Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Four of us rendezvoused at the Unknown Pond trailhead at the Berlin Fish Hatchery on a crisp fall morning for the 25th annual White Mountain Cropwalk, a "hike for hunger" that benefits the programs of Church World Service. Since 1989 our walk has raised more than $62,000 for the anti-hunger programs of CWS, with more than $15,000 of that donated to local food pantries in the western White Mountains. Some 1,400 Cropwalks are held across the U.S. every year, including 140 in New England with 9,000 walkers. Ours is unique in that it’s the only one that takes place on mountain trails. We owe the continued success of our walk to the year-after-year generosity of our sponsors. This year’s Cropwalk route took us on a loop hike over three peaks - Mount Cabot, The Bulge and The Horn - through the beautiful Kilkenny area in the northern White Mountains.

Roger Doucette, Gary Tompkins and Candace Morrison pause for a photo at the start of the York Pond Trail. Roger and Candace are veterans of many Cropwalks through the years. This was Gary's first time joining us - welcome!

Two other White Mountain Cropwalkers - Mike Dickerman and Thom Davis - went out on the same day on hikes of their own in the Zealand area. Mike went out to Zealand Notch and Thoreau Falls, while Thom hiked to the summit of Zealand Mountain. Here they pose together in front of the AMC Zealand Falls Hut.


"In the weeds" approaching the Bunnell Notch Trail junction a short way in on the York Pond Trail.

Trail signs at the junction.

A glimpse of North Weeks and South Terrace through the branches.

Heading up the valley.

The nameless brook that drains eastward from Bunnell Notch.

A Kilkenny birch glade.

Gary spotted this wire beside the trail. We assumed it was part of a telephone line leading up to the former fire tower on Mt. Cabot.

The height-of-land in Bunnell Notch, the high pass between Terrace Mountain and Mount Cabot.

New sign where the Kilkenny Ridge Trail meets the abandoned lower section of the Mt. Cabot Trail. This trail has been closed near the trailhead since 2000 by a landowner.

A new sign points the way to the great ledge viewpoint known as Bunnell Rock.

Morning clouds had cleared beautifully, granting us crisp long-distance views and some welcome breaks of sunshine. The south-facing ledge was mostly protected from the cold NW wind.

The western Whites rise beyond Mt. Starr King and its spurs.

Zoom on Mts. Garfield, Lincoln and Lafayette. Tip of Mt. Liberty on far L.

Cropwalkers soaking up some sun.

After a great half-hour break, we headed up the long, steady climb to the crest of Mt. Cabot on the switchbacking old firewarden's route.

The remains of an old wood stove just before the cabin.

Inside the Cabot cabin, which is nicely maintained by the Jefferson Boy Scouts and White Mountains Regional HS Wilderness Program in cooperation with the Forest Service. Many years ago Roger and I and a friend spent a bitter 15 below night in this cabin in mid-December. We were expecting to use a wood stove, but it hadn't yet been set up for the winter. Twas a long and miserable night. Our boots were frozen ice chunks in the morning. It was the only time I've used a potholder to pull them on. The stove was removed for good a few years ago for safety reasons.

One of a group of hikers doing the loop in the opposite direction kindly took our traditional group photo in front of the cabin. So far we have raised about $2,800 for the anti-hunger programs of Church World Service. The online page for the walk is http://hunger.cwsglobal.org/site/TR/2013FallCROPHungerWalk/TR-Fall2013?pg=entry&fr_id=17824

The view east towards the Mahoosuc Range from the old fire tower site just above the cabin. This vista used to be more open, but is still pretty good. The western view has become even more restricted.

At the fire tower site, which is the south summit of the mountain. The first tower was built here in 1911, and was replaced by a 50-ft. steel tower in 1924. This was staffed until 1949. The tower was dynamited in 1965 as part of a U.S. Army Special Forces training operation.

Wonderful old fir trees on the way to the wooded true summit.

Clearing at the true summit (4170 ft.). The actual high point is on a side path leading 30 yards to the west. Sadly, it appears that someone has stolen the summit sign for a souvenir.

Weathered trail sign at the summit.

Nice fir woods as the trail descends rather steeply to the col with The Bulge.

Classic Kilkenny ridgecrest woods - open firs and shining clubmoss.

Meandering towards The Bulge, glimpsed in the distance.

Gary at the wooded 3950-ft. summit of The Bulge, one of New England's Hundred Highest.

After descending from The Bulge, we took the spur trail to The Horn (3905 ft.), also one of the Hundred Highest and the finest viewpoint in the Kilkenny region. Some scrambling is required to reach the actual summit rock, seen on the R here.

Long view south to the Carters, the Presidentials, and peaks in the Pliny and Pilot Ranges.

The Presidentials, North and South Weeks, the flat east ridge of Mt. Waumbek, and South Terrace.

Checking out the eastern views on The Horn.

Looking NW to the long, trailless Pilot Ridge, with the sharp peak of Hutchins Mtn. on the L.

Summit benchmark placed by Forest Service.

An unusual rock formation along the Kilkenny Ridge Trail heading towards Unknown Pond.

Late day sun at Unknown Pond, The Horn rising across the water.

An especially fine angle on this wild peak.

Descending along the upper Unknown Pond Trail, a birch glade opens a view towards the Presys and North Weeks.

Looking back towards The Horn.

Down on the floor of the beautiful valley of Unknown Pond Brook.

An interesting meadow beside the trail.

The upper of two crossings of Unknown Pond Brook, with dusk coming on. It had been a leisurely day, largely due to my dilly-dallying with views, and we did the last 1.5 mi. of the trail by headlamp. Thanks to Roger, Candace and Gary for a great day hiking for a good cause! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Having explored two of the three great trailless western ravines on Mt. Moosilauke in the past month, I decided to complete the trifecta with a bushwhack into Tunnel (aka Benton) Ravine, a partly formed glacial cirque on the NW side of the summit. I had visited this ravine back in 1996, bushwhacking up the valley to a slide on the north wall, passing a fine waterfall and the collapsed remains of a Dartmouth Outing Club shelter en route.

The photo below shows the ravine as seen from Black Mountain in the Benton Range.

An impressive new feature of the ravine - a massive slide unleashed on the south wall by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 - called for a re-visit to this wild area. I first heard of this slide in 2012 from bushwhacker extraordinaire J.R. Stockwell, who ascended it as one of several off-trail routes he's used to ascend Moosilauke. Then this summer I saw an excellent blog report posted by Dartmouth professor David Kotz, who with a friend ascended Moosilauke via Tunnel Ravine and the slide, which they came upon unexpectedly.

In early September I climbed Moosilauke by the Benton Trail, making a bushwhack to some fir waves west of the trail that offer openings with impressive views of Tunnel Ravine. From here I had a great look at the new slide. The two photos below, taken from the fir waves on two different hikes, show Tunnel Ravine in 2008, without the new slide, and this September, with the big slide prominently displayed.



I parked at the gate at the split in Tunnel Brook Road and walked 2.3 mi. up the road (now permanently closed to vehicles) to the start of the Tunnel Brook Trail at road's end.

A scenic stretch of the trail alongside Tunnel Brook.

I made a brief side trip to look at this nice sandy stretch of the brook.

Along the trail, the nameless brook that drains Tunnel Ravine fans out into a couple of dry rocky beds. The outline of the ravine can be seen through the trees.

Before starting the bushwhack, I visited a pretty beaver meadow on Tunnel Brook, with a view across to the ridges of Mt. Clough.

Looking upstream to a western spur of Mt. Moosilauke.

I left the trail at the site of an old logging camp and bushwhacked up through open hardwoods at first.

I angled across the slope to come by the brook flowing from the ravine.

For a while I followed the trace of the old Dartmouth Outing Club Tunnel Ravine Trail (also called Tunnel Slide Trail), which was opened around 1930 and abandoned in the late 1940s.

Here's a description found on whitemountainlosttrails.com from an old DOC publication that I've never seen:

(1930): DOC Moosilauke Guide THE TUNNEL SLIDE TRAIL. This new trail offers an interesting descent off the mountain, and by making use of the old Tunnel Road which the trail meets, allows the party to complete a trail circuit either back to the automobile at Glencliff, or to fairly close to the Lost River, if the party left their car at the foot of the Beaver Brook Trail. The Trail is more practical for the descent of the mountain than for climbing it.
Leave Summit Camp and go northwest on Benton Ridge down the Benton Path. At 1/2 mile, leave Benton Path and take Tunnel Slide Trail to the left. Down a slide to floor of the ravine and a brook, 1 1/4 miles. Follow down stream. At 1 1/2 miles pass 6 man open-shelter on left bank. Spring just below the shelter. At 1 3/4 miles pass a long chute in the brook bed, the rock worn smooth with the water. At 2 1/4 miles come to the main stream running approximately north and south, and find remains of the old washed-out Tunnel Road. To go to Glencliff turn left (south) upstream. To go towards Lost River Road turn down stream.
distance: 2 1/4 miles
Time: from Summit, with campers 2 hours

And a description from the 1936 AMC White Mountain Guide, taken from www.franklinsites.com/losthikingtrails/ 

Tunnel Trail. (D.O.C.)
This picturesque, though steep and rough trail, also called Tunnel Ravine Trail, lies in a ravine S. of the ridge which bears the Benton Trail. As it is most used as a descent it will be so described. It leaves the Benton Trail 0.4 m. below the summit of Moosilauke. It soon reaches and descends a slide and then the brook at its foot, passing N. of a D.O.C. shelter. Shortly below the shelter it turns S. from the brook and follows a logging road to the abandoned Tunnel Brook Road. Following the latter N., Bungay Corner on the Kinsman Notch Road is reached in 4 ¼ m., or, turning S., Glencliff will be reached in about 7 m., the first 5 m. being rough and in places obstructed and obscure.
Distances. Summit to Tunnel Trail 0.4 m. (12 min.); to shelter 2 ¼ m. (2 hrs. 15 min.); to Tunnel Brook Road 3 m. (3 hrs.).

One of several cascades seen along the way.

This is a good-sized waterfall, the largest seen along the brook.

The ravine walls closed in, requiring some steep sidehilling through small conifers that were dripping wet from overnight showers, and also some back-and-forth across the brook, where the wet rocks were extremely slippery. More cascades higher in the ravine.

One of the sections hopping along the brook.

I passed the remains of the DOC Tunnel Brook Shelter, built around 1930 and still standing but long-abandoned around 1980, according to David Hooke's epic history of the Dartmouth Outing Club, Reaching That Peak.

The moose skull that David Kotz had reported finding on his August bushwhack was still there at the shelter site.

Nearby was this aerated frying pan hanging on a tree.

Beyond the shelter site the floor of the ravine broadened, and there were some nice open glades.

Before heading up to the new Irene slide, I paid a revisit to the slide that fell on the north wall of the ravine in 1973. Revegetation has advanced considerably since I was here in 1996. The diminutive firs growing in crevices on the ledges did a great job of soaking my boots!

Looking across the slide to the south wall; Black Mountain in the distance.

Looking up the old slide.  With the shorter daylight of mid-October, I didn't have time to go to the top.

I caught a glimpse of the Irene slide farther up the ravine.

I dropped back down to the brook and continued up the ravine to the first signs of the new slide - a wall of torn-out trees blocking the brook.

I whacked through the woods around this obstacle and looked back downstream at it.

Ahead was a pile of rubble from the slide. This ravine has been prone to landslides for many years, as noted in this 1941 report by Charlotte Crane Root in Appalachia: "The climb down the Tunnel Ravine Trail was wonderful this morning. We jumped and bounced down over the rocks. Dave took a wonderful slide on a very wet slab, which did terrible things to his poor white shorts. We swam in the cold but gloriously clear stream and then walked through the beautiful, soft valley which suddenly changed into a ghastly waste land, the result of successive land slides and the late hurricane."

The slide exposed these ledges on the brook. It was fun scrambling (carefully) up them. As noted above, wet ledges and rocks on the brook were very slick.

Looking back from the first set of ledges.

The views back got better and better.

I followed a zigzag route through this section.

What a great area!

Approaching the bottom of the big slide.

Steep broken ledges at the bottom of the slide. I couldn't find a route up this pitch that I was comfortable with, so I bushwhacked through steep nasty woods on the right beside the slide to get around this first section.

The main brook plunges down a rocky cleft.

Working my way partway up the slide.

Looking down the ravine from the slide, with distant views NW to ridges in Vermont.

Birch and fir seedlings starting the process of revegetation, two years after the slide fell.

Looking up the massive slide, which starts at 4200 ft. and drops to 3500 ft. I couldn't even see the top from here.

A rare spot of sun on a murky day.

But of course!

Zoom on the lower ravine.

A dike of darker rock - basalt? - cuts across the main bedrock, which geologists identify as Littleton Schist, a metamorphic rock formed about 400 million years ago.

The bottom of the slide rises steeply above the main brook.

Nasty whacking down beside the slide, lots of holes. Very slow, careful foot placement required. At least the woods had dried out by now.

A scene along the brook on the way out. Tunnel Ravine provided a memorable bushwhack!