Saturday, July 20, 2019

Scenes from East Osceola: 7/18/19

Spent a long summer day enjoying this generally unloved mountain. Took ample time for relaxing at its three fine viewpoints, and bushwhacked to the tops of two slides for more views.

On the Greeley Ponds Trail.

From the Mount Osceola Trail, a glimpse of the impressive cliffs on East Osceola's NE spur.

Trailside boulder cave.

The trail climbs steeply beside this huge slab at ~3300 ft. This was part of a major slide that fell off East Osceola in 1891 or 1892. Before the trail was opened alongside it in the 1930s, this slide was sometimes used by Waterville hikers as a descent route into Mad River Notch.

The climb beside the slab is one of the more rugged spots on this steep section of trail.

The trail crosses the upper ledges of the early 1890s slide at 3700 ft.

These ledges offer outstanding views, with Upper Greeley Pond seen down on the floor of Mad River Notch, under the K2 Cliff of Mt. Kancamagus.

Mt. Carrigain and many other peaks are seen in the distance. The cliffs of the NE spur are seen below.

The Tripyramids and Mt. Passaconaway are seen to the SE.

The very steep climb to the East Osceola ridgecrest ends at "The Chute."

At the top of "The Chute" a side path leads a few yards right to an excellent western viewpoint, with ridge after ridge sweeping down from the slopes of Osceola and Scar Ridge.

Looking up at the main summit of Osceola.

The Split Cliff, in profile, and Osceola's West Peak.

The peak of East Osceola looms close at hand.

A nice easy section of trail on the shoulder of East Osceola.

I made a thick bushwhack loop down, across and up to visit both tops of a two-pronged slide that fell to the south of the early 1890s slide, perhaps during Hurricane Carol in 1954. This upper part of the slide is all loose rock and gravel.

More good views here.

Stacked rocks at the very top of the slide.

The whack across the steep slope to the other fork of the slide was slow going. It took 25 minutes to cover less than 0.1 mile.

Another great viewpoint. The visit to these slides was "research" for a Slide History of the Sandwich Range project I've been working on.

Upper Greeley Pond, 1700 ft. below.

The view here extended more to the SE.

Mt. Chocorua, Mt. Passaconaway, and North Tripyramid.

The K1 Cliff on the west side of Mt. Kancamagus. The sharp flume-like cut in the cliff can be seen on the left edge.

The K2 Cliff. Both of these cliffs were reached by short-lived paths cut by Waterville hikers in the early 1900s.

A dead birch reaches for the sky.

Not a bad spot to hang out for a while.

Down below, the slide has been gouged out where it turns a corner.

From here I made a steep whack back up to the trail near the summit.

In one area there was widespread evidence of illegal cutting by backcountry skiers opening up easier access to the slides, which are regularly skied in good snow years.

The cairn at the wooded and viewless summit of East Osceola.

There is a decent view east from a "fir wave" area about 50 yards north of the cairn. This vista will likely be overgrown within a few years.

I descended the Mount Osceola Trail halfway to the col with Mt. Osceola to visit this trailside ledge perch with fine views NW and north

Looking along the range to Scar Ridge and Kinsmans/Cannon.

Wide vista to the Franconia Range, Owl's Head, Mt. Garfield, South Twin and the Bonds. Mt. Hitchcock in the middle distance.

I continued down to the col and made another prickly bushwhack in search of a tiny pondlet on a thickly-wooded plateau. Avid bushwhacker "Old Man and the Saw" had stumbled on this a few years ago while attempting to trace the route of the long-abandoned Ravine Path, also known as the Osceola Brook Trail. This steep route was opened around 1900 by Watervillean Arthur L. Goodrich, and his description of it mentioned a "mountain meadow" near the col. The trail was abandoned in the 1940s, and I saw no trace of it.

Treading carefully to avoid trampling moss, I made my way to a rock with a view across the "pond" to the impressive cliffs above the col.

Osceola is a rugged mountain that is full of surprises.

Evening vista at the west outlook, back along the trail.

Last sun on Tripyramid.

Slow going on the descent to Greeley Ponds Trail - it always seems harder going down than going up. On the walk out through the valley I was serenaded by a chorus of Swainson's Thrushes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Black Mountain Bushwhack: 7/15/19

An interesting bushwhack and trail loop from the Smarts Brook Trail. Bushwhacked up to an open rock patch on an old slide, and then on to the Algonquin Trail on Black Mountain, the 3500-ft. SW spur of Sandwich Dome. Descended 1.5 miles on Algonquin Trail, enjoying many fine views, then whacked back down to Smarts Brook Trail.
The day's primary objective was this old slide scar near the head of a brook on the flank of Black Mountain. That scar had been staring at me for the last several years as I looked across the Smarts Brook valley from viewpoints on Acteon Ridge.

From the trailhead on Rt. 49, Pine Flats Trail leads along Smarts Brook.

Rock walls in the Smarts Brook Gorge, along the Pine Flats Trail.

Waterslide on Smarts Brook, along the Yellow Jacket Trail.

Sled runner from an old logging camp site near the Smarts Brook beaver pond. For an interesting tale about logging in the Smarts Brook valley in the 1920s, see "Snow Medicine," by Sherman Adams (a gifted storyteller) in the December 1962 issue of Appalachia.

The east half of the Smarts Brook beaver pond has dried up. The west half (harder to see from the trail) has recently been dammed by beavers.

Along the Smarts Brook Trail.

Into the Wilderness.

I launched the bushwhack shortly after crossing this tributary brook.

My route followed a long spur ridge up from the valley.

The lower part of the ridge, which I had scouted on a November trip a couple of years ago, is cloaked in open hardwoods, including this elbow tree.

The lushness of summer.

Some interesting boulders are scattered through the forest.

Nice glade.

A giant old yellow birch.

At the top of the hardwoods a belt of young conifers awaited.

But the thick going didn't last long, and from here on up the ridge featured mostly open spruce forest.

Could it really be this open?

We'll take it!

Going up...

A small plateau.

Dipped down here to make a sidehill traverse to the slide scar.

The hardest section was this steep sidehill area, but even here the woods were kind.

Mt. Osceola came into view at the edge of the slide scar.

Most of this old slide (date uncertain) has been revegetated with a variety of shrubs and small trees, including sheep laurel, red spruce, birch, and alder.

Some steep rock slabs remain exposed.

The slide scar offers fine views to the west...

...and to the NW...

...including a great look at the cliffs of Sachem Peak.

Mt. Moosilauke looms darkly behind Welch & Dickey and Middle Acteon Peak.

Looking down the old slide swath.

Parting shot after a long sojourn.

I continued upward, following the small brook that runs down the old slide track.

The terrain is steep above the slide.

Looking down what looked like the old track, above the open patch.

Headwater of the brook.

A stiff workout, but the woods remained mostly open.

The terrain leveled off in fern glades as I approached the col on the north side of Black Mountain.


I reached the Algonquin Trail and followed it over the summit of Black Mountain.

A peek back at the summit of Sandwich Dome.

On the south side of the peak, the wide western viewpoint beckoned for a break. This big mountain vista included several distant peaks in the Green Mountains.

The southerly view included Sunapee Mountain, Mt. Kearsarge and the dim bulk of Mt. Monadnock.

"Boat Rock"

A bit farther along the ridge is this magnificent perch overlooking the hill, pond and lake country to the south.

Mt. Israel and the Ossipee Mountains are seen beyond Black Mountain Pond.

A true bird's eye view of this backcountry beauty.

An expansive view of the Sandwich Notch area with the Squam Range beyond. Kiah Pond and Lower Hall Pond can be spotted out there.

Looking towards the Campton Range.

Looking NE to Black Mountain and a high shoulder of Sandwich Dome.

On top of the world.

Weathered signs where two rugged trails meet on the ridgecrest.

The Algonquin Trail descends in the open for a stretch, with the smaller Black Mountain below.

Steep and rough.

Farther down a short side path leads to more great views, here looking north to Mt. Tecumseh, the Osceolas above Sachem Peak, and Jennings Peak.

Mt. Hancock seen through Mad River Notch.

A wide vista over the Smarts Brook valley.

One of several steep ledge scrambles heading down the slope.

More views.

The top of the lowest and trickiest scramble, which earned Algonquin Trail a spot as an "elective" on the Terrifying 25 List.

The scramble from below.

Ferny col between the two Black Mountains.

After descending below the smaller Black Mountain, I left the trail and whacked across a plateau of open spruces.

Pretty fern glade.

I descended through a familiar hardwood basin.


A favorite cascade on a tributary of Smarts Brook.

Evening at the Smarts Brook beaver pond.

Smarts Brook Cascade.