Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Tunnel Brook Slides: 5/28/24

Morning rain showers and various errands led to a crack o' noon start, so I opted for a leisurely hike into Tunnel Brook Notch from the north. On the agenda were visits to several of the attractive beaver ponds and short climbs to the lower sections of three slides - two on Mount Clough and one on Mount Moosilauke.

The first 0.7 mile of Tunnel Brook Trail follows a decommissioned section of road that suffered severe washouts during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Parts of this are quite pleasant, but it is brushy and morning dew or rain will lead to wet feet.

The next 1.6 miles are on a gravel road that has been maintained to use for logging. The walking is easy through a tunnel of trees.

Foamflower seemed to be blooming everywhere this day.


The trail ducks into the woods at a hairpin turn in the road, 2.3 miles from the trailhead.

An attractive stretch of trail alongside Tunnel Brook. The two crossings of the brook along the trail were easy, despite an inch of rain the night before.

Ridges of Mount Clough seen from a wetland near the trail.

Farther along, I left the trail and climbed partway up the northernmost of the nine slides on the steep east face of Mount Clough. This one, which fell in 1927, has a wide band of gravel deposits at its base. The dark triangle of spruce seen on the opposite slope is the revegetated track of the 1927 slide on the west side of Mount Moosilauke (see below).

A bit of Rhodora in bloom.


Slide resident, taking a nap.

View up to the NW ridge of Mount Moosilauke, which the Benton Trail follows in its upper section.

I continued up to the first set of steep ledge slabs on the slide. The horizontal lines on the rock may be glacial striae - gouges scraped into the bedrock by the continental glaciers.

Looking across to the South Peak of Mount Moosilauke in the distance.


I came back down to the trail by this artful cairn that has stood watch here for many years.

Beautiful hardwood forest approaching the second crossing of Tunnel Brook.

Solid work by the trail adopter - thank you!

On the east side of the first beaver pond in the notch I ascended partway up the revegetated track of a 1927 slide on the western flank of Moosilauke, visiting one of only two remaining small open patches. This raised bed of rocks looked like a typical debris flow levee along the edge of a slide track.

One part of the track has become a mossy swath.

This still looks "slidey," even under a  canopy of spruce forest.

One of the small remaining open patches. This slide reportedly fell during the storm of November 1927. Several descriptions from the early and mid 1930s reference slides having fallen on both sides of Tunnel Brook Notch, from the slopes of Mt. Moosilauke and Mt. Clough. Together they dammed up a small water body that became known as Slide Pond. In describing the Old Tunnel Road through the notch, (which was originally opened by 1805, then long abandoned, reopened in 1903, and permanently closed for vehicle travel by the 1927 slides), the 1932 DOC Handbook instructed hikers to “clamber over great heaps of rock to pond” when heading south. This ancient road is now the Tunnel Brook Trail. Though the 1927 slides on the Mt. Clough side of the notch still display extensive ledge outcrops, the slide on the lower west slope of Moosilauke is almost completely revegetated with spruce.

From this spot there was a good view of the northern slides on Mount Clough.

On this slide there is a distinct boundary between two bedrock types: the dark schist of the Littleton Formation and the light-colored Bethlehem gneiss.

White pine (left) and red pine (right) sprouting at the bottom of another open patch.

Two more Clough slides seen across one of the beaver ponds, following a 20-minute rain shower. The one on the right, which fell in 1927, is the largest of the Clough slides. The one on the left, which may have fallen in 1942, is the tallest and perhaps the steepest overall, with pitches approaching 40 degrees on its upper reaches. 

Spring greenery reflected in another beaver pond.

Farther south in the notch, a grassy spot offers a nice view across yet another pond to the South Peak of Moosilauke. Blue sky followed in the wake of the rain shower.

Looking south down the notch; more ponds lie beyond.

Heading into the wet woods to visit another Clough slide.

Like the northernmost Clough slide, this one has a gravelly slope at its lower end.


Nice evening view up to South Peak and the big slide in Slide Ravine.

Closer look.

Above the gravel slope there is a tumble of boulders mixed with scrubby birches.

I continued up for a look at the impressive footwall at the base of the ledgy part of the slide. This 50-degree pitch is technical terrain.

It really is a wall!

Checking out another beaver pond on the way back north along Tunnel Brook Trail. There was an enthusiastic chorus of spring peepers holding forth here.

The northernmost beaver pond. A beaver was patrolling here and there was a fresh dam at the upper end.

A gorgeous maple glade at the mouth of Moosilauke's Tunnel Ravine - the gateway to several adventures during the last decade.


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.