Orange County Highpoint Trip Report

Butterfield Mtn (3,167 ft) and Signal Mtn (3,360+ ft)

Date: June 3, 2004
Author: "Papa Bear"

Participants: "Papa Bear", "Tramper Al", and Denis Hanson

Our intent was to follow the route from the east and summit Butterfield via the route outlined in the report of Ken and Karen Jones but then to descend Butterfield back to the road and follow the road across the stream and summit Signal from it's south ridge.


We met at 7:00 AM where the dirt road turns west off Route 302 just south of the Orange County line. A surprise was waiting for us there: the state forest service gate was closed and locked. So we parked, changed into our hiking clothes and got walking along the road, which added a bit over 2 miles each way to our day's mileage. We got a small reward by spotting a moose (small female) just before we got to the point we would have driven to. We followed (on foot) the Jones' directions along this road and arrived at the grassy turnout on the east slopes of Butterfield in about 40 minutes. We learned from a friend that the gate was open two days later (Saturday, June 5th) so we must have just been unlucky.

Butterfield Mountain

Please refer to this GPS generated map which records our bushwhack route.

The map posted shows our route as recorded by Al's GPS. The road is indicated (we walked in) and the start of the bushwhack is where our route suddenly turns left up the slope where the road reaches about 2,200 feet. The ascent is shown by the track which zigzags it's way up till it finally hits the ridge. Then it was a straight shot up to the summit.

We would have done better to follow the road down to the stream crossing and take a 240 degree magnetic bearing. This would have put us on the northeast ridge which is easier. I guess we were suckered by Al's GPS which pointed directly at the peak, in spite of the fact that several reports had mentioned that we should first get on the ridge line before ascending. In any case we followed some gullies up and eventually reached easier going with blackberries and animal tracks above about 2900 feet. Ironically the tough stuff was through boulders and young maple saplings lower down and blackberry bushes part way up. The upper section in the spruce/fir forest was rather easy.

The descent was straight down the ridge line to the stream. (Note this differs from the Jones' route.) The road crosses the stream here although the topo doesn't show the road this far. In fact it's a very well maintained road down to the stream and well beyond. I think it eventually goes all the way out to Route 302 but that exploration must await another day.

Note: if you decide to try this route here's a couple of hints:

1) Drive to the stream crossing and ascend the whole way along the ridge (which we did on our descent). This is not any longer, and is easier going.
2) Make sure you stay on the ridge line coming down. Don't stray to the left or right. A 60 degree magnetic bearing should do it but watch the terrain.
3) If you hit the stream on your descent instead of the road, don't cross it, just turn right and follow it down on the near side (south bank) and you will hit the road very shortly. Once you hit the road then go left on the road across the stream to do the Signal bushwhack.

Estimated bushwhack distance is 2.0 miles. Round trip time (from the dirt road) is 1 hour 50 minutes.

Signal Mtn

Please refer to this GPS generated map which records our bushwhack route.

Our intent on this route, which is not one we have found among any reports we read, was to follow the road past the stream and see how high it rose on the slopes of Signal, and then bushwhack in. It turns out the road swings around eastward past the stream and in about a quarter mile it reaches a height-of-land (at about 2,300 ft) where there is a gravel pit on the left (north) side of the ridge. This is just south (magnetic) of the south ridge, and this is where we started the bushwhack.

The map posted here shows our route as recorded by Al's GPS. The route starts at the bottom of the frame. The first few hundred yards is actually the end of the Butterfield bushwhack. Where the track hits the stream, we got onto the road, which circles around after crossing the stream and heads eastward along the side of the lower slopes of Signal. The road reaches a height-of-land (at about 2300 feet) at a gravel pit in about 1/4 mile. Just past this point we entered the woods bearing magnetic north (our ascending path is the right or eastern path shown leaving the road on the map). The ascending path actually placed us a little west of the summit but once in the summit area it was easy to find the high point.

The terrain was in 3 sections: lower down were boulders and dense maple saplings and an occasional creek (similar to the lower terrain of Butterfield). The middle section from about 2600 to 3000 feet was rather steep with one rock ledge which we had to circumvent. This was rather tiring but not difficult from a bushwhack perspective. The top section from about 3000 feet to the summit was easy going. Al again found the register and we signed the register and took a break. As usual on these summits we thought we found a spot about 20 yards away just a little bit higher. Well, that's life for the bushwhacker.

Going down, the bearing was closer to true south. In actuality we were following a magnetic south bearing but we tended to slip slightly to our right because of the slope, so we ended up close to where we started. As in any bushwhack, reading the terrain is as important as reading your compass or GPS. Rain started about half way down but was no big deal. Al made a neat discovery on the way down of a pile of bones. These were clearly moose, judging by the size. Sorry, no antlers! We hit the road at the gravel pit on the dot, and turned right onto the road. The whole thing was easier than we expected.

Estimated bushwhack distance is 2.0 miles. Round trip time (from the dirt road) is 2 hours 10 minutes.

The decision to return to the dirt road rather than bushwhacking directly from Butterfield to Signal was a good one. We had a nice day of two nice peaks. Is this route easier? I have no idea, but I was warned of some thick boggy sections in the stream valley between the two high points. In any case, it was a nice route. The advantage of returning to the road is to break one long bushwhack into two short easy ones.

Since it was around 1:00 PM when we got back to the cars we didn't feel like making the lengthy drive up to East Mountain, so we agreed to save that for another day.

A note on New England bushwhacks: by New England standards, these were very easy bushwhacks. But if you're not used to scrubby New England peaks, be prepared. Dress in long clothes and wear something for your eyes. No shorts in the blackberries! Luckily there were no bugs but if you try this in June or early July, carry a head net and DEET insect spray.