Trail Work Erosion, White Mountains

October 2011 - Newly installed stonework along the Mt Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. After an inspection by FS in June 2012, it has been suggested this issue (large holes on left) will need to be corrected by a professional trail crew. In less than one year the hillside is collapsing and the stonework is not holding up. See here: http://bit.ly/1qY9GZY.
October 2011 – New Stonework, Mt Tecumseh Trail
 

Trail Work Erosion, White Mountains – The included images show how a section of the Mt Tecumseh Trail in the New Hampshire White Mountains has elapsed over time. The first two images are from October 2011 and the last image is from October 2017. The intent of this visual journal is to record the progression of hillside erosion on the left-hand side of the trail and to document how this section of trail holds up to foot traffic.

I am using a technique known as photo monitoring to document this section of trail. Photo monitoring consists of repeat photography of an area over a period of time. Photo monitoring is used in land management to help recognize issues that are not immediately obvious from one or two visits to a location. The ending result is a permanent visual record and journal that showcases the environmental changes of a particular location.

October 2011 - Newly installed stonework along the Mt Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. The Mount Tecumseh Trail is a great hiker for all ages and is best enjoyed early in the morning and during the autumn season.
October 2011 – New Stonework, Mt Tecumseh Trail
 

Based on communications with Forest Service, it is believed this length of stone staircase was built in 2011. Above is how the section of trail looked in October 2011. No hillside erosion was visible on the left-hand side.

July 2012 - Stone steps along the Mount Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Hiking is a great way to stay in shape and to explore the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
July 2012 – Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire
 

In July 2012, the hillside erosion was noticeable, and the stonework also looked to be in shambles. After just ten months, there was a considerable amount of hillside erosion. Enough to make me a little concerned.

October 2013 - Mt Tecumseh Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Waterville Valley is known for great hiking, skiing and family fun.
September 2013 – Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire
 

In September 2013, the hillside erosion was very noticeable and continued to progress up the hillside. And the stonework appeared to have been worked on since July 2012.

August 2014 - Stone work along the Mount Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire USA during the summer months.
August 2014 – Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire
 

In August 2014, the hillside erosion continued and rain water that runs down the drainage, on the left-hand side, looked to be under-mining some of the stonework. I couldn’t help but wonder if the eroding hillside is going to impact the trees on the left side of the trail at some point. And how is this section going to look in ten years?

August 2015 - Hillside erosion near stone work on Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire during the summer months.
August 2015 – Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire
 

In August 2015, the hillside (left side) looked to still have erosion problems, and when compared to the 2014 image, it appears the stonework has been worked on again. This section of stonework has been worked on every year since it was built in 2011. I wonder if this section will survive a massive rain event.

May 2016 - Hillside erosion along the Mt Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire during the spring month of May.
May 2016 – Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire
 

In May 2016, the hillside (left side) looked to still have erosion problems. And it seems like a faint herd path, from hikers avoiding the first five steps, might be forming on the right-hand side of the steps. Personally, I find these steps a little awkward to go up and down, so I am not surprised hikers are trying to avoid them.

October 2017 - Hillside erosion along the Mt Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire during the spring month of October.
October 2017 – Mt Tecumseh Trail, New Hampshire
 

In October 2017, because of the leaf drop, it is hard to determine if the staircase has been worked on again and the state of the eroding hillside (left side). And it is also hard to determine if the faint herd path that was starting to form on the right-hand side of the steps, from hikers avoiding the first five steps, has worsened. However, this imagery does show how this section of trail has changed over the last 6 years.

One of the purposes of doing stonework along a trail is to prevent and control erosion, not create more erosion issues. And this is the reason why I don’t think this work is sustainable or good for the trail. You can view more photos from this section of trail here. And you can watch the full screen visual presentation (slideshow) here.

I am a big fan of photo monitoring, mainly because of the visual record it creates. This particular visual journal stands on its own, and only a small amount of commentary is needed. And it gives good reason to promote environmental friendly trail work.

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.

This page is periodically updated (04/2018) with new information. The information included in this blog article is based on leave no trace principals, low-impact trail building practices, and information from Forest Service.

All of the above photos can be licensed for publications by clicking on the photo.

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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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