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September 8, 2011
After what was quite a disaster all over New England last week, we had got some deserved nice weather. However this week has slipped back into that early spring - late fall pattern that all of us outdoors types hate. Basically rain, rain and more rain - certainly not what we need right now. That said, however much we are getting right now, it's not as bad as what's going on over on New York state. All of us were kind of worried more flooding, but so far it's hasn't happened up here. I guess crossing my fingers and toes did something. WHEW...
While most of the local roads are open again, both the Kanc and 302 are still closed. The DOT folks are out there working hard, but It looks as if it's going to be a copula of more weeks before they're open again. For the people working on the other side of the passes it's been difficult. On the Crawford Notch side of things the DOT has a foot path across the washed out area. Bretton Woods has a shuttle to pick up locals just on their side and take them to and from work. It's a nice touch. I rode my bike up there on Tuesday to have a look.
Here's a picture of the north side of the construction site. On the right side you can see a woman who works in Notchland is walking across to meet a ride to work.
The bridge that washed out is the one across the Sawyer, just about 200 yards below Sawyer River Road. I was wondering if the gravel road had gotten washed out as well, but it looked OK. Last summer I had read a book about the railroad and logging industry in New Hampshire and one of the things that they mentioned was that the RR and the logging-town of Livermore was totally washed away in a spring flood. The gate was closed and there was a Road Closed sign, but we were on mountain bikes and I convinced my partner to ride up & have a look. I know we weren't really supposed to be there, but I XC-ski that all the time and I guess I was overly curious about the house 2 miles up.
The first mile and a half or so everything looked pretty normal. Heck, there were barely any ruts in the road! A road like this is subject to a lot of spring runoff so there needs to be a good system of culverts under the road in key places to divert the water coming off the uphill side down into the river. Close to 2 miles up, we were shocked to see a section of the road completely washed away. A large plastic culvert was hanging out in space! Here's some pictures:
There was a small place where you could carefully walk on the uphill side to get around the washout. It was dangerous, but not as much as climbing I guess. [wry grin] Right where the washout started you could see where a culvert had gotten overwhelmed and the water had diverted down the road. With the volume of water coming down it caused the road to wash away until it turned back down over the bank.
Unfortunately it most certainly will not be possible for snowmobiles or skiers to use this in the winter. I would seriously doubt that the state of NH or Feds will be spending time repairing that road with everything else they have to do right now. And I gotta say, fixing this will not be trivial!
Surprisingly enough, in spite of being less than 200' from the river, the house up there escaped completely unscathed! We had nothing better to do, so we decided to keep on going all the way to the end of the road. There are a couple of large bridges, neither of which showed any signs of damage. As I rode across one bridge I spotted 2 objects on the railing. Check it out:
There has to be a story here. A recent can of Spam and a electronic car key…go figure!
There was one place up higher at a bend in the river where the force of the water had straightened out the course. Huge trees were smashed and tossed like the proverbial matchsticks and giant boulder had obviously been tossed around as well. It was quite the display of power.
Continuing all the way to the top, the road looked just fine to us. The hour ride uphill only took 10 minutes or so on the way down. With the exception of the washout, it was just as sweet as the XC-ski downhill in the winter. If this road isn't repaired this winter I will really miss using it in the winter, as I am sure many folks will.
There is a definite difference the higher you get in the rate we're moving toward fall. Check out this swamp maple that's darn close to peak!
I went up again this afternoon with another buddy, this time on road bikes to have a look at the Notch and Willies Slide. My understanding from a local Ranger was that a landslide had come down off Willies and blocked the road causing the folks at Notchland and Hart's Location to be trapped for a day or two.
As before we parked near the Road Closed barricade in Bartlett. A lot of the debris that had been in the road near Sawyer Rock had been cleared and the road swept off. When we got to the bridge we were both amazed by how much work had been done. The temporary span had been extended almost all the way over the river. The workmen had been working 10 hour days every day and would be doing so until it was completed. Everyone we spoke with understood the importance of getting the road passable as soon as possible. No one wanted to make a hard prediction, but 2 weeks seemed to be a number that was reasonable. I know everyone that uses the road hopes that is the case. Here are some pictures of the bridge as they were just rolling it over to the far side. It was pretty cool…
We checked out the suspension bridge that we all use in the winter to get over to Texaco and it appeared to be just fine. There was some damage to the parking lot, but it wasn't too bad. I saw some folks sitting outside at the country store and campground on the right near Texaco and pulled over to chat. One of them was Bill King, the man who lives in the house at the Arethusa Falls parking area. I've chatted with him many times over the years and he is a nice guy. He said that everything was fine on the Falls trail, except for one tree that was down. He also said that there was apparently one bridge out up on the Dry River Trail, but he hadn't personally seen it. He pointed out a bunch of places where the Saco had jumped its banks and made a mess. The campground had sustained quite a bit of damage but they were hoping to be running again soon.
Up at the Dry River Campground the road was a mess. It had been eroded on the sides and there was damage everywhere. Road crews were working hard to stabilize things and again, everyone we spoke to was optimistic about getting things passable by foliage season. Further up by the pond and ranger station below the Webster Cliffs there were tourists and the snack shop was open. I spoke to a Ranger and he said that there had been fairly minimal damage up there. I looked up around the slabs and really couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, other than lots of water running off everything.
Although I had heard about the landslide at Willies, frankly we couldn't see anything. There were some problems right by the Willie trailhead, but it seemed just like all the other water damage. We asked several workers if then knew about any landslide and they all said no. Interestingly enough several of the workers had come down from Canada to help out.
Further up into the actual Notch, there was surprisingly little damage. There was some small road problems between the two Cascades on the right, going up, but it wasn't too serious. The top of the Notch was fine and Elephant Head looked perfectly normal for this time of year.
I have hopes that the roads will be passable before the October foliage is upon us. Economically it would be a real drag for the whole region to loose that part of our season. And let's all cross our fingers that we don't have any more tropical storms come through this fall. After all we're only in the middle of hurricane season.
A few days ago I revised the BugCON rating to a 1. as far as the mosquitoes have been, it's pretty darn close to bugless. However, the past couple of days I have seen a sharp increase in the deerfly population. Every time we stopped for more than a few minutes up in Crawford Notch, they would swarm around us. They aren't everywhere, but wherever they are they are exceedingly annoying…
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Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
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Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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