Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Haselton Brook Valley: 11/24/20


November is a great time for exploring off-trail in remote valleys, with long views through the leafless forest.  On a cold day that started out blustery with snow showers, later breaking for abundant sunshine, I returned to the long, trailless valley of Haselton Brook on the "back" side of Mt. Tecumseh. As shown on the Google Earth image below, this basin extends for three miles between various spur ridges of Tecumseh. Though for a short time in the 1930s/1940s there was a WMNF trail up the valley, it is now trailless and wild.

While approaching the valley on a gated WMNF road, I noticed that an historic orchard had been recently cleared out by the Forest Service as part of an ongoing management of permanent wildlife openings.



This old logging road provided easy traveling through part of the lower valley.

In the lower half of the valley, hardwoods cloak the entire western slope, making for pleasant bushwhacking.

Friends and I refer to this section as "hardwood heaven."

Two miles of off-trail travel brought me to the base of a spur ridge known as "Spring Mountain," where tributary brooks flow down on either side into Haselton Brook.

Here I made an unsuccessful search for an old logging camp site discovered by master bushwhacker J.R. Stockwell. Upon returning home and reviewing my route, I realized I had mis-identified one of the tributary brooks and was looking in the wrong location! I did come upon this beautiful old sugar maple.

As the sun started to break through, I took a chilly lunch break beside Haselton Brook.

In the late 1800s, there was a mineral spring house at the base of the spur ridge to the east, hence the name "Spring Mountain." I imagined the outline of an old foundation from this tumble of rocks... or maybe that is how they were strewn by a high water event.

On the west side of the brook is one of several old logging roads etched into the valley's slopes.

Erosion from Tropical Storm Irene? Or perhaps the 2017 Halloween storm?

In his classic guidebook, The White Mountains: A Handbook for Travellers, first published in 1876, editor Moses F. Sweetser described this area on the "back" side of Mt. Tecumseh in some detail.
Of particular interest to me, as a slide history enthusiast, is his description of the long SW spur ridge of West Tecumseh: "On the l. [as one goes up the valley] are the sharp slopes of Mt. Avalanche, which are striped from summit to base with the white tracks of slides." These slides  have long since been revegetated - indeed, reforested - but their multiple tracks show up well on this NW Hillshade LIDAR image from the NH Stone Wall Mapper on the NH Granit website.


On a trip last spring, I had investigated several of the more southerly old slide tracks in this series. Today I wanted to check out the more northerly tracks. Working along the base of the valley's steep western slope, I first passed by two of the tracks I'd seen in the spring.

Continuing northward, I came upon several more old slide tracks, such as this one grown up to conifers.

In describing a route up this valley to Mt. Tecumseh in his guidebook, Moses Sweetser noted that travel was easier on this western side of the brook: "The easier route is on the Mt.-Avalanche side, where many clear spaces have been made by the slides." Nearly a century and a half later, the woods are still mostly open on this side.

This was perhaps the most striking of the northern slide tracks. All of these tracks are bone dry, with no streams running down them.

Deep in the valley I chanced upon this gorgeous sunlit hardwood glade.

This sugar maple is the monarch of the glade.

Yet another ancient slide track.

I came even with the northernmost tributary brook that flows in from the east side of the valley.

The northernmost of the slide tracks that I visited.

Where the track (in top center of picture) runs into Haselton Brook.

On the way back, admiring the magnificent maple in the hardwood glade.

This heap of rocks and soil, which is visible on the Lidar hillshade image, appears to be a slide deposit.

Back near the base of Spring Mountain, I made a steep mid-afternoon side trip up the slope on the west side of the valley, aiming for a small talus patch and possible views. Here the snow-tipped crest of Mt. Tecumseh is seen through the trees.

The talus patch, about 400 ft. up from the floor of the valley. There are many larger talus slopes farther up the valley.

Looking across the valley at Spring Mountain and the dark ravine on its north flank, deep in afternoon shadow.

There is another deep, dark, spruce-cloaked ravine on the south side of Spring Mountain. J.R. Stockwell recently fashioned a loop bushwhack that traversed both of these ravines, finding many cascades and much rough going. "You have to want to go there" is J.R.'s way of saying it's very difficult bushwhacking.

The next ridge to the south of Spring Mountain displays many ledges and wild crags. Have yet to visit that one.

The granite slabs of Spring Mountain are striking. Wrote Moses Sweetser in his guidebook: "Spring Mt. is capped by a remarkable ledge, whose sides are cut with masonic precision."

Descending back into the valley, in late afternoon sun.

Farther down the valley, last sun on Hogback and Fisher Mountains. I made it out just before dark.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Chocorua River Headwaters: 11/19/20


A cold November day for a bushwhack into the ravine at the head of the north branch of the Chocorua River, on the east side of the Three Sisters. I visited several features of water, ice and rock - including "Chocorua Falls," an unusual overhang and an icy swath of ledge that might be the upper end of an old slide.

 The approach was made via a 2.2 mile hike up the historic Piper Trail, which dates back to the 1870s.

This is a well-built trail, and a pleasure to hike.


Love the bare November woods.


Smooth footing on this section.

Looking up at Mt. Chocorua and the Sisters from an off-trail viewpoint.

Chocorua's Horn.


Footbridge over the Chocorua River, a mountain stream.


Farther up the trail, I made a steep bushwhack down into the ravine of the brook.

The north branch of Chocorua River, high in the valley.

A nice swath of hardwood forest on the valley floor.

This may be the runout from an old slide down the ravine, which could explain some of the rock features seen above.


Approaching the first cascade.

A lovely stepped cascade. Getting around this required some steep bushwhacking.

More ledges farther upstream.

Almost a profile.

Approaching a feature named "Chocorua Falls" on a 1949 Chocorua Mountain Club map prepared by legendary tramper Arthur C. Comey. I’ve never seen the name on any other map.

Chocorua Falls, closer up. This was my third visit here.

More steep sidehill whacking.

Side view of the falls.

Broad ledge steps above the falls.

Icy expanse.


From the brink, a peek at Carter Ledge.

Dry ledge patch for a late lunch.

Farther upstream is a remarkable rock overhang.

Mother Nature's version of the Ice Castles.

Note the tree growing under the roof.

I continued up to an open swath of ice-coated ledge on the headwall of the ravine.

Icy steps.

A frothy mix of water and ice.

Has the look of a slide - which is exactly what one would do if stepping out here.

Top of the slide, my turn-around point as it was nearing 3:00 pm.

Zoom on Carter Ledge, which overlooks the upper Chocorua River valley.

 Google Earth image of the ravine, with Chocorua Falls and the upper ledge swath visible.