Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire

October 2011 -Drainage ditch / Stone steps along the Mount Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. The area on the left is in the process of collapsing.  After a trail inspection by Forest Service in June 2012, they (FS) stepped in and took control of ongoing work along this trail. It has been suggested this erosion issue will need to be corrected by a professional trail crew.
October 2011 – New completed stonework / hillside stands out
 

Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire – Today I hiked the Mt Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley to photograph a section of fairly new stonework. In October of 2011 I was asked to photograph this work, and at the time I questioned the quality of work, so I have continued to photograph it. The included photos show that the hillside is collapsing, and the steps are not holding up. This section will need to be maintained indefinitely or properly fixed.

July 2012 - Stone steps along the Mount Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. Less than year after being installed and this length of staircase is fallen part. The hillside (left-hand side of the staircase) continues to collapse and erode. After a trail inspection by Forest Service in June 2012, they (FS) stepped in and took control of ongoing work along this trail. It has been suggested this erosion issue will need to be corrected by a professional trail crew.
July 2012 Completed Steps – No fill used to reinforce stones / hillside collapsing
 

I contacted Forest Service, and they said they are not doing any stone projects along the Mt Tecumseh Trail, and that all their focus is on trails damaged by Tropical Storm Irene. They also said volunteers are not supposed to be doing major stonework projects along adopted trails. Forest Service instructs volunteers to do only light trail maintenance. To date, no one has claimed responsibility for this section of stonework.

October 2012 - Stone steps along the Mount Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. One year after being installed and this length of staircase is falling apart. The hillside (left-hand side) continues to collapse and erode. After a trail inspection by Forest Service in June 2012, they (FS) stepped in and took control of ongoing work along this trail. It has been suggested this erosion issue will need to be corrected by a professional trail crew.
October 2012 Completed Steps – Cleaned up for appearances / hillside collapsing
 

I decided to continue up the Mt Tecumseh Trail (beyond the above steps). And I was blown away when I came to the below 150 feet +/- staircase. This section of steps was not here on my last visit! The spacing of some steps seems off, and a handful are loose, which makes ascending and descending them a little awkward. And the footpath is only a foot wide in places. Hikers who meet in this section can not properly pass one another without one of them having to step on to the loose rocks that have been placed on the sides of the staircase.

October 2012 - Stone steps along the Mount Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
October 2012 section of new endless steps – 8 foot wide hiking corridor, and now only 2 feet is usable  
 

The most intriguing stone structures on this trail are the open stone culverts (waterbars) that have been built along it. Some of them have been built in areas along the trail (below) that had no drainage problems to begin with. And they appear to serve no purpose or benefit the trail.

Mt Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Open Stone Culvert (waterbar) – Mt Tecumseh Trail
 

Trail stewardship groups promote that the best trails should show little evidence of trail work. I think some of the stonework along the Tecumseh Trail is unneeded, unnatural looking, and is bad for the trail. It is not the quality craftsmanship Forest Service has become known for doing in the White Mountains.

Why is a trail not impacted (for the most part) by Tropical Storm Irene receiving so much construction when there is a shortage of workers to repair trails damaged by Irene? This stonework seems a little out of control.

Happy image making..


 

Notes

My reportage of issues on Mt Tecumseh has upset a small circle of hikers. These hikers all have a connection to Tecumseh, and since reporting these issues to Forest Service, they have been bad mouthing my business. I know none of these hikers or the persons working this trail. And no matter what is said on social media, the imagery tells the story.

The information included in this article is based on leave no trace principals, low-impact trail building practices, and information from Forest Service. (04/2018) udpated the notes.

License any of the above images for usage in publications by clicking on the image.

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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