Thursday, May 23, 2024

Gorge Brook Slides: 5/22/24

On a hazy, hot and humid day - unusual for May - I headed up the Gorge Brook Trail on Mount Moosilauke to visit two old slides on the west side of the ravine. The views from these slides are mostly local, well-suited to a hazy day with limited visibility. In addition to views, I wanted to check on the presence of white pines on these slides, an informal study I've been conducting over the last couple of years.

I had a near crack o' noon start due to errands and waiting for the woods to dry out from morning showers. The sun was out in full force by the time I got to the Ravine Lodge and looked up at Moosilauke's South Peak.

This way.

The Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) maintains some great bridges.

I love walking the relocated (2012) section above the junction with the Snapper Trail. Easy grades, good footing and wide open woods.


Somewhere in this section I headed off-trail towards the southernmost of the six old slide tracks on the west wall of Gorge Brook ravine. As I remembered from two previous visits, these were "good woods" for bushwhacking.

It doesn't get much better than this.

Before heading to the small, overgrown slide I checked out an open blowdown patch that was visible on a satellite photo. Lots of sun pouring in, but no views.

The slope was steep on the approach to the head of the old slide.

The last remaining open patch at the top of this slide is crammed with small spruce and fir. Kind of hard to see what you're stepping on, and rocks beneath the dense cover were damp and slick.

There are at least a half-dozen white pines mixed in with the spruce and fir on the upper part of the slide. The white pine is a "pioneer tree" that can seed in to a disturbed habitat such as a landslide. The question has been, how did the seeds arrive here, a long distance from the white pine's normal home range at lower elevations. 


Only a few small spots of open rock remain from when this slide fell many years ago, most likely in a 1942 rainstorm.

The dense growth is low enough that there are still good views of Moosilauke's Blue Ridge (consisting of Sayre Peak, Mt. Kirkham and Mt. Braley) across the broad valley where Gorge Brook and the Baker River meet.

From the uppermost corner I could spot Dartmouth's Ravine Lodge on the floor of the valley, under Sayre Peak. Mount Cushman rises beyond.

After finding a seat in the scrub for a late lunch break, I followed the track of the slide down towards Gorge Brook.

A characteristic "debris flow levee" beside the lower part of the track.

A 1964 aerial photo shows the track of this slide as open almost all of the way down to the brook.

I came back to the trail just below its second crossing of Gorge Brook.

A pretty scene on Gorge Brook.

I left the trail again at "Last Sure Water."


Bushwhacking through open woods on the floor of the Gorge Brook valley.

The largest and most open Gorge Brook Slide, which came crashing down during a big rainstorm in November 1927, was the location of a Dartmouth Outing Club trail from 1966 to 1980. It was "intended to be used in only one direction - uphill." Parts of the old trail can be followed by experienced trampers with good navigation skills, but it has faded into obscurity on some parts of the slide and in the upper woods above, and must be considered a bushwhack. The open part of the slide is very steep with a pitch of 34 degrees and there are some sketchy spots throughout with slippery footing. The lower part of the slide - which looks like any of several other slide tracks strung along this slope - climbs up a steep swath of sometimes loose rocks that were damp and very slippery this day.


There are several tricky spots that must be negotiated. An old DOC blaze is visible on this nasty wet slab, which is skirted on the R. In maneuvering through these spots I choose footing carefully, for safety's sake and also to minimize trampling of vegetation.


One of the few dry slabs suitable for scrambling up.

Views across the valley opening up.

The most open and driest part of the slide is a swath of broken rock starting at 3650 ft.


There are several small white pines established along this section.

I took a long break here to enjoy the wide views.



White pine with a view. This was the highest pine I spotted on the slide, at an elevation of 3740 ft. The highest elevations I've found white pines on White Mountain slides are on Carter Dome's Northwest Slide at 4250 ft. and Hancock's Arrow Slide at 4100 ft.

More slimy ledges. I've climbed this slide at least a half-dozen times over the years. On the last couple of climbs it has seemed more difficult to me, with much treacherous footing and several spots where a way up is not obvious. I'm guessing it has to do with aging, both for me, being slower and more cautious, and for the slide, which is becoming less open and consequently slicker.

Looking up at Moosilauke's East Peak.

A couple of old DOC blazes remain, but there are several points where the route of the old trail is quite difficult to discern. The upper part of the slide is a mix of ledge and scrub, with a few tricky scrambles. Up here I heard a Blue Jay, which lends some credence to a theory that these far-ranging "scatter hoarders" may be agents for distributing white pine seeds to the disturbed habitat of a landslide.

Expanded view to the Whites here, including Mount Carrigain and the Hancocks, Mount Huntington, Scar Ridge, Mount Osceola, the Tripyramids, Mount Tecumseh and Sandwich Dome. The slide tops out at ~3900 ft.

Bushwhacking through open woods up to the Carriage Road.

Carr Mountain in sight to the south.

I opted to take the longer route back to the Ravine Lodge, continuing down the Carriage Road for another 1.4 mile and cutting across on the Hurricane Trail.

Below the Snapper Trail junction the Carriage Road receives much less traffic and parts of it provide very pleasant walking.

Below 2900 ft. the Carriage Road passes through a fine mature hardwood forest.

Last call for Trout Lilies this spring.

The mile traverse across this section of the Hurricane Trail is smooth, easy walking.

It briefly dips beside the Baker River before rising to meet the Gorge Brook Trail.

The high-wire bridge crossing over Gorge Brook was rather exciting at the end of an interesting day.


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

North Tripyramid via Avalanche Ravine: 5/20/24

In recent years the NW side of Mount Tripyramid has been a favorite haunt for this hiker in May. The Tripyramid foothills are an excellent place for viewing spring wildflowers, and there are several options for interesting bushwhacks. On this warm, almost hot sunny day, I repeated a favorite bushwhack up Avalanche Ravine (aka the Ravine of Avalanches) to the Pine Bend Brook Trail, and continued up to the summit of North Tripyramid late in the afternoon. I descended via the Pine Bend Brook/Scaur Ridge/Livermore Trail route. It was a grand day with wildflowers aplenty, brook and slide scenery, and several interesting views.

There were many flowers along the lower part of Livermore Trail, including Painted Trilliums and Wood Anemones (pictured here).


Bluets were in bloom along an open section of the trail.

Vivid violets.

White Cascade on Slide Brook always seems to be in good flow.

Artifact at the site of the first of two Avalanche Camps (1910s/1920s) along Avalanche Brook.

Foamflower was just starting to bloom.

Though hobblebush is often the bane of bushwhackers, it is pretty at this time of year.

The clearing at the site of the second Avalanche Camp (1930s/1940s).

Livermore Trail was bursting with the fullness of spring.

The trail entrance into Avalanche Ravine.

A small but pretty cascade on Avalanche Brook.

Spring wildflowers, such as these Spring Beauties, were still flourishing on this north-facing slope, where the snow had only recently melted.

There were dozens of Red Trilliums along this section of trail.

And several patches of Dutchman's Breeches!

A favorite spot along the trail.

I went up to the very bottom of the North Slide for a quick look before launching the bushwhack.

Here I had the pleasure of meeting Laura and Jonathan Soule, aka WanderingSoules, who recently completed the Grid. They had come in from the Kanc via soggy Livermore Pass, were doing the slides loop over the Tripyramids, and then heading back up and over the pass. A full day!

A lovely glade on the floor of the ravine.

Mossy rocks on Avalanche Brook.

The East Fork of the North Slide.

I brook-whacked slowly up the ravine, stepping carefully to protect both me and the streambed moss and plants. Much of the monzonite bedrock was carpeted in green.

In the Catskills they refer to following a stream as "blue-lining."

A different scene around every bend.

Farther up, the drainage closed in tight. Time to take to the woods.

During the same August storm in 1885 that triggered the huge and famous North Slide of Tripyramid, eight smaller slides fell in the ravine, and it became known as Avalanche Ravine, or the Ravine of Avalanches. Most of the 1885 slides are largely revegetated, but the remaining open patches still offer good views. This photo, taken by Edward Lorenz in 1910, shows the North Slide on the right and the additional slides in the Ravine of Avalanches on the left. My first objective in the ravine was the lowest open patch on the left side. (Photo courtesy Town of Waterville Valley)

As I climbed up a steep slope, I encountered some "slidey" rocks.

There's the open patch.

I was pleased to find a single white pine here, at 3150 ft., far removed from its normal haunts.

Warm and dry on this south-facing slope.

One of the best views of Mount Tecumseh, with spring greens painting the lower slopes of Scaur Ridge.

The summit of North Tripyramid looms 1000 ft. above.

Sidehilling on the steep slopes of the upper ravine.

Two headwaters of Avalanche Brook.

A revegetated slide patch on the headwall of the ravine.

Emerging on a remaining open area of the major 1885 headwall slide seen in the 1910 photo.

Exposures of broken monzonite, surrounded by a dense growth of red spruce.

A nice remote spot to hang out in the sun for a while, and take in the view of the Osceolas and Mount Moosilauke seen beyond the slope of Scaur Ridge. A fascinating article, "The Tripyramid Slides of 1885," was written by Alford A. Butler for the March 1886 issue of "Appalachia." Butler paid four visits to the Ravine of Avalanches and wrote about the North Slide and the eight smaller slides in great detail. This article can be read on Google Books.

Continuing up the slide, stepping on rock to avoid trampling moss.

Zoomed view from the top of this open swath, with the Kinsmans on the right.

Climbing through boreal forest to the uppermost open swath of the old slide.

The narrow, gravelly upper swath.

High peaks view from the top: Garfield, West Bond, South Twin, Hancocks and Carrigain.

Franconia Range to the left of Scaur Peak.

Ascending to Pine Bend Brook Trail.

I reached the trail at 3680 ft., near this rock wall, where the terrain gets very steep and rugged.

Snow lingers under a cave.

Good old Pine Bend Brook Trail, rough as ever, and always damp.

The upper trail was mostly bare, with intermittent patches of ice. Used the spikes in a couple of spots.

Someone corrected the sign!

Summit rocks.

A peek at Mount Washington from the restricted NE viewpoint (which is spectacular with deep snowpack).

Middle and South Tripyramid and Sandwich Dome from the western outlook, reached via an obscure path.

Descending the rough and slippery upper Pine Bend Brook Trail is a slow and tedious affair for this tramper, especially late in the day.

Ah, but the gentle section along the narrow ridge is one of my favorite walks.

View of Green's Cliff, Carter Dome and Mount Tremont from a semi-open glade on the north side of the ridge.

Turning onto one of my favorite trails.

Wildflower garden partway down Scaur Ridge Trail.

Late-blooming Trout Lilies at 3100 ft.

Dancing yellow birches.

Great footing along an old logging road.

Classic view of the North Slide.

Farewell to the Wilderness. I walked the last mile on Livermore Trail by moonlight, serenaded by a chorus of Spring Peepers in the hidden Swazeytown beaver pond, and a Barred Owl, hooting from deep within the darkened forest.