Sunday, February 15, 2009

The slide, shown in this picture taken in October 1974, launched from the Garfield Ridge either on August 19th 1954 in Hurricane Carol or on August 19th 1955 in Hurricane Diane. I don’t have enough data at present to say in which storm it occurred. Both hurricanes dumped an enormous amount of rain in New England. Diana is remembered as one of the “wettest” tropical storms to ever hit New England. At any rate, on the day the slide occurred a hutmen, and I think it was a young man by the name of Parker Blatchford nicknamed “Parkie”, had gone down the mountain to meet the truck trip at the base of the pack trail (The Gale River Trail). The truck driver informed Parkie (there were no radios in the huts in those days.) that a hurricane was causing all the rain. Parkie hitched a ride into town with the truck and then returned to the pack house about two hours later, loaded his pack board and headed back up to the hut.

Just below 2nd crossing he heard a roar, saw a wall of water heading towards him, dropped his pack board and climbed a nearby tree getting hit with the wall of water in the process. He was able to hold on and climb high enough to get out of the hydraulic pressure. In a short time the water level dropped. He couldn’t find his pack board, it was getting dark and he headed up to the hut. As he came up the trail, at one point, he stepped out onto the immense track of the slide, a 100 yards wide and extending a half mile up the mountain to the ridge (above photo), that had come down between the time he packed down and when he began packing back up to the hut. It looked as though the slide had gone all the way across the river and dammed it up temporarily. There was so much water backed up by the slide that it burst through the dam in a few hours sending the flood down the valley.

Parkie found several overnight guests at the hut when he go back who had arrived during his absence and were shaken by the severity of the storm. Several windows were broken from the wind and it was pouring buckets of water. End of story. Now, when I tell this story at gatherings there are a number of people who take issue with it, Bob Cary being one of those. Cary worked in the huts at the time and says it definitely wasn’t Parkie that was on the trail that day but he can’t say who it was. I wasn’t around then so I haven’t a clue, just the way I first heard the story. It’s a good story and I kinda like the name Parkie. We’ll worry about the details later.

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