Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Taking advantage of a quick thaw that bared the ground and de-iced the streams, John "1HappyHiker" Compton and I undertook a bushwhack exploration into the lower part of Tunnel (Benton) Ravine, the great cirque-like valley on the NW side of Mt. Moosilauke. We rendezvoused at the start of Tunnel Brook Road and, after checking with accommodating workers from the LaTulippe Construction company from Ashland, which is restoring the first 0.8 mile of the road beyond the gate, we set off on foot up the road. About a mile and a quarter from the gate we veered off into the woods to look at a few historical items I had seen on a hike in this area the week before. The first was part of an old mossy foundation.

These gear wheels could have been associated with a mill or perhaps a farmstead.

I showed John the rusting vintage car I'd stumbled upon last week. Photographer/history buff Erin Paul Donovan did some internet research and determined that this was probably a 1926 Dodge coupe.

So it's possible that this was the last car to pass through Tunnel Brook Notch before that road was closed by the massive 1927 slides.

The vehicle just to the south of the car offers less evidence to go on, but again Erin Paul Donovan scoured images on the web and found one of a 1920 International truck where the arrangement of the dashboard corresponded pretty closely to this one.

Close-up of the gauges.

We paid a quick visit to the Parker House (1904-1930) cellar hole. The ice in the depression had melted during the thaw.

Next we searched for - and found - a site described by Benton historian Edgar Alan Nutt in his 2004 book, Coventry-Benton Revisited. This may have been a carriage wheel rim, listed as one of the artifacts in the area. 

The corner of a foundation, as described in Nutt's book.

John found this saw blade sticking out of the leaf litter. We're not sure what kind of a saw this was - it's not the typical logger's crosscut saw.

A nice view of Tunnel Brook.

From the end of Tunnel Brook Road, we headed partway in on Tunnel Brook Trail to the mouth of Tunnel Ravine.

We started our bushwhack amidst rocky rubble deposited by Tropical Storm Irene.

A dry gully presumably eroded by that storm.

The Tunnel Brook Trail does not cross any major streams until it fords its namesake stream beyond where we launched our 'whack. Yet within a couple of minutes we were following a good-sized brook up into Tunnel Ravine. Does part of this brook disappear into the ground before reaching Tunnel Brook Trail?

We made a leisurely meander up along the brook, pausing to admire this pretty birch-lined reach.

We briefly followed a remnant trace of the old Tunnel Ravine Trail (aka Tunnel Slide Trail), maintained through here in the 1930s and 1940s by the Dartmouth Outing Club. This trail continued up the valley past a DOC shelter (the collapsed remains of which are still visible), then ascended the north wall of the ravine to the upper Benton Trail by way of a slide.

An interesting little shelf cascade.

A beautiful stream to follow up the valley.

John checks out a miniature gorge.

The brook goes ever on...

A steep and difficult sidehill slope pushed us into the brookbed, then to the other bank.

A nice cascade.

And another cascade, with some interesting rock sculpturing.

Layered ledges along the side of the ravine.

We worked our way through some rough terrain to the base of the biggest waterfall in the lower part of the ravine. It was in good flow after yesterday's rain. To our knowledge it has no name, though "Tunnel Falls" would seem logical.

We parked ourselves on a large flat rock at the base of the falls for a leisurely lunch break.

Next we went downstream a short way before heading up to some small cliffs on the north side of the ravine. I'd seen these from the summit ridge of Moosilauke and on Google Earth, and hoped that, if accessible, they might provide some unusual views up the ravine.

We started with a scramble up the side of the ravine.

As we climbed steeply, we got a peek down to the top of the waterfall.

After a strenuous tussle through some dense scrub, we emerged on the lowest outcrop.

Yes, we would get some cool views up the ravine!

The brook was roaring below, and we could glimpse some upper cascades through the trees.

John in the thick of it, atop the next ledge.

As we worked our way higher through this series of outcrops, the view of the ravine expanded.

The next ledge in the group.

The highest ledge we went to, and perhaps the last in the series,  was a great flat perch worthy of an extended stay, though with November's short daylight we couldn't linger long.

From here we could see up to the headwall of the ravine and the summit ridge of Moosilauke.

A zoom on the steep headwall. The bottom of the massive Irene slide, which I visited last October,  can be seen at the lower center.

We also had a neat vista of the slides on Mt. Clough, across Tunnel Brook Notch.

The upper perch, to which we hope to make a return visit.

Heading back down through the scrub.

We took a more direct route back down a steep but negotiable slope. Along the way we found this moose (?) bone.

Open woods, for the most part.

Below the steep descent we crossed to the south side of the ravine's brook and descended through wonderful open hardwoods.

Down on the Tunnel Brook Trail, we went out to a nearby beaver meadow for a view back to the ravine.

A parting shot of Tunnel Brook and the west spur of Moosilauke before heading for home after a highly rewarding exploration.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TUNNEL BROOK: 11/18/14

On an unseasonably cold November day I trekked into Tunnel Brook Notch from the north and saw some interesting sights along the way.

I parked at the gate where the road has been closed since washouts from Tropical Storm Irene and started a bit before noon. Major repair work has been going on here, so I had to bushwhack the first 0.8 mile to get around the construction zone, crossing Tunnel Brook twice. From there I enjoyed pleasant walking along the undamaged section of Tunnel Brook Road. The only bird I saw all day was a Snow Bunting foraging ahead of me along the road.

Not far before reaching the Benton Trail I spotted an old mossy foundation down in the woods.

Nearby were these old gear wheels - perhaps the remains of an old mill?

A rusting old culvert of some sort.

A bit farther along through the woods I came upon this rusted old car, which looks to be of Eliot Ness (late 1920s/early 1930s) vintage. Supposedly the last car to make it through Tunnel Brook Notch on the old road, before it was obliterated by landslides in 1927, was a Ford Model T. Could this be that car?

Open door view.

Interior view.

From the back. Still a bit of blue paint visible.

This rig was just behind the car; wonder what it was used for?

Looks like a gas tank.

On the other side of Tunnel Brook Road, off an overgrown loop road at the top of a hill, is the cellar hole from the old Parker House, a small hotel that operated from 1904 to about 1930.

In its heyday the Parker House had an open view up to the ridges of Mt. Moosilauke.

After another mile I reached the Tunnel Brook Trail. A half-mile or so up the trail was this nice gravel bar on Tunnel Brook.

Just upstream was a new beaver dam.

Rubbly outwash from Moosilauke's Benton (Tunnel) Ravine, swept down by Tropical Storm Irene. The brookbed is now dry here.

I took a short path out to a favorite beaver meadow with the ridges of Mt. Clough rising to the west.

I crossed the brook to the west side of the meadow where there is a peek into Benton Ravine.

It looked wintry on the high ridge.

More Moosilauke ridgeline to the south.

The mellow Tunnel Brook Trail.

The first Tunnel Brook crossing on the trail. Surprisingly, icy rocks were not a problem on the crossings.

A dusting of snow in the fine hardwoods approaching the second crossing.

When I arrived at the first beaver pond in Tunnel Brook Notch at 2:45, it was cold (about 20 or lower), windy and wonderfully desolate.

The old beaver dam at the first pond.

The big slides on Mt. Clough.

Looking north from the second beaver pond. The unique pond-and-slide scenery of Tunnel Brook Notch is some of the best in the Whites, and draws me back again and again.

From the third/fourth pond, another angle on the Clough slides. It was too late to go to Mud Pond at the south end of the notch, a half-mile away.

On the way back I pushed through dense spruce up an old slide track above the first pond on the Moosilauke side. This tiny stream runs down through the slide track.

I made my way to this open gravel patch, one of two remaining on this slide.

Clough slides from the Moosilauke slide.

In this view from a Clough slide, the outline of the old Moosilauke slide can be seen as the triangle and strip of dark spruces above the first two beaver ponds. The gravel patch I visited can be seen near the center of the photo.

A nice cairn along the Tunnel Brook Trail. I came out in the dark, and was able to walk the road the whole way as construction work was done for the day.