Abandoned Downes Brook (Passaconaway) Slide Trail

Date of Hike: 9/12/10

Downes Brook Trail: 2.0 miles
Downes Brook Slide Trail: 2.0 miles
Walden Trail: .7 miles
Square Ledge Trail: .7 miles
Passaconaway Cutoff: 1.7 miles
Oliverian Brook Trail: 1.9 miles
Kancamagus Highway: 1.0 miles
Total Miles: 10 miles (3,800 elevation gain)


Trip Report:
- One of my favorite things to research in the White Mountains are abandoned trails.  I'm fascinated about where these trails where, when they were last hiked, why they were closed, can they be found, and how hike-able they are. This summer I have been lucky enough to hike a couple of lost trails such as the Mount Hale Trail (AKA Fire Warden's Trail) although this one is so well traveled it's in better shape than some still in use trails.  Also, I was lucky enough to hike up the Adams Slide Trail which was a wicked challenge and wicked steep!
- Next on the List was the Downes Brook Slide Trail (AKA the Passaconaway Slide Trail).  It was abandoned in the 1940's because of hazardous footing on steep slippery ledges, when in use it came with a warning of "This trail is dangerous, especially after a rain, and is not recommended to amateur climbers." 1940 AMC White Mountain Guide.  Hopefully I would get some good weather and be able to hike up the slide and get some great views.
- However, when I woke up Sunday morning at Camp Dodge I was surprised to see such crummy weather considering that the forecast called for starting in the clear and trending towards cloudy with a chance of showers. 
- As I headed down Route 16 to 302 and over Bear Notch Road I was holding out hope that the weather was just crummy in the Presidentials but would better in the Sandwich Range Wilderness.  Unfortunately it wasn't as it started to rain a little bit.
- I was pretty bummed out but I decided to at least hike down the Downes Brook Trail and locate the slide and check it out so I at least knew where it was.
- While researching where the Downes Brooke Slide Trail branched off from the regular Downes Brook Trail, I found that the 1922 AMC Guidebook said it was 2.0 miles from the Old Swift River House (where the Kanc is now).  Low and behold it was just about on the money as there was a huge rock washout and as you looked up you could see the beginning of the slide.
- Within a hundred feet, at the foot of the slide, there is a sign posted on a tree warning that this is an unauthorized trail, public use of these lands is welcome but trail maintenance on the slide is against the law.  Apparently about a dozen or so years ago someone went in and cleared out the old trail and blazed it. (Click here for more details)
- As soon as I stepped on the slide it started to rain so I was only going to hike until it got to dangerous. 
- The Slide itself starts off not too steep over slab, the old bootleg blazes have been removed from the rocks but you can still see where they where albeit washed out. The bootleg blazes have also been removed from the trees by what seems to be some sort of acid material that burned the trees making them ooze black goo where the blazes once were.  Instead of white bootleg blazes you have black scabby blazes!
- I continued to follow the bootleg blazes and only lost the trail a for a minute or two here and there.  I wish that the weather was better because I was missing out on some killer views and could have explored more of the slide itself if it wasn't wet.
- As for myself I decided to keep on going, I was totally soaked from head to toe.  Every time the trail went to the side of the slide into the woods I would just get more wet if that's even possible!
- At no point did I ever feel that this trail was extremely dangerous, being very careful of ciurse, as I was able to hike up in the rain.  The Steepest part of the trail is the last .3 miles which runs strait up in the woods below the outlook.
- Once at the summit I changed into dry clothes, and just booked it down the north side of Mount Passaconway to the Kanc and walked back to my car.  The whole day I didn't see one person on the trails which made sense because it was a miserable day in the high 40's to low 50's with no views.
- I wonder if the bootleg trail was able to follow the original trail the whole way or if I was missing out on something.  I'll definitely come back next summer when it's been dry out for a week to see if there's more fun to be had on the Downes Brook Passaconaway Slide!

Pictures: Click here for all Pictures

Looking down the start of the Downes  Brook Slide Trail
Downes Brook Slide
On the Downes Brook Slide
Heading into the woods

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