Sunday, September 29, 2013


I decided to visit the Moose for the second time in a month, but by an almost completely different route from my Benton Trail hike three weeks earlier. Our favorite way to climb this favorite mountain is the long, mostly gentle loop up via the Asquam-Ridge and Beaver Brook Trails, with descent via the Carriage Road and, today, a little longer variation using the lower Hurricane Trail. Skies were cloudy and the high peaks socked in on this morning, but there was supposed to be increasing sunshine during the day, and I had hopes that the views would be clear by the time I reached the summit.

At the trailhead on Ravine Lodge Road I ran into Eli Burakian, whose spectacular book of photography, Moosilauke: Portrait of a Mountain, is a great tribute to this marvelous peak. He was here on an assignment for the Dartmouth College magazine.

The Asquam-Ridge Trail starts out nearly level on an old logging road along the east side of the Baker River.

It crosses the river on a sturdy DOC-built bridge.

A nice birch glade along the west side of the river. In this area the trail passes by the site of logging camp #3 of the Parker-Young Company from the 1940s.

A scene along the rocky Baker River.

After re-crossing the river on another bridge, the Ridge Trail climbs to a junction with the Al Merrill Loop.

Easy grades are the rule as the Ridge Trail slabs up the side of Mount Waternomee.

A very pleasant route to the Moose.

Higher up, the trail switchbacks its way up the side of Mount Jim through mossy fir forest. The trail passes close by the densely-wooded 4172-ft. summit, which is on the "Trailwrights 72" list. With just a 1700-ft. ascent from the Ravine Lodge trailhead, this might be the easiest 4000-ft. peak in the Northeast.

A view of Mount Blue ahead where the Ridge Trail passes through a fir wave.

The Ridge Trail ends at the Beaver Brook Trail on a high saddle between Mount Jim and Mount Blue. Here I heard a Bicknell's Thrush calling, and then singing (a bit out of season).

A rough and rocky section runs along the rim of Jobildunk Ravine.

One spot along the trail offers a partial view over the ravine and out to the SE.

Farther along, I made a very steep bushwhack down to a clifftop with an open view over Jobildunk Ravine, a U-shaped glacial cirque.

Off to the left, the rounded summit of Mount Jim.

Looking down at the cliff.

Rock slabs on the headwall.

The biggest slab bears a thin cascade spilling down its right edge; this becomes quite an ice bulge in winter. Back in the summer of 1990 I bushwhacked up the ravine, admired the cascade from below, and ascended through the dense woods to the right of the slab, a trip I would not care to repeat.

Another angle on Jobildunk, which supposedly was named for three early explorers in the area: Joe, Bill and Duncan.

I returned to the Beaver Brook Trail and followed it up over the flank of Mount Blue. At the high point a cairn marks a herd path leading to the wooded 4529-ft. summit of this "Trailwrights 72" peak. I'd been there once before and didn't make the side trip today.

Nice fir forest along Beaver Brook Trail.

Approaching the main summit of Moosilauke, the clouds, which had cleared out for a while, were now rolling back in. Damn!

Alpine vegetation heading up the bare north ridge of Moosilauke.

Cairns looming in the fog. Several American Pipits were foraging along the ridge.

Interesting "stone net" pattern caused by frost action.

This rock windbreak at the summit comes in handy on breezy days, but today the air was nearly calm.

Summit signs in classic Dartmouth Outing Club orange.

Then the clouds parted dramatically, revealing an eastward view.

A break of sun lights the Tripyramids.

A fall mosaic with clouds and sun.

The sun glints off Wachipauka Pond, Lake Tarleton and Lake Armington.

Franconia Ridge emerges from the clouds.

Eventually the clouds broke fully for views in all directions, including north to the Kinsmans.

A hiker and dog head south on the Carriage Road, with a long view west.

Looking down the Carriage Road to the South Peak. A great stretch of above-treeline walking.

An outlook down into the Gorge Brook ravine with Ravine Lodge nestled at its base.

A visit to the South Peak is a must when making a loop over Moosilauke.

On the South Peak, looking back at the main summit.

My favorite view from South Peak, looking down into Tunnel Brook Notch at Mud Pond and the slides on Mount Clough.

One of the slides in Moosilauke's Slide Brook ravine.

Mud Pond (on the L) and neighboring beaver ponds.

The Carriage Road offers intermittent views for quite a ways down from the Glencliff Trail junction.

I passed by the usual Snapper Trail loop in favor of a longer loop via the Carriage Road and the lower mile of the Hurricane Trail. This section of the Carriage Road is much less used and mostly has excellent footing. Below 2850 ft. it passes through a magnificent mature hardwood forest, with fine colors glowing overhead. There are more nice woods on the Hurricane Trail, which has very smooth footing and easy grades until a final 100-ft. climb up to a rickety bridge crossing over Gorge Brook. All told this route makes a great 10.9 mi. loop (including the side trip to South Peak) with 2900 ft. of elevation gain.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


An exploration into the wild, trailless ravine of Little Tunnel Brook on the NW side of Mt. Moosilauke has been on my wish list for a number of years. It was the only one of the five major ravines on Moosilauke (the others being Jobildunc, Gorge Brook, Slide Brook, and Benton or Tunnel) that I hadn't explored. Old articles spoke of the now mostly forgotten "Nine Cascades" in the deep cut of Little Tunnel. Wrote town of Warren historian William Little in an 1887 issue of the Granite Monthly, "Little Tunnel stream, another branch, rises in the ravine between the high crest and Mt Blue. It has nine cascades, one more than two hundred and fifty feet high at a slope of seventy degrees which comes laughing, leaping, tumbling into a great basin at its foot. A huge cliff a hundred feet high from its brink looks down on the falling waters." From a high embankment above Route 112 I had seen this towering cascade as a frothy white squiggle emblazoned on the steep mountainside.

From the outlook partway up the Benton Trail you can peer into this ravine, and you can hear the cascades, but they are hidden from view. Not much information on the ravine could be found, other than some hints in Up Moosilauke, Jack Noon's wonderful book of historical fiction, and a helpful 2011 trip report on a Little Tunnel exploration by Jason Berard.

This was originally going to be a high peak day, but persistent clouds smothering the summits prompted a change in plans. My frequent bushwhacking partner, John "1HappyHiker" Compton graciously agreed to join me on a trip into Little Tunnel on very short notice. Before rendezvousing with John late morning along Tunnel Brook Road, I visited the embankment above Route 112 for a sneak preview of the tall waterfall, which looked to be in good flow.

For our approach to the valley we decided to use the WMNF "Bunga Jar" logging road off Tunnel Brook Road. By chance I met a WMNF timber marker at the gate and learned that this road was quite walkable. Though slightly longer than a more direct approach, it saved us having to cross Tunnel Brook at the beginning and end of the trek. It turned out to be quite a pleasant walk, with some nice early fall colors on display.

After an initial climb, this road had easy grades, and good footing except for a mucky stretch in the last 0.1 mi.

The road ended at a brushy old log landing, which will probably be put to use again with the upcoming Pemi Northwest timber harvest.

From here we bushwhacked across to Little Tunnel Brook, and enjoyed pleasant travel up the lower part of the valley, largely following an old logging road that at times seemed to be a trodden path, probably used by the local moose population.

John capturing one of the many brook vignettes as we wandered up the valley.

A rocky area, perhaps deposited by Tropical Storm Irene?

Lots of yellow birch in the lower valley, starting to glow golden overhead.

An early cascade, one of several of the sliding variety that we passed by.

We found this rusted shovel blade near an old logging road.

More cascades, deeper in the valley.

Open hardwoods, with a glimpse of the western ravine wall ahead.

The brook goes ever on.... a lovely valley!

Higher up, the walls of the valley closed in and the terrain got rougher. We went back and forth across the brook to find the best going, sometimes using small "islands" between braids of the stream.

Where the brookbed steepened, the water danced down through the rocks.

The approach to the big waterfall led through some difficult terrain, steep with lots of rocks and hidden holes. Careful foot placement required.

After some maneuvering, we emerged on rocks at the base of the big waterfall, where we could look down on some cascades below...

...and up at the main attraction.

We scrambled across to rocks on the west side for a full view of this impressive waterfall. We guessed it must be close to 100 ft. high.

Hanging out on the rocks, with the east wall of the ravine behind.

Great spot for a late lunch break!

A closer look at the top of the falls. We eyed the ledge perches up there, which would have a distant view to the north, but we had gotten a fairly late start and it would have taken some slow, careful, steep whacking to get up there and back down. We were content with hanging out on the open rocks at the base.

On the way back down, we popped out to the edge of the brook to look at this cascade flowing out from a cave-like formation.

This spot looked familiar, and when I got home it matched up (in location, not quality!) with a photo taken by Eli Burakian that appears on page 57 of his beautiful photographic tribute to Mt. Moosilauke, Moosilauke: Portrait of a Mountain.

John pauses in a cathedral-like glade of yellow birches overlooking the brook. During our seven-hour journey, Little Tunnel Brook surprised and delighted us again and again.