So, disclaimer: We actually bagged Zealand on April 9th. It was the single 4000-footer we got over vacation. I have a pretty bad attitude about it as a peak…long hike, no summit views.
In contrast, this past weekend had utterly gorgeous weather. I got coverage for sick calls (thanks Steph and Diana!) and H put his experiments in the freezer, and we snuck off to NH. Initially the trip seemed doomed–I had a rotten week, H had a rotten week, I left for Boston way later than I intended, we didn’t have a campsite reserved, and 60 miles up I93 the car filled with a terrible smell of burning rubber. We stopped at the rest area/NH liquor store just beyond the tolls, filled with a sense of dread…but no smoke was emanating, everything seemed intact, and the smell quickly cleared. In retrospect, it was probably the sketchy looking station wagon ahead of us, or the road construction. We got to the Sugarloaf campgrounds around 10PM. Amazingly, a terrific spot was just waiting for us, and we were able to pitch our spacious new tent and hit the sack before midnight.
The next morning we took advantage of the long daylight hours and got a later start than planned (around 8:30AM). The beginning and end of the hike was on Zealand trail, a relatively flat and easy trail that both of us felt comfortable hiking with headlamps, and we felt comfortable aiming to be back on Zealand around 8PM to catch the last light of the day.
There were tons of ladyslippers!
Views from the Zeacliff outlook off the Twinway.
The trails were mostly dry with the occasional muddy patch.The Twinway was much rougher without its covering of snow, but did make things easier in some places, especially at the base of the ladder near Zealand summit.
View from the summit of Guyot, just past where we’d had to turn around in April.
View from the West Bond spur nearing the summit. This was an easy trail except for the last 100 yards or so, which climbed fairly steeply over boulders.
View of the Twins…
and of Bondcliff.
Summit of Mount Bond (I think–it seemed to be the highest point).
Looking back at the Bondcliff trail.
It was an epic, ambitious, gorgeous hike. This is by far the farthest we’ve ever hiked in one day. Our second farthest was Carrigain (14 miles) in the winter on well-packed snow–no comparison. H did amazingly well. I didn’t fare so well (knee pain, hotspots, many many bites from blackflies). But, after a lot of snacks, nine hours of sleep, and a leisurely morning, we both felt ready to tackle another (albeit shorter) hike.
- Route: Zealand Trail to Twinway to Bondcliff and back, plus out and back on West Bond spur
- Total distance: 19.3 miles
- Total time: around 12.5 hours
- Total elevation gain: around 6000 feet according to H’s GPS, though it felt like more
- Total number blackfly bites: at least 15 on one of my shoulders alone
On Sunday, we packed up the palatial tent and hit the road for the short drive to Edmands Path with the goal of bagging Eisenhower. Last November we admired Eisenhower from the summit of Pierce, but ran out of time to hike there via Crawford Path.
As we started up the trail, we passed many tired, sweaty hikers coming down from an AMC-led three day hike. The beginning of Edmands Path is flat and easy, and winds through lush green forests and over three brooks on well-maintained bridges. Eventually it begins to climb and it continues for what feels like a long time (though it actually isn’t). The footing is surprisingly good, with less of the “jumble of rocks” style trail so popular in the Whites. Just when you’re starting to get tired of climbing, you arrive at the stone gate, take a sharp left, and the trail flattens out (while still sneakily climbing). The trail above the stone gate was lovely…a ledgy brook,
banks of wildflowers,
and, once high enough up, views.
There are a couple of dodgy sections over boulders and eroded areas, but on the whole it’s a pleasant walk. And then you find yourself in the saddle between Eisenhower and Monroe.
It is a magical place, a little meadow 4000 feet up with a smelly but picturesque little alpine tarn.
We ascended via the Eisenhower Loop Trail to the summit itself, with panoramic views (and some amusing dog-watching).
Monroe and Washington.
On the descent down the other side of the loop, the alpine plants all seemed to be in bloom! I imagine that the Alpine Garden right now must be spectacular. We wended our way slowly down, admiring the tiny flowers.
H and I ate lunch sitting on a slab of granite, basking in the sun and enjoying the breeze, trying to stretch the afternoon out as long as possible0. On our descent, we passed an older gentleman who paused to tell us the story of Edmands Path* and catch his breath. It was sad to get back in the car and head south, but it was a fantastic weekend that washed away the badness of the week–and I know we’ll be back soon.
- Route: Edmands Path to Eisenhower Loop to Crawford Path back to Edmands Path
- Total distance: 6.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 2750 ft
*According to him it was built especially for guests of the Mt Washington Hotel. They would ascend on horseback until they reached the stone gate, then from there would dismount and walk the rest of the way. “Even the ladies in their long skirts!” he said.