A leisurely tour of the Downes Brook Slide on the NW flank of Mt. Passaconaway, with naturalist Dan Newton and his slide-climbing companion, Friday. We took plenty of time to examine the varied plant life thriving on and alongside the slide.
The water was low in Downes Brook, making the four crossings on the Downes Brook Trail fairly easy. Still, many of the rocks were slippery from the previous night's rain and careful foot placement was needed.
Ledge step at the base of the open slabs on the slide.
Dan and Friday ascend the expansive, low-angle (17 to 21 degrees, as measured by my clinometer) lower slabs of the slide, composed of Conway Granite.
We took a long break here to savor the scene. Dan relaxes in his portable camp chair.
Friday found his own spot in a nearby patch of woods.
View of Potash Mountain from our break spot. This slide fell around 1892, and 130 years later vegetation has yet to grab a foothold on the open slabs, though it has made inroads along crevices and on residual islands of soil.
Though, remarkably, the slide was virtually bug-free, Dan demonstrated the art of making an insect-deterring "smudge" with a slow-burning fungus known as tinder polypore. This fungus was found on the body of the prehistoric (~3300 B.C.) Iceman, whose mummified remains were discovered in 1991 in the Italian Alps.
We spent some time surveying the plant life around the slabs, such as this patch of Rhodora, starting to go to fruit.
In a soil-retaining crevice are a small white pine and a prematurely-turning red maple.
Lance-leaved goldenrod, which will flower later in the summer.
Sedges are not easy to identify, but this may be Eastern rough sedge, which was found on 5 of 22 White Mountain slides surveyed by researcher Edward Flaccus in the late 1950s.
A patch of Sheep Laurel along the edge of the slide.
Dan botanized all along the slide. The variety and patterns of vegetation on the lower slabs prompted him to name this the "Garden Slide."
Heading up, we obtained this view from the top of the lower slabs, with Mt. Eisenhower in the distance.
Looking down the lower slide. Numerous wet, slick slabs necessitated careful attention to footing. Bushwhack detours into the woods (treading carefully to minimize impact on vegetation) avoided several potentially dangerous spots.
Dan captures the scene at a small ledge-step cascade.
A colorful strip of algae.
Dan spotted a significant colony of round-leaved sundew, a tiny carnivorous plant that traps insect prey with the sticky droplets on its leaves. Edward Flaccus recorded this species on 9 of 22 White Mountain slides he surveyed in the late 1950s.
A scenic route up several series of ledge slabs.
The northern spur of Mt. Passaconaway - location of the great north-facing viewpoint accessed by a side path off the Walden Trail - rises 1500 ft. above this spot on the slide.
Bushwhacking around a large steep and wet slab just below "the turn of the slide," a point where the 1892 slide makes a sharp right turn up a steep slope and a more recent slide (possibly 1938) comes down the drainage straight ahead.
We followed the course of the 1892 slide up the steep slope in the woods, bypassing two very steep, wet, massive ledges, in part on a remnant of the long-abandoned Downes Brook Slide Trail. By 1900 this trail had been established along the route of the slide, and was later maintained by the Passaconaway Mountain Club (based in the Albany Intervale) and then the WMNF. Maintenance ended in 1957 due to the slippery ledges, which are especially hazardous when wet - even the low-angle lower slabs. In some sections there is virtually no trace of the old trail; this slide is for experienced slide climbers/bushwhackers only. At the top of the open slide, at ~2800 ft., we edged carefully out for fine views to the north, all the way to Mt. Washington.
Bringing Potash Mountain and Mt. Carrigain into view.
The massive, mighty Carrigain.
Looking up the higher of the two ledges slabs above the turn of the slide.
Side view of the lower of the two slabs. Too steep and slick to climb.
Slab, cascade and golden pool just below the turn of the slide.
Another sedge by the golden pool, possibly white-edged sedge, which was found on 12 of 22 White Mountain slides by Edward Flaccus.
Looking back up at Passaconaway's northern spur.
Late afternoon sun on the ledges.