Monday Oct. 30th, 2017. The rain gauge filled for the second time in 24 hours. With relentless howling, the 60 mph gusts of wind find their way through the cracks of windows and doors. The lamp flickers one last gasp of light before fading to dark. My phone, which is perpetually on silent, grabs my attention with an unfamiliar series of rings and tones. Flash flood warning for the next 5 hours. This was not your average storm cell.
It wasn’t until the day broke and the rain subsided that the extent of the damage was fully realized. We would later find out that in some areas of the White Mountains a total of 5 inches of rain had fallen, bringing the river 14 feet higher than average for the season. On my way to work my jaw drops as I drive over the East Branch of the Saco River. Waves are lapping inches under the overpass. I had never seen the river so high in my entire life.
The awesome power of the river was a mesmerizing flow of beauty and terror. I see a 60 foot hemlock, with the root ball still attached, sailing down the river at full speed as I get into my car. I don’t make it very far. The Jackson Fire Department was stopping cars headed up NH Route 16. The road was closed to Gorham and the Ellis River was lapping at the edge of the road near the Dana Place. Route 302 was shut down indefinitely south of the AMC Highland Center.
By Tuesday, the trail reports start coming in all across the Whites. Fifty-eight trees are down on the Willard Trail, Valley Way was unpassable, and Nauman Tentsite was buried under a sea of firs. As stewards of the trail we knew what we had to do; clear the way. With nearly all of the AMC seasonal employees gone for the fall, this responsibility fell on the few of us who were still left. With freshly sharpened axes and chainsaws we started tackling the reported damaged areas. The amount of blown down trees and trail erosion rivaled that of Hurricane Irene in 2011. Crawford Notch was one of the worst affected areas.
Although it will be a long road to full recovery, we are doing the best we can to clear the trails and tentsites and render them safe and passable. Nauman Tentsite, just south of Mount Pierce, was probably damaged the most. It now appears almost unrecognizable, with over 50 blown down tress, many of which still have their 5 foot rootballs attached to them.
With the exception of this brand spankin’ new 2017 bear box that took a direct hit on the hinge, rendering it sealed for eternity, the infrastructure at Nauman has held up. The privy and platforms, although taking some direct hits themselves, are all intact and accessible. The site has been cleared and is currently open for use. As of now, the Willard Trail, Avalon to the Appalachian Trail, 19 Mile, the majority of Carter Dome, and the Crawford Path have all been cleared. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we tackle the clean-up of this severe storm. If you would like to help support our relief work, please donate to our trail crews.