Friday, August 29, 2014


On the third anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, it was fitting to bushwhack to one of the slides unleashed by that powerful storm, hidden in a side valley off Little Tunnel Ravine on the NW side of Mt. Moosilauke. The trek featured brook vignettes, beautiful hardwood forest, and the impressive scenery of the slide. I was unaware of this slide until I spotted it last November from a wildlife opening during a walk up Bowen Brook Road off Route 112. It can't be seen from any nearby mountain viewpoints and though it does appear on the latest Google Earth imagery from September 2013, it's partly hidden in shadow.

Last September I made my first visit to Little Tunnel Ravine with John "1HappyHiker" Compton. It was a rewarding bushwhack up a beautiful valley culminating with a close-up view of the 100-foot waterfall that is the tallest of the "Nine Cascades."

On today's trip I would go partway up the main valley of Little Tunnel, then branch off into a side valley on the east. I started my trek at the gate on Tunnel Brook Road and after a short road walk I crossed the brook amidst a scene of Irene devastation.

I bushwhacked across to Little Tunnel Brook, crossing the top of a washed-out bank with a bird's-eye view of Tunnel Brook.

I followed an old logging road up the valley of Little Tunnel Brook, which John and I had utilized on our trek last year. I paused occasionally to admire vistas of the rock-bound stream.

There's fine hardwood forest in the valley, with some impressive specimens of yellow birch.

A pretty glade along the old road, which in places appears to be well-used by moose and perhaps the occasional angler.

A beautiful valley!

A mini-cascade.

At its confluence with Little Tunnel Brook, the stream that drains the side valley was dry. There was some flow in it higher up.

Before heading up the side valley, I took a break at this pleasant ledgy waterslide on Little Tunnel.

 More waterslides above.

I went a little farther upstream to see this lovely cascade I remembered from last year's trip.

As I started bushwhacking up the side valley, I passed this massive yellow birch.

The whacking was wonderfully open on this hardwood slope.

A dancing yellow birch.

Occasional large hemlocks were sprinkled amidst the hardwoods.

Farther up the valley I saw the first signs of outwash from the slide.

In this area the brook was bordered by gorgeous fern glades.

If this track was made by a bear, I didn't want to meet him!

At the edge of a fern glade was this magnificent yellow birch, one of the coolest trees I've ever seen.

A magical area!

Destruction downstream from the slide.

I hopped out onto the brookbed/slide track to follow it up to the base of the slide itself.

A highway up through the forest.

Looking back down over some interesting ledges.

Three years after the slide, opportunistic grasses have created a backcountry lawn.

At the turn of the slide - up it goes! It was larger and more impressive than I expected.

I studied the potential route up the slide and decided it would be prudent to parallel it in the woods and then pop out near the top for some potential views.

For a short distance I followed a rocky brookbed that might be the track of an older slide visible on aerial photos from 1964 and 1970.

Then it was up steeply through the woods, coming out to the edge for a view partway up.

Luckily the woods beside the slide were not terribly thick and the footing was not overly rough with boulders and holes.

These indentations looked like deer tracks. This very steep slope seemed an unlikely place for a white-tail.

After some careful maneuvering I emerged on the upper part of the slide with a nice view to the NW. The prominent range in shadow consists of Cobble Hill, Moody Ledge and Young Mountain, trailless 2000-foot peaks at the NW edge of the White Mountain National Forest.

 Close-up of Cobble Hill.

On the horizon were mountains in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

I picked out a fine ledge perch and hung out for a while.

After a long rest I ventured farther up to get a look at the top of the slide.

A band of darker rock, perhaps basalt, cuts across the Littleton schist, a metamorphic rock, that makes up the mass of Mt. Moosilauke. New slides are great places to study a mountain's bedrock.

Down-look from near the top.

Another down-look, on a butt-aided descent I made partway down the slide. I took to the woods for the lower half on the way down.

Looking sideways made me realize how steep this was.

Parting shot before heading back down the valley.

Another lawn area.

A nicely paired yellow birch and hemlock.

A towering maple.

A sugar maple glade - the bushwhacker's dream forest.

Another waterslide on Little Tunnel Brook.

A peaceful evening scene.

Along the brook I found several pieces of sled runners and a rusted bucket near what may have been the site of a logging camp used by crews working for the Fall Mountain Paper Company in the early 1900s. Nice conclusion to a rewarding exploration.