Mount Success 1954 Plane Crash Site

DC3 Plane Crash
Your truly inside the fuselage of the DC3 plane that crashed in 1954 just south of Mount Success’ summit.

Amy Patenaudeby Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

An early start driving up Success Pond Road all but guaranteed that we wouldn’t see any ATVs out four wheeling. I guess there is no need for most people to get out of the house before 8am on a Saturday.
About 6 miles from Berlin we turned right, up the short rutted out access road to the Success Trailhead. When we arrived there was only one car and the owner was packing up his gear that included a hoe with teeth. We met Larry the Success Trail adopter and he was out to tend to his trail. He cleaned water bars and snipped brush. He’s from Massachusetts and makes his base out of Dodge Camp, located just south of Gorham on Rte 16. The AMC provides a bunk and a few squares for trail adopters completing 8 hours or more of labor.

Old Lumber Camp
On the Success Trail passing by what is left of an old lumber camp.
Thank you Larry, thank you all trail adopters! Larry working high up on the Success Trail. The trail was free of blow downs and he was hard at work cleaning all the water bars.
Thank you Larry, thank you all trail adopters! Larry working high up on the Success Trail. The trail was free of blow downs and he was hard at work cleaning all the water bars.

Up the trail Becca and I went and we wished the sun would come out for us. The misty morning and a cloudy sky looked like it would fight the weatherman’s promise of a good day. On the trail good footing alternated with slippery rock. We took the spur trail to The Outlook and we kept on hiking since we were stuck in a cloud.
Nearing the ridge we passed by the site of an old logging camp. Old buckets and an old iron chain link are hung on the trees and along the side of the trail long iron skidder rails rest.
Larry had told us that a professional trail crew had come just a few days prior and had removed all the large blow downs. We passed lots of fresh woods chips and the trail was clear all the way to the Appalachian Trail/Mahoosuc Trail intersection.

Outlook cliff views
The Outlook reached by a loop spur just off the Success Trail is a lovely cliff with big views.
Success Summit
On top of Mount Success, elevation 3,565 feet. It is named after the unincorporated town of Success, NH where it is located.

To reach Mount Success we had to travel south on the AT a little more than half a mile to reach the high point of Success’ summit. On top of a hunk of ledgy rock there is a survey marker and it is surrounded by a swampy area where the trail continues over bog bridges and ledge.
We hiked further south while the clouds were lifting, swirling and mixing with spots of blue sky that gave us hope for a clear day. After a last set of bog bridges and clearly over the summit we kept our eyes open for a herd path on our left, the east side of the trail. We had one false start but the next one we took had a clear well worn foot bed that continued all the way to the AT trail corridor and we followed the yellow blazes south. We knew we must be near when we saw a round piece of aluminum stuck on a spruce tree top.

Plane Wreckage
Becca Munroe at the Mount Success plane wreck site. The DC3 crashed into the mountain on November 30, 1954 and the survivors were rescued two days later.

Then we saw it, scattered airplane pieces and parts next to a large section of the fuselage. Becca and I circled the wreckage and entered the plane. I thought it was odd that a yellow blaze was painted on big piece of wreckage just like it was a big rock not moving anywhere anytime soon. Aluminum doesn’t rust and if it wasn’t for the trees grown up all around, it would be easy to believe this plane crash site wasn’t 60 years old. “Dream” is painted in still bright red letters high on the fuselage above where a door once hung. Inside graffiti covers the walls and I wish I took more time to read the names and dates.
What I have learned from friends and other sources that the plane was a DC3 and crashed into the mountainside on November 30, 1954, while traveling from Laconia to Berlin. The crash was believed to have been caused by bad weather and possibly faulty instruments. All seven people on the plane survived the impact but two died the first night—rescue arrived two days later. Imagine how cold the nights must have been for the survivors.
Becca and I managed not to rip our clothes or cut ourselves on the sharp pieces as we explored and attempted to identify the scattered metal. A piece of the engine here, part of a wing there and is that rubber from the landing gear?
As we were leaving a young man arrived. He was surprised to see us and was quite excited that he found the wreckage.
We retraced our way back over Success’ summit and we were pleased to see glimpses of the surrounding mountains. Hiking back down to the Success Trail seemed much steeper going down than it had when we went up.
Larry was higher up on the trail when we met him again. I got him to pose for a photo and we thanked him for his service.
We decided to swing by The Outlook again and we were well rewarded with a grand vista from the cliff. I felt like the sun came out just for us! Looking one direction we could see downtown Berlin and in another we could see all the way to Mount Washington.
The Outlook is about two miles up and on our way back we met two high school kids coming up the trail. They told us they were just headed to The Outlook. I had to agree that this was a worthy destination on its own for a modest effort.
Driving back on the dusty Success Pond Road we saw a beaver doing its best to block a culvert, we stopped by Alcohol Spring (not the fountain of youth just good cold water) and we saw an ATV zooming down the road.
Have Fun.

Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: amy@weirs.com.