LOWER TUNNEL RAVINE: 11/25/14
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.
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.