One of the many places I've not visited in the White Mountains of NH is the site of the plane crash that occurred near the summit of Mt. Success in the late morning hours of November 30th, 1954.
Once upon a time, there were regularly scheduled
commercial flights between small cites in the U.S. Northeast Airlines Flight 792 used DC3
equipment to fly between Berlin, NH and Laconia, NH. On the day of the crash, the plane was
carrying four crew members and three passengers. All seven survived the crash, but while
awaiting rescue two of the crew members died from their injuries. It wasn't until the morning of December 2nd
that the survivors were spotted and rescued.
A search of the Internet will yield reports containing more details of
this crash. Click HERE for one such
Visibility was near zero in the Berlin area on the day
the plane crashed. On the day of my hike
(24-May), visibility was also nearly zero at the higher elevations of my
route. As I was driving down Success
Pond Road to the trailhead, it was easy to see the low-lying clouds that had settled
in over Mt. Success and other surrounding peaks in the area (photo below).
However, all is not lost on days such as this. Although the view of distant vistas is
blocked or obscured, there can still be some interesting sights. Shown below are some of the misty views that
My trek along the Success Trail was very pleasant. However, at about 1.4 miles into the hike
there is a long section of rock slabs which I can easily imagine being challenging
when conditions are wet and/or icy. And
beyond the rock slabs there are sizeable sections of the trail with bog bridges
which can also become quite slippery.
However, these bog bridges are picturesque, at least in my opinion (next
At the end of the 2.4 mile Success Trail, I hung a right
onto the Appalachian Trail for the final 0.6 mile scramble to the summit of Mt. Success. Just as a sidelight, for those who might be
curious, this mountain was named for the township where it is located, i.e.
Success, NH which was founded in 1773.
This happens to be the same year that the colonists refused to allow
importation of tea into Boston and also when the Stamp Act was repealed. It is speculated that one or both of those
historical events is the origin of the name.
Upon my arrival, Mt. Success was totally in the clouds,
similar to the way it was on the day of the plane crash back in 1954. The next photo shows the ghostly image of the
mountaintop cloaked in mist with the summit signs barely visible.
Just as had happened earlier in the hike, the misty
conditions provided some unique and picturesque views. The next photo is a scene that was captured
just a few hundred feet from the summit.
After lingering for awhile on the foggy summit, I
continued westward on the Appalachian Trail for about 10 minutes and then hung
a left onto a faint unmarked pathway that leads to the crash site.
When I arrived at the site, there was such a mixture of
thoughts. First of all, I was astonished
to see sections of a large aircraft resting in a thick and remote forest. Seeing this rather tame man-made object
intruding into the untamed world of Mother Nature was such a stark
contrast. My thoughts then turned to the
shock and horror that was surely experienced by the people who dragged
themselves from the wreckage at the very spot where I was standing!
The first objects to catch my attention were a wing, and
a large section of the fuselage (next photo).
My attention then turned to other parts of the aircraft
which are scattered in a relatively small area.
Shown below are few more photos of the wreckage.
The visit to the crash site was a moving and interesting
experience. Nonetheless, in the
aftermath of all tragic events, life goes on.
To memorialize this, I stopped at several points on my way back to the
trailhead and photographed some of Mother Nature's smaller life-forms. I'm talking about little things, such as
wildflowers, and a lowly toad (look closely and you'll see it in the photo
To sum it up, this adventure ranks near the top of my
most unforgettable hikes. It was quite
an experience to not only witness such natural beauty on a misty day, but also
to satisfy a morbid fascination with an event on another misty day nearly 60
years ago when a plane crashed on Mt. Success.
ADDENDUM (added 04-Sep-2012): It just came to my
attention that there is a recently (2012) published book which contains a map and a
description of how to access the DC-3 crash site. The book is authored by Kim Nilsen and it is
entitled: "50 Hikes North of the White Mountains".