July 3, 2016.
The plan was to hike the Tripyramids today with Phil and Jen, yesterday it was supposed to be Jefferson but the high winds nixed that plan, via Sabbaday Brook Trail and they were going to head down Pine Bend Brook Trail. This would be a perfect opportunity to get some new trails and spend some time with them. They needed North and Middle Tripyramid for their 48 Four Thousand Footers and I needed Sabbaday Brook Trail. Also this would give me the chance to get the rest of Kate Sleeper Trail as we would go our separate ways at Middle Tri. I have been wanting to get to the Sleepers to see the damage wreaked by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. Unfortunately Phil and Jen would have to cancel but I did not let that deter me from heading up and the plan stayed as is.
Arriving at the Sabbaday Brook Trail off the Kancamagus and by 7:30 my boots are on the trail. Usually this place is packed due to how close Sabbaday Falls are to the parking lot but this early I have the whole place to myself. The trail is a wide handicap accessible path up to the falls which only takes a few minutes to reach. A left off the trail leads down to the pool at the bottom of the falls.
There are two sets of falls here with one visible at the bottom through a gorge that was gouged out through the years by the water. The upper one is hidden until you climb up along the gorge and it is perpendicular to the gorge.
A few more minutes putzing around and down and back up the section of trail that I missed coming down to the falls. Beyond the top of the falls and the trail becomes normal with Sabbaday Brook off to my left. Just a short distance up the trail and the first of many crossings for the day. The water levels are still very low due to the wicked dry summer so the crossings are easily handled.
Eventually the trail passes into the Sandwich Range Wilderness area and the trail follows an old logging road bed from a long ago era. Sabbaday Brook Trail is a gentle walk through some of the quietest woods and being out early brings even more solitude. Deep in the valley the trail turns to follow Sabbaday Brook and the first (at least the first one I noticed) strange markings on a rock at one of the crossings. It almost looks like someone is putting mileage numbers along the trail and highly inappropriate.
Heading up the valley between the Fool Killer and Middle Tripyramid the trail is still a gentle climb but becomes more wild and in some spots gnarly. Evidence of the 2012 Hurricane Irene damage is evident at one of the crossings. On the opposite banking another stone with numbers painted on it.
Reaching the hairpin turn the trail continues up the contour until it reaches an old slide where the trail turns up and some really steep climbing begins on open slab. Partway up I can hear someone coming up behind me and it is a trail runner I had seen earlier down in the valley. He stops as I asked him what happened to him and he told me he got lost down below. The climb continues up and steep as any trail in the Whites.
It's only a short climb but a leg killer as it slowly leads up to the junction with Mt Tripyramid Trail.
Heading south to Middle Tripyramid and it is only a bit over ten minutes and the first outlook just below the summit with views to the west. Across the way is Tecumseh with the ski trails of Waterville Valley etched into its side. Moosilauke is in the back and the Osceolas to the right. To my left is the next destination of the day, South Tripyramid.
A few steps up the trail and the first crowds of the day as there is a small group on Middle Tri. There are limited views from here with Chocorua in the back with nearby Passaconaway being attacked by a black fly. Through the thick growth I can see Whiteface where I will be climbing down in front of via Downes Brook Trail.
It's a little after eleven and a good time to stop and take a break for some food and water. More people come and go as I sit there and after a good half hour it is time to move on and get away from the busy little summit. I forgot how steep some parts of the trail are coming down off of Middle Tri but the col in between is a great little spot for some easy hiking. Partway up South Tri there is a spot where some views can be had that I remembered from this past winter. The bonus is a shot of Mt Washington beyond the shoulder of Middle Tripyramid.
I even get a good look at Franconia Ridge and the huge scar that leads down into Lincoln Brook valley. It is only ten minutes to get to the wooded summit of South Tripyramid from Middle and there is no reason to stop here.
Heading down the trail and it is steep almost immediately first through a wooded section then breaking out at the top of the slide for some views.
The rocky outcroppings of Welch and Dickey are across the valley to the right. Right in front of me is Sandwich Dome and Jennings Peak.
The junction for the Kate Sleeper Trail is not far down the slabby and bouldery slide but it is slow meticulous steps on the steep terrain. The entrance is off to the my left and enters into the woods that line the side of the slide. The original plan was to do this trail back in November but the weather turned on me that day and I opted not to do it. Today is a beautiful day and besides redlining this trail the main goal is I want to see the devastation that Sandy wrought back in 2012
A few minutes down the level trail and coming to an opening I take in the last of the views for the day. I am at the edge of another slide, this let loose back in 1885. I assumed I would be crossing straight across the slide but instead it angles down to get the maximum exposure. A little care is needed as I make my way down and across especially at a few of the turns along the way. At the opposite end the trail re-enters the woods for good and this is the sweet part of Kate Sleeper Trail.
It's a great walk through the woods gently climbing. First through a fern lined trail on the way to the indistinct summit of West Sleeper. The relaxing walk continues along the way to East Sleeper.
The first signs of damage from Hurricane Sandy, That came rolling through back in 2012, can be seen at the junction with the spur trail that leads to the high point for East Sleeper. The spur trail is a short winding path that ends at the viewless summit of East Sleeper marked only by a sign and a small cairn.
Back at the trail and the amazing strength of Mother Nature is just a tease to what is awaiting me further up the trail. A few more minutes up the trail and a section that is left untouched which I find quite odd. It is strange how this small patch survived the devastation yet on either side is complete annihilation.
Words can not begin to describe what happened out here let alone the pictures. It is something you have to see for yourself to grasp the enormity of the destruction. I'll let the video do all my talking for me.
Below is the image from Google Earth showing the flattened areas and the trails path.
What is more amazing is due to this being in the Wilderness area the trails had to cleared with hand tools only...no chainsaws! After taking my time through this area, and quite a few pictures, I reach the junction with Downes Brook Trail. Now I swore to myself that I would never set foot on this trail ever again after my trip through here back in December of 2011. There are ten crossings of Downes Brook and back then I was trying to get out of the woods before dark. On top of it there was snow on the ground and every crossing was tricky due to the slippery icy rock hops. So here I am and in a better frame of mind I set off giving Downes Brook another shot. Only one problem. Where is the beginning of the trail? I poke around the jumbled mess and finally find the trail making the first crossing of the little Downes Brook. Little up here but as I descend it grows picking up speed with each crossing.
Working my way down I begin a new appreciation for this trail and I realize it is all about conditions and mindset. There are some rocky sections and some smooth runs and for the most part a gentle grade leading down to the Kancamagus. The crossings tick off one by one and all easy helped by the drought conditions we are experiencing this year. After the sixth crossing there is a dry brook bed that comes in from the right and someone has taken the time to build a stone wall along its edge. I have a feeling that this is the brook bed that leads to the old abandoned slide trail, Downes Brook Slide Trail, up to Passaconaway. A check later on and my guess is confirmed.
Through a rerouted section which I have no recollection of and the rest of the way out is uneventful. Since leaving Middle Tripyramid I saw no one else on the trails. I finally got to see the devastation up on Kate Sleeper Trail that has eluded me for various reasons. And I have a new found respect for Downes Brook Trail. Don't worry Daniel Webster Scout Trail and Watson Path both of you are definitely never coming off my "Don't Ever Hike Again" list!
Final numbers: 15 miles, 9 hours and 35 minutes.
Redline Miles: 7.5, Total to Date: 1147.4