in the March, 1886 Appalachia, while ascending Mt. Anderson, they obtained a good view back towards Mt. Nancy. “Two large recent slides and a smaller one deeply scarred the southwestern side of that mountain,” wrote Cook. It’s possible that these slides fell during the same storm on August 13, 1885 that triggered the North Slide and second South Slide on Mount Tripyramid. The two large slides are both visible in a 1939 aerial photo.

Side view of the eastern slide, with a touch of fall color.

Typical of the Nancy Range, the 0.1 mile bushwhack across the steep slope to the western slide was amply thick.

The eastern prong of the western slide is a blend of gravel and loose rock over ledge, at a much steeper angle. I deemed this pitch too sketchy to ascend and battled my way up through the dense woods beside it.

Later, at home, I measured this slope at 39 degrees on NH Granit.

Another gorgeous Pemi Wilderness vista.

This more westerly vantage adds Mount Carrigain and its "4266" spur to the view. With binoculars I could see hikers up in the observation tower.

A short, dense whack from the top of the eastern prong brought me to a spot above the western prong of this slide, which is composed of bare bedrock slabs.

I made my way down to the upper western corner of this huge slab, from which I could spot the western tip of Norcross Pond and the dark cut of Norcross Brook as it descends into the valley.

Mount Anderson looms large.

For the return trip to the eastern slide and the Mount Nancy path, I found and followed an old logging road, grown to prickly small conifers.

The road brought me to the top of the eastern slide, which I descended with care.

There was even a bit of dry slab to walk down.

Hung out for a few minutes before leaving the slides.

Last look into the Pemi from the Norcross Pond ledges.

Late afternoon at Norcross Pond. The quiet up here was astounding. I had this whole marvelous area to myself on this fine sunny day.

Nancy Pond.

The trail below Nancy Pond is one of the "rootiest" in the Whites, which is much more noticeable on the descent.

Birch color at Nancy Cascades.


Saturday, September 23, 2023

Moosilauke's Slide Ravine: 9/22/23

On a cool, sunny last day of summer I returned for a sixth bushwhack visit to Slide Ravine, the sharply cut basin on the SW side of Mount Moosilauke that is scarred by a number of landslides. Most of these fell in the big November 1927 rainstorm and the September 1938 hurricane. At least ten slide tracks can be seen in this 1955 U.S. Forest Service aerial photo. Several of these slides are now mostly or fully revegetated. Most prominent today is the large two-pronged slide seen on the south side of the ravine, which I've visited four times. The objective on this trip was the slide just to the SW of the  big one. The lower part of this smaller slide is now revegetated, but there is still a large open patch in its upper part. I had looked at this spot many times from Mud Pond and various slides on Mount Clough, and I finally got around to going there.

I approached via the southern section of the Tunnel Brook Trail from Long Pond Road, an easy to moderate hike with good footing that passes through beautiful hardwood forest.

Many trail drainages had recently been cleaned. Kudos to the Steven Saffo family, the dedicated adopters of the Tunnel Brook Trail.

A lovely walk across the broad height-of-land at the south end of Tunnel Brook Notch.

I took a break at the shore of Mud Pond, the southernmost in the long chain of beaver ponds in Tunnel Brook Notch. This spot offers a fine view up to the South Peak of Moosilauke and Slide Ravine. 

Though the slides were backlit in the morning sun, I had a good look at my lofty objective, seen in the upper center of the photo, with the big slide to its left.

I followed a moose path around the south end of Mud Pond, gaining a nice perspective looking north into Tunnel Brook Notch, the deep gap between Mount Moosilauke and Mount Clough.

Behind the pond I passed through this fern-filled hardwood glade.

Great hardwood whacking as I headed over towards Slide Brook.

As seen in the 1955 aerial photo, the open track of the slides extended far down the course of Slide Brook. Along the edge of the brook there are excellent examples of debris flow levees, lateral moraines of boulders deposited on the sides as the slides surged downstream.

One of many small cascades on Slide Brook.

Side view of a taller cascade.

Wild conifer woods.

Slide Brook sliding, and tumbling.

Glimpse of a high ridge enclosing the ravine.

When I first came upon this weedy opening years ago, I thought it might be the site of a logging camp. Upon further investigation, it appears to be the runout of an old slide off the north wall of the ravine.

It looks more "slide-y" above the opening. It apparently was the narrow, squiggly slide seen in the center of the 1955 aerial, on the north side of Slide Brook.

A nice open glade of birch.

Another debris flow levee alongside the brook.

Up near the 3000-foot level I crossed Slide Brook to reach the base of the slide I wanted to visit.

Yikes! I decided I wouldn't be climbing directly up the lower part of the slide track.

Instead, I opted to climb a steep mini-ridge just to the west of the track. This slope has a pitch on the order of about 34 degrees, but the spruce forest was wonderfully open with a minimum of rocks, holes and blowdown.

I made a short detour to the west to look at a shorter slide track parallel to the one I was aiming for. This narrow slide is clearly seen in the 1955 aerial photo.

Looking down this track.

Continuing up the little ridge between the two tracks.

Small deer postholes in the turf.

Looking back down the slope.

Higher up, I cut across eastward to the point where my target slide starts to open up. In here, where the rocks are shaded by the scrub, the footing was treacherously slick.

First views back to Mount Clough.

Opening up above.

Careful footing required on loose rock, but at least out in the open the rocks were dry.

Made it to the big open patch at 3400 ft.

A sweet view of Mount Clough, Mud Pond and distant (if hazy) horizons out to Vermont's Green Mountains.

Most of Mount Clough's steep, naked bedrock slides could be seen.

Mud Pond.

A massive Moosilauke ridge encloses Slide Ravine on the north side.

There is a large slide on the north wall of the ravine that probably fell in the late 1950s. John "1HappyHiker" Compton and I visited this one back in 2014. It's not easy to get to.


View out towards Vermont from the very top of the open section of today's slide. Distant views were hazy, but I could make out peaks such as Mt. Abraham, Mt. Ellen and Camel's Hump.

The uppermost part of the slide is a narrow finger that is largely revegetated with spruce.

For the 500-foot descent to the brook, I took to the woods from the bottom of the open slide patch, avoiding the slippery rocks on the scrubby section of the slide.

Back down through the steep, open spruce forest.

Interesting rock formation on a ledge band near the bottom.

A debris flow levee beside the base of the slide.

My favorite cascade on Slide Brook.

Hardwoods & hobblebush.

Evening at Mud Pond.