Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Sabbaday Slides: 5/30/23

 On a warm, sunny, buggy day I wandered deep into the Sabbaday Brook valley and visited one newer slide and a couple of older ones. The mosquitoes were out in force as soon as I started out from the trailhead.

Though the East Branch of the Pemigewasset was running fairly low at 250 cfs, for some reason I found the three big crossings of Sabbaday Brook to be more difficult than usual on this day. It didn't help that I was being swarmed by mosquitoes as I picked my way across.

Into the Wilderness near the start of a 1.5 mile section that follows an old tote road along the east side of the brook. This road was used by the Conway Lumber Company's Swift River Railroad in the early 1900s.

Mainly good walkin' here, though there are a few washed-out sections.

This lovely glade is the site of the Monahan Camp of the Swift River Railroad.

One of several artifacts scattered through the woods.

From here I followed an overgrown tote road towards the drainage of the tributary brook that flows down from the col between East Sleeper and West Sleeper.

A beautiful glade heading up the drainage.

I dropped down to the nameless brook and followed it upstream for a bit.

I came to the logjam deposited by the huge slide that fell off the slope of West Sleeper during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Time to take to the woods above the brook.

Paralleling the brook, I passed through some fine ferny glades.

No complaints here.

This route brought me to a jumble of logs and rocks at the edge of the slide, near the bottom.

Many of the rocks were unstable, careful footing required.

Emerging onto the base of the slide, where there is a broad deposit area that has been heavily revegetated.

This is a massive, wedge-shaped slide. On Google Earth it measures 0.25 mile long with a vertical drop of 700 ft. (from 3200 ft. to 2500 ft.) and a maximum width of 200 ft. The average slope is 31 degrees, with the upper part steeper at 33 degrees.

Part of Sleeper Ridge rises to the south. I have visited this slide a number of times since it fell, and it's been interesting to follow the progress of revegetation in the wake of major disturbance. Slide researcher Edward Flaccus studied White Mountain slides and their revegetation in the late 1950s. He noted that a deposit area at the base of a slide, as seen here, revegetates much more rapidly than the steep, bare face of the slide above. In this deposit area the conifers red spruce and balsam fir are taking over from deciduous species that dominated in the first few years after the slide..

Stunted balsam fir below, red spruce above.

I went partway up the wide lower part of the slide to enjoy the northeastern view for a while.

Potash Mountain and pointy South Potash are to the right. To the left of Potash are the Baldfaces, Bartlett Haystack, Carter Dome and Mt. Tremont/Owls Cliff.

Looking up the slide. I've climbed to the top twice, but this was as high as I would go today in the hot sun.


Birch seedlings (yellow birch, I presume, as that is a dominant tree in the adjacent forest) are speckling the slide with green.

Heading back down towards Sabbaday Brook, I saw that I was not alone in this valley.

This shovel blade was in a random location, not near any known logging camp site.

Nice hardwood whacking back down this side valley.

Looking up the tributary brook.

Barrel hoops are exposed in a bank along Sabbaday Brook, near the location of a relatively small logging camp.

The Sabbaday Brook Trail is a pleasing route as it penetrates the winding upper valley between the Sleepers, Mount Tripyramid and the Fool Killer.

A pretty section alongside the mossy brook.

Mossy, indeed.

I dropped down from the trail to check out the bottom of the 1924 slide that fell on the east slope of Tripyramid. The 1925 edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide noted that the slide "occurred in Sept. 1924; and the subsequent flood washed out the valley for some distance." This slide is revegetated save for one small open patch near its top, where I was headed via the trail and a short bushwhack.

Red trilliums still in bloom.

As it slices across the head of the valley, the Sabbaday Brook Trail passes a hardwood glade at the unusually high elevation of 3160 ft.

Fading blooms from the last trout lilies of the season.

The trail crosses the track of the 1924 slide shortly before it makes a sharp right turn onto the track of an older slide. This is the view looking down from the trail.

I bushwhacked up the steep slope to the last remaining open patch of the 1924 slide at ~3400 ft.

The 1925 edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide noted that either this slide, or the older one just to the south used by the Sabbaday Brook Trail, could be used as a route to the crest of Mt. Tripyramid: "Either slide may be ascended to its tip, with wild and interesting views towards Passaconaway and Chocorua." That vista is still available from the open patch, but may not be for many more years.

From this angle Passaconaway has a classic profile of a wooded Northeastern mountain. Here you can see the slope leading left down to the little bump where the great northern viewpoint is found.

Back down on the trail, I continued a short distance farther to the turn up onto the older east slide of Tripyramid. This slide is now almost fully revegetated and views are minsicule.

Looking down the track of this slide from the turn. The trail used to follow this slide all the way up from the bottom. In the mid-1980s a major trail relocation was made out to the north, coming back to the slide near its top, and the route going straight up the slide from below was abandoned.

On the way back down the valley I made another short bushwhack to the only opening left on the southern of two old slides on the Fool Killer. This slide may date back to the 1910s, as it looks fresh in a photo taken then that can be seen in the online archives of the AMC. When I climbed the Fool Killer in 1998, I used this slide for the start of the ascent, but even then it soon petered out. Such is the fate of many slide tracks in our fast-growing forests.

The patch still has a view up to the high crest of West Sleeper.

Damage from Tropical Storm Irene just above the trail's fifth crossing of Sabbaday Brook.

Sled runners near a logging camp location.

More relics from the big logging days when the Conway Lumber Company clear-cut the Sabbaday forest. This valley is now "forever wild" as part of the Sandwich Range Wilderness.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Sandwich Dome Trail & Bushwhack Loop: 5/25/23

Taking advantage of the long daylight hours, I made a longish loop over Sandwich Dome using the Smarts Brook Trail, a bushwhack up to the Algonquin Trail via an old landslide scar, the Algonquin Trail to the summit, and a return via the Sandwich Mountain Trail and Smarts Brook Trail. It was a cool, windy and mostly cloudy day, but the views were good and the bug population was zero. Though I was on trail for 9 1/2 miles of the 11+ mile loop, I saw no other hikers.

Along the Tri-Town Trail, these beech sapling leaves had been shriveled by a recent hard frost.

The lower of Sandwich Dome's two Black Mountains peers over behind the beaver meadow along the Smarts Brook Trail.


Into the Wilderness at the 2.6 mile mark.

After crossing a tributary brook, I headed off-trail up a spur ridge of the higher Black Mountain. I had ascended this ridge in 2019 and knew there would be open hardwoods up to nearly 2500 ft. There are many fine sugar maples in these woods.

A sugar maple triad.

Looking up at the canopy during one of the day's infrequent sunny breaks.

A band of thicker forest awaited at the top of the hardwoods.

A fallen bird nest, presumably from last year's nesting season.

Above the dense band, the spruces opened up beautifully, just as I remembered.

A steep slope, but the woods remained open.

Around 2900 ft. I came to a neat little plateau with a small meadow-like area, hemmed in by a steep mossy wall.

A trampled area and some old dried-up pellets showed that this has been a moose hangout.

Looking back at the meadow area as I start to head across the slope to the old slide patch.

This approach entailed some steep sidehilling, but the woods remained open.


I crossed a steeply pitched brook that originates high on this slope.

After a brief tussle with some dense scrub, I emerged at the edge of the old slide patch. I haven't determined when this slide fell, but it must be fairly old as much of its track is revegetated with a variety of shrubs and small trees.

From this vantage I could see that rain showers were moving in over Mt. Osceola and Mt. Tecumseh. Darn! But during my hour-long stay at the slide there were only a couple of light sprinkles.

The views were good, looking down into the Smarts Brook valley, flush with spring greens,  and across to Acteon Ridge, including the cliffs of Sachem Peak. Welch-Dickey and Mt. Moosilauke are seen in the distance.


Great angle on Sachem Peak, with Mt. Tecumseh beyond.

Looking SW to Mt. Kineo, Carr Mountain and distant Smarts Mountain.


Several sets of steep ledges remain open on the old slide.

A side view of the slide track. It was a steep one.

Heading up the steep slope from the slide.

A mossy drainage that feeds into the slide.

The woods soon opened up and remained that way to the top of the ridge.

Nice glade approaching the 3400-ft. col between Black Mountain and Sandwich Dome.

On to the Algonquin Trail, a gem of the Sandwich Range Wilderness.

Evidence of the fine work by trail adopters N.H. Hiker and Steve LaRocca. Thank you!

I found a little peek out to Mt. Israel with Lake Winnipesaukee and the Belknap Range beyond. Down below is a large beaver wetland in the Cold River drainage.

A glimpse of the Sandwich Dome summit ahead.

This is a wonderful, remote wooded ridge walk at mostly easy grades until the final climb to the Dome's summit.

Near the top of the climb there's a view south to distant peaks as far as Mt. Monadnock.

The ledges at the summit of Sandwich Dome.

What a view, looking north to the high peaks.

Prominent in this part of the view are Mad River Notch on the left and Mt. Carrigain on the right.

The Osceolas, with the Franconia Range behind on the left.


Scaur Peak, the Tripyramids and West Sleeper.


Middle and South Tripyramid, showing the South Slides, which were once much more open. Carter Dome peers over in back.

A lonely patch of monorail on Sandwich Mountain Trail.

I had read trail reports noting extensive blowdowns on this ridge. They weren't kidding! Trees, limbs and branch tips were down everywhere.

I came through here in early April and there was nothing like this.


Smarts Brook Trail, my descent route, had much less blowdown.

The upper section of this trail is very wild and beautiful. Here there was a glimpse across the valley to the Algonquin Trail ridge.


Moderate grades and generally good footing on this long, lightly-used route (5.7 miles to Sandwich Dome from the trailhead).

Wild spruce forest.

Smarts Brook, high in the valley.

Boulder cave beside the trail.

Monster rock.

Cascade at trail crossing.

A peek up at the Sachem cliffs.

Smarts Brook Cascade, with dusk drawing on.