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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.