John and I spent a long weekend in Dartmouth’s Second College Grant, staying at Peaks Cabin, after three glorious days of summer-like weather with late-fall colors. The afternoon temperatures were nearing 80. With bright sunshine and blue skies the hills were ablaze with color, a bit past peak but the yellows and oranges were nonetheless brilliant. I have not been to the Grant, other than mid-winter, in over 15 years; what a treat! Read on…
The Second College Grant is 27,000 acres of wilderness at the very northern tip of New Hampshire, given to Dartmouth College by the state in 1789, and managed as a forest for lumber and recreational purposes ever since [wikipedia] [map].
Not surprisingly, the Grant is a popular place on Columbus Day weekend; every cabin was occupied, and there was a high population of day users. We saw many hunters, and on Saturday evening could hear a lengthy skeet-shooting operation underway at the sandpit along the Dead Diamond road.
We brought along John’s friend Quinn and his father Mark. We hiked Diamond Peaks, checked out the Hand in the Rock, and biked up around the Hellgate area. We explored Hellgate Gorge, climbed Finnson’s Cliff, tramped out to boggy Hellgate pond, and stopped to peek in at all the cabins. We pedaled out to Stoddard Cabin. Our friends – new to DOC cabins – were very impressed by Peaks and all the other cabins.
Peaks is located at the confluence of the Swift Diamond and Dead Diamond rivers, just upstream of the spot where the river plunges through a gorge. It’s a spot steeped in logging history, where the springtime log drives would sometimes jam before squeezing through the icy gorge. With a little poking around it was easy to find hundred-year-old remnants of those logging operations, along the shores.
In the small-world department: we stopped for a breather at Sid’s Ledge, resting on the rocky shoreline while the Dead Diamond bubbled over a small drop. Along came a family in a canoe. “Hello, Dave!” came a shout from the bow. In the canoe was an old Dartmouth friend (class of ’88) and his wife and two kids. I snapped a few photos as they passed by, expertly navigating the rapids. The cool thing about The Grant is that it feels like the middle of nowhere but you run into people you know.
I think the last time I stayed in Peaks was the winter of 1984-85; it has improved mightily since then – new bunks, new stoves, new cabinetry, and all-new gas lights. I looked in the logbook. The previous group included yet more old friends (class of ’68 and ’74), who came up for the work-weekend the week before. The small world of chubbers.
Check out the photo album. Amazing fall colors!
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