Salty's Dartmouth Trip Reports


Hiking Dates



Date Climbed: 03/24/2012

Distance: 10.6 miles

Low Elevation: 1673 feet
High Elevation: 3743 feet
Elevation Gain: 2992 feet
Elevation Loss: 2700 feet

Start Location: Base Station Road below Upper Falls
Finish Location: Base Station Road near gravel pit
Route: Ski trail, bushwhack at 20 degrees until turning west to 1026 meter bump, up to Mt. Deception, somewhat north then up ridge to E. Deception, down north to around 3200' and slab to Dartmouth col. Up ridge to summit, WSW then SE to Halfway Brook tributary to woods road to Base Station Road. Walked to near gravel pit.

Weather: Overcast to partly sunny, little wind, 40s-50s
Companions: NewHampshire, HardcoreIdiot


After a week of 70 and 80's around here, it was time to begin the whacking season. We were in high hopes that most of the snow was gone, and we chose Deception, and maybe Dartmouth for Greg if all turned out well. This was a good choice, as it was generally unaffected by road closures, south facing, and if conditions sucked, Deception was attainable enough. Brian and Greg's report of a nearly snow free roadside a couple weeks ago gave some hope that it wouldn't suck. Brian and I had plans to do Deception when we did Dartmouth, but due to heat and tons of house flies (yes, house flies) pestering us the entire way, we skipped it. I wanted to do this from the east, but with Cherry Mtn. Road being closed, we'd have to deal with reported blowdowns, and getting up to a ridge that looks horrible on Google Earth. Suck it up, cupcake.

I had spied a road going up, and another going down, cutting down on the whacking distance. We parked at the western one and set off, while I noticed horrible blowdowns in the area, good thing we didn't have to deal with that (ha ha, read on...). We layered down quickly, even though it was only around 30 first thing in the morning. This was actually a ski trail, and as it turned west, the guys noticed a easterly trail back a ways. We backtracked, only then I realized they were looking at a loop trail which wouldn't help much. We backtracked again a bit, and set off in hardwood sapling woods which opened up quickly. It was a surprisingly steep climb to start, so we stopped a fair bit, but thanks to open winter woods, we got some views, including the southern Presi's.

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Mt. Deception has a reportedly great viewpoint, but in the interest in maximizing our chances for getting Dartmouth so he didn't have to come back, we decided we'd save that for another day, so I was operating off of a 20 degree bearing to the east peak. As we kept hitting steep ledgey parts we'd have to diverge around, memories of Cushman came to mind. God, I hope not. That was a miserable ridge. As we got higher the softwoods took over, but the going was still great. Finally the grade lessened to really easy going. We nailed a blowdown field, but this was just a minor annoyance.

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Brian found a nice little view on a small ledge into the notch. Geez, this was going a little too well. We were drifting towards Deception itself, and it finally got to the point we said screw it, might as well check it out. When we got up, it was tight stick woods, and I was perplexed at where the hell the view could be, it was totally dark, closed in woods. Then we realized the issue. We weren't on Deception, we were on the southwest sub-bump. Oops. Miscommunication. They thought this bump was the views, I thought this was Deception. OK, no problem, a little diversion. We hit the bump col and immediately ran into the woods I dread more than anything. Young fir/spruce with blowdowns. Granted, it wasn't as bad as NW Crystal, but it was slow going. Worse, I was the only one to bring shoes (I swore I'd never get in a bad situation again without them), so they'd get hung up and my top pack strap would choke me. Over and over again. Sigh. Chug, chug, plug, plug away at it.

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Greg was ahead, and I could hear him proclaiming how much I was going to like this, so I knew we were finally there. Then Brian said much the same. Problem was getting to where they were 30 feet ahead of me was a bitch. Finally I got up there, and Brian says, “turn around!” “No. I want to get higher.” “No, really, turn around!” Sigh. Fine. “Oh!!!!” One of the best whacking views I've seen, including a unique view of Crawford Notch and the entire Presi range (well, without Madison).

I'll never forget the brilliant comment by someone who basically said “there's no views on bushwhacks, because all the views have trails to them.” Speak not of which you know nothing of. OK, actually there used to be a trail up here way back when, but trust me, there's plenty out there that have never seen a trail.

Honestly, I don't even remember the climb to E. Deception now. I guess it wasn't bad. My track shows it was a pretty straight route, so I imagine so. It was nice to finally bag another 3k. Now there was only 17 peaks between me and my finish. Yessuh! As a bonus, the sun was actually out, defying the weathermen.

It was only 10:40. I had doubts about getting over to Dartmouth when we were trying to get up Deception, but now it was clear. We're going! Amazingly, there was only small patches of snow up here. Well, then we had to deal with this.

This turned out to be not so bad either. Either that or my mental stamina is built up as well as it could be. Got through it well enough and then into pretty open woods. I had heard very bad things about the ridge around here, so I was determined to stay off it. Brian and Greg were above me in fine woods, but I just didn't want to chance running into a wall. So we dropped down to 3400', finding lots of blowdowns to either walk around or step over. The woods were certainly good, it was just annoying dealing with the blowdown. I kept dropping hoping the blowdowns would clear out and have gorgeous woods like the Millen to Dartmouth traverse, but it was not to be.

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Brian said it first, and it was the perfect word. Tedious. It was about 1.9 miles direct line to Dartmouth, but with the curving ridge and have to drop down, he joked it'd be about 2.75 miles over. He was dead on correct. Chug, chug, plug, plug.

I was already getting spaced out, but I was still shooting the bull and having laughs galore with the guys, always a good sign. We found ourselves dropping and turning south, and we were in the col. I had recommended staying low until we were directly north of the summit, but Greg found the ridge to be great here, and I was very thankful for this to cut the distance down, and as Brian had said, it avoided the steep climb. Greg is our go to guy for finding the good woods.

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I was waiting for it and it finally came. Blowdowns. Oh wait, that was quick and not bad. My memory exaggerated again. The summit wasn't that bad at all. Holy crap was I happy. Greg got his peak and it was all downhill from here. I remarked this was a pleasant summit without 100 flies on or around you (I am NOT exaggerating that). I had noticed a corridor of what appeared to be good woods leading WSW of the summit, perpendicular to our southerly direction that we needed to go. I forgot to mention this to Greg, and we set off. Why bother to mention. He suggested backtracking a bit to avoid thick woods that we could see, and then went exactly WSW to avoid the bad crap. Guy's a natural. Bastard. ;-)

The temptation was to drop elevation like crazy, but we could see that led us right back to Deception, so we kept slabbing (again) to get on the ridge, and with the exception of a steep patch of blowdown, had similar going to before. And then, we saw something amazing. Mind you, Brian and I have seen the most amazing hardwoods glade on Shoal Pond peak, but this one really took the cake.

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We enjoyed this for a good long while, amazed at what a beautiful spot we had found. One reason I don't like being constrained to trails. Greg found some moose bones, so we had fun with those for a while. And then it got downright gloomy. A stand of very mature fir. Amazing. I found this mossy log that fell across two mossy boulders.

I was pretty much zonked at that point. Greg was aiming at a logging road, and although my map showed it to the left, his GPS had the road, and it's extension to the right, so I was mumbling to myself a lot to go left. It was my one truly grumpy moment of the day, I just wanted to have easy footing and get the hell out. Stupid me, he nailed it higher up than I realized it went. I was still concerned we were on the wrong side of the brook. Had I looked at my map, I would've realized just how dumb I was being. The trail led right to the brook. The road was muddy at times, but a welcome relief to boulders. Yeah, I was dragging ass behind the guys at this point. Death march.

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Besides the footing, there were mossy areas (which I love) and a nice swamp to look at that kept me bouyed up. As we got closer to the road, I got more anxious to get the hell out. Oh well, here comes the final insult. Remember the mention of the roadside blowdowns at the start of this? Yeah, they were over here too. I had been talking about the nightmare of trying to get to Jefferson Notch Road coming off of Millen and Dartmouth, and here it was again. At a swamp, blowdowns blocked the trail, so we headed left (as it turns out the trail headed right around the swamp) right into thick stuff and then blowdowns stacked 3 deep. Honestly, this picture is probably of a better area.

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Argh! Twenty minutes to go 500 feet. We finally spied an open section, but just getting the 15 feet to it was a major pain. Ahhh, ok, here we go. Right into more crap, with the freaking bridge 40 feet in front of me. Brian was smart, he rock hopped the Ammonoosuc while I struggled and cursed. Even the last stretch to get on the snowmobile trail paralleling the road was bad. I said screw it, I'm dropping my pack, I'll get the car. No one wanted that, so I said screw it, I'm dropping my pack anyway. Only then did we realize my 1 mile estimate of the road walk was off by more the 2X. Shit. Chug, chug, plug, plug.

Brian dumped his pack further up, and then said he'd run to the car. Huh? Really? Yup. Well, screw it, no need for me to try to keep up, I kept Brian's pack company. A change of clothes and we hit Fabyan's for a first. My first impression – oh, this is fancier than I thought. Moreso when I saw the prices. Granted the Onion Burger was awesome, but I doubt we'll be back. That f'ing train running around the perimeter of the dining room sounded like a vacuum cleaner.

But you know what, this was an awesome day. It was great to walk on bare ground for 99.9% of the day, it was great to get out bushwhacking again, and the miscommunication which landed us the views on Deception couldn't have worked out better. Greg avoided having to make another trip towards his 3k goal, everyone got at least one peak, and the weather was way better than we expected. What's not to like.

Date Climbed: 07/02/2011

Distance: 5.7 miles

Low Elevation: 2648 feet
High Elevation: 3747 feet
Elevation Gain: 1651 feet
Elevation Loss: 1651 feet

Start Location: Jefferson Notch Rd 2920'
Finish Location: Jefferson Notch Rd 2920'
Route: SE, then S to Millen Hill, north off Millen Hill to around 3000', slab NW, then W and SW to Dartmouth. North to around 3100' then SE to drainage heading NE, then E to Jefferson Notch Rd at 2650', return to car

Weather: Partly cloudy, warm, a little humid, very little breeze
Companions: New Hampshire


We stayed up in N. Woodstock for the long weekend, and I didn't want to be away for too long, so a wimpy plan was requested. Millen Hill, Dartmouth and Deception was an immediate hit. I spent a good amount of time gathering data, and a plan was born. It was oh so simple. Just stay north! Stay north of Millen Hill, stay north of the ridges after that. We had heard all kinds of horridness lay between.

We spotted a car on Cherry Mountain Road, and took the short drive to Jefferson Notch Rd., opting to park a short ways north of the notch. This almost started the day off in disaster, as I backed into a little grassy area sloping downhill. I decided to pull up a bit, and couldn't. Uh oh, wet grass. I backed up a tiny bit and pulled steadily forward to extract myself, and then parked parallel to the road and set the e-brake. Ah, much better.

We headed off, having fairly open woods, but uneven ground with lots of boulders about and the occasional blowdown. Not bad, but not exactly easy and quick traveling. We were heading west, trying to avoid sketchy areas, but quickly made the turn southwest. Some more small detours and we finally found the open woods with good footing. Yee haw!

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We kept skirting north at any issues in good woods and finally made the turn south when we hit the north ridge of Millen Hill. We saw even more open woods above us and Brian invesigated, but as it turned out, it was a blowdown fields. That's the fun thing about sunny areas, it's either great or it's miserable. No in between. It took Brian a bit to extract himself from this mess, but we then made the quick trip up to the summit only hitting one small and minor blowdown field, complete with a view of Jefferson. One hour elapsed. Awesome. Gonna be a good day. Except for these damned bugs. Where'd they come from?

Next up, Dartmouth. The plan now was to drop to around 3000' and slab across the north side of the ridge, avoiding a very nasty col and what looked to be a very blowdowny ridge. We were down to 3k in no time, and the woods were awesome.

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We had zero problems along the way, but the flies were getting really bad. Not deer flies, not black flies, but flipping house flies. I've never seen so many. Ugh. We started to make the turn up Dartmouth and I just kept waiting for the bad woods to appear, but the fern whack just kept on continuing. About this time, Brian was bonking. He basically looked the same as I must have a couple weeks ago. We stopped for lunch a few hundred feet below the summit, and he mixed up some powdered energy drink to get a boost. Flies, flies, more flies. We got back underway and made the summit, complete with antler in a tree.

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The constant annoying buzz of those stupid flies for the past 3.75 hours was driving both of us batty. I looked down and there were probably 30 flies on the front of my pants. This is after I shooed a bunch of them away.

Well, we had to decide whether to go on or not. Brian thought we were at the half way point, I knew we weren't, because I'd already checked the map, preparing for a bail. We were less than halfway to Deception, and then there was the walk down after that. I strongly suggested a bail at that point, because I knew it would be a long, long slog over to Deception, and then another uphill stretch, and I wanted the views on the false peak. Today just wasn't the day, because of Brian's energy level, and those damned flies. Did I mention the damned flies? Yes, they ignore even 100% DEET.

We could have pushed ourselves, but then you lose the fun and enjoyment of the woods, and you've then lost the point in it all. Problem is, whoever's having the issues that day doesn't want to “ruin” it for the another, so the strong one pretty much makes the call. It works, but we gotta get by the “shame” of not doing the whole hike. Fact is, I plan big. I don't want to get to a point where we both feel great and are left without options. As I said to Brian, I think we just need to phrase it differently. As in “let's do Millen and Dartmouth, and if we feel exceptional, we can go do Deception, too.” In any case, we watch out for each other, and Lord knows I had issues on West Peak.

So down we go, heading out more north than the northeast direction we came in, and slabbing back out. We would basically stay around 3000' the whole way, with the trick being not getting slowly sucked down low. This is hard to do when slabbing a hill, as the natural way to go around anything is down around it, not up. But with Brian leading and taking the occasional uphill correction, we did a great job at that. Along the way, Brian's pole bent, not in one place, but two. Yes, it was dead. Brian was a mono-poler.

Brian started getting a caffeine crash now, and we laughed at how stupid we were for still justifying our decision to each other. Macho men. Gotta love it. 0.75 miles from the car, we hit a drainage and the woods starting getting uglier.

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Well, this was not what we needed. There were a bunch of feeder brooks to go down and up. Oh, and that constant sound of flies still. Argh. I checked the map, and we could be to the road in ½ mile instead of ¾, with the downside of losing about 300 feet of elevation. Decision made, let's get to that road! The drainage was nasty at first, but soon opened up into decent going. This little mossy area made us nervous, but was dry and easy traveling.

Finally, we could hear a car, and then we saw one about 100-150 feet away. Yippee! So we thought. Getting to the road was a blowdown nightmare. After about 10 minutes, we finally popped out. Phew. Brian took me up on my offer to drop the packs here, and I'd go grab it. It was steeper than I figured, but I kept chugging ahead, figuring Brian was dealing with the flipping flies. A car from Virginia passed by, probably terrified on the sweaty guy walking in the middle of nowhere. The road walk went quick enough, I got in and blasted the A/C. It was a touch warm out today with little breeze. I started to pull out, the car was reluctant and lurched down the bank a touch, but enough to scare the crap out of me. Not again. I had forgotten I had cut the wheel full downhill, and didn't turn it enough, and left the emergency brake on (see, there was a reason I mentioned that earlier...). Sigh. Removed it and got out no problem. Luckily where we came out, there was a turn around, where I did the same thing as this morning, pulled in too much downhill, but we got out easily on dry dirt.

We had a quick pickup of the Carspot of Uselessness and went back to the Inn where I met my wife just getting ready to go over to the bar, and I happily grabbed a quick shower. Brian stayed for dinner, and Joe, Becky, Greg and Desi were there about 10 minutes after we showed up. Another bonus was a couple of friends from home, who have a camp in Warren, were there, too. Another fine meal of laughter as we told our stories of the day.

Brian and I talked at length about this afterward, and mutually, but independantly, decided to not be so aggressive. No matter what, the fun's gotta be there. Sure, there will be moments, but we're not going to force ourselves to do long slogs when the humor's gone. Like I said, I'll always have the peak in the back pocket, but that'll be a “just in case” vs. “let's try for it.” Fortunately for me, Brian and I are very alike on mindset and goals, and it just makes this whole thing a lot easier. With so many diverse outlooks in the hiking community, I consider myself a lucky guy.