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Thread: Geyser-like spring on Mt Equinox

  1. #1
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    Geyser-like spring on Mt Equinox

    Many years ago I bushwhacked up Mt Equinox (southern Vermont). I had never climbed the mountain, just had a topo and went for it. I was aware there was a summit road but its location was inconvenient to my starting point in the town of Manchester. The bushwhacking was pleasant, and fairly high up on the east side I ran into something interesting. There was a spring of water coming out of the mountain side, but not as a seepage or flow. The water projected constantly into the air like a miniature geyser. The water was cold and did not spurt straight up in the air, but more at an angle perpendicular to the slope. Today, so many years later, I can't be sure how high the water went into the air, but several feet I should think. Quite a sight and so unexpected.

    A year or two later I returned to Equinox by the same route, looking forward to passing 'geyser spring' on the way up. But I was rudely disappointed. The spring no longer projected into the air, but simply flowed out and down the side of the mountain. There were trenches around the spring, which I interpreted as the work of somebody digging, trying to discover the secret of the projectile effect. But in the digging the phenomenon was lost, and now it was just an ordinary spring.

    I've wondered whatever happened to that spring. Does anyone know its history? Has anyone seen it in recent years? Are there photos of it exhibiting the "geyser" behavior?

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    Senior Member Chugach001's Avatar
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    Not familiar with this at all but very familiar with EQX. My best guess is that it was a seasonal flow and that the outward/upward projection was gravity fed pressure as opposed to a geyser. I know of several area springs that flow heartily, if not actually upward into the air, in Spring and then settle down to trickles in summer. I have one on my land that shoots out horizontally out of a steep hill. 100 yards above it a seasonal creek swells in melt-season then "disappears" or goes underground and comes out here. The pressure is purely driven by that 100 yard drop between where it enters and exits the earth.

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    There used to be a similar "drinking fountain" near the top of the Owls Head slide years ago, the spring was still there during my last trips but the water wasn't jetting out. I expect the prior posters speculation that it is seasonal is probably the best explanation. I think there also may be one quite high on Hamlin Ridge Trail at BSP.

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    Senior Member Hillwalker's Avatar
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    The volume of water shooting out of the base of Castle Ravine is pretty impressive. Especially if during descending the ravine you can hear the water running underneath your feet almost all the way down. On a hot summer day when you are out of water, it is pretty siren like.

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    I contacted Rick LaDue, Forest and Trails Steward of the Equinox Preservation Trust. The trust protects 914 acres on the east side of Mount Equinox. Rick was fairly certain the spring I visited those many years ago is what is called Upper Spring. It is located just off the Blue Summit Trail. For a map of Equinox trails go here: http://equinoxpreservationtrust.org/mapdown.php

    Rick was unable to locate any historical information as to whether the spring used to spout into the air. He told me the spring has the most copious flow of any on the east side of the mountain, with flow highest from October to June. It does ebb during the summer months unless there is above average rainfall. In the decade he has worked with the Trust, he has seen the flow reduced to a trickle only once. The spring is currently covered by a concrete sarcophagus with water flowing out of a 12-inch PVC pipe. Here is a photo of Upper Spring provided by Rick.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    散步 Sanbu

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    Senior Member Papa Bear's Avatar
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    I climbed Equinox in June of 2003 and that spring was flowing strongly. I labeled the picture "Upper Spring" so that name was in use at the time. Here's my report: Mount Equinox: June 25, 2003. I used the Green Moumntain Club's "Day Hikers Guide to Vermont" which describes the spring as "Gushing" I quote from my report:

    (the Guide said) you could hear the spring from the trail junction - and you could. I took the short walk over to check this out and sure enough it was not just gushing, but literally cascading out of the side of the mountain. Someone had put a pipe into the side of the hill to channel the spring, perhaps to control erosion, and with the water flowing out of the pipe at least 10 feet through the air, it looked like a water main that had burst. If you hike this hike, by all means check this out.

    And here's the picture:



    It seemed to be well known and documented at the time.

    Addendum In just reread my report and discovered an album from the day. And what do you know but there was this sign on the B & B trail:



    So the circle is complete: just follow the B&B trail from the Equinox Hotel and watch for this sign.
    Last edited by Papa Bear; 06-20-2016 at 08:32 AM.
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    Papa Bear, wonderful apropos photos. Also want to say when planning my own hikes, I've benefited from your trip reports. Hearty thanks!
    散步 Sanbu

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    Cavers take an interest in springs. Why? Because they give hints as to what lies beneath. I asked John of the Vermont Cavers Association for any info he has on the spring. Here is his response:

    "...depending on which part of the east side you were bushwhacking on, you may have encountered any of a dozen large springs, but the upper spring is probably the only one that would count as halfway up. There is one other, downstream in the same gully, that might be what you saw as well. Both springs are capped now and the water is diverted for use elsewhere, and I expect the digging you saw was related to installation of the caps. In order to cap a spring, you have to dig down far enough to contain the flow, and the other one I'm thinking of has a concrete cap on it now. It's also possible that natural erosion caused something."

    "All of that said, I'm not surprised to hear of either spring spouting into the air, especially if you visited after a few days of heavy rain or after the mountain had seen a particularly heavy thunderstorm (I know from experience that Equinox is a magnet for powerful storms!). Most springs in Vermont are occluded with debris, which means that their diameter is only sufficient for normal flow, but not high flow. In many cases there are overflow springs developed nearby that only flow in high water. In this case, both springs are artesian, so they are pumping up from a buried outlet or aquifer. Given the geology of the mountain, I suspect both are fed by major cave systems rather than deep aquifers, and I have seen many cave springs behaving as you describe this one did (though not quite as aggressively) when heavy rain drains into the rock and then backs up at the outlet. These systems are deep and inaccessible conduits, and could easily have hundreds or thousands of feet of passages that fill with water after unusually heavy rain events, all creating strong pressure at the outlet. That's my best guess as to what you saw."
    散步 Sanbu

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    If that is the piped spring off the burr and burton trail, I've seen it both exploding and at a trickle as well. I was disappointed the second time because it had been so spectacular the first, but I supposed it had to do with rainfall.

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