Bootleg (unauthorized) trails are an ongoing problem throughout the WMNF. One such route that connects with the WODC trail system is the abandoned Passaconaway Slide Trail, which was discontinued sometime after 1940.
This sign was discovered at the base of the Slide Trail in 1997, and the route was found to have been recently cleared and re-marked with axe blazes and spray paint.
The sign bears a logo or initials that appear to be the superimposed letters "T" and "S". This and other signs have been removed by the US Forest Service, including a trail description from a circa 1940 AMC Guide, which was laminated between two sheets of 1/4 inch plexiglas and bolted to a tree.
From Downes Brook, the Slide Trail ascends over steep, wet ledges (the "slide") to the Passaconaway Outlook, which is at the far right of this 1997 photo. The trail was marked throughout with axe blazes plus white and silver spray paint, as shown in this photo. The lid of a spray paint can was found nailed to a tree.
Also visible in the photo is the back of another sign (shown below) which was removed by the WODC in 1997.
The Passaconaway Outlook is normally reached by an authorized WODC side-trail from the top of Passaconaway. It is marked by a small "View" sign where it leaves the Walden Trail, and is quite popular due to the wonderful outlook. Before 1997, the side-trail clearly ended at the outlook, and most hikers would retrace their steps back to the top of Passaconaway. Only a few well-informed bush-whackers (after considerable research and preparation) would push through the dense brush to explore the hidden remnants of the abandoned Slide Trail below.
This changed in 1997, when the unauthorized clearing, blazing, and signage encouraged less-prepared hikers to attempt this shorter route back to the "Kanc." But few hikers would have any knowledge of the steep ledges below, which are wet and treacherous at best. Nor would they anticipate the damage caused by the increasing number of hikers descending the steep moss-covered slopes. And if they were injured, how would family or rescuers know where to look, especially if they slid down the ledge, out of sight of the trail?
The Slide Trail was abandoned not from neglect, but for good reasons. While we all share an appreciation for this wild and historic route, it is both fragile and hazardous, and is suitable for only very light use by a few well-prepared bush-whackers.
During the summer of 2002, the USFS has devoted significant efforts to obscuring the blazing so as to prevent accidental use by uninformed hikers. The USFS has officially closed and posted the trail, making any further maintenance a violation punishable by a $5000 fine.
We ask any would-be maintainers to direct their energies to the many authorized trails in the WMNF that could truly benefit from their efforts, and leave this pristine place for others to enjoy as they first found it. Anyone who would like to see this trail reopened or maintained is urged to follow the same planning and approval process required for any new trail in the WMNF. While sometimes cumbersome, these measures are essential to the protection of our safety and natural resources.
Peter Smart, WODC Trails Chairperson
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