On my two day Pemi-loop in July, I decided not to hike over to the peak of West Bond, as I was tired and knew I still had quite a few miles to hike before I got back to my car at the Lincoln Woods parking lot off the Kancamagus Highway. I knew at the time I’d regret not going over there, but I also knew it was the right decision at that time. This weekend, I had the opportunity to go out there again and hike to West Bond.
Due to the three day weekend, there was a little more flexibility in my husband’s work schedule and he said I could hike If I wanted to. There are many trails that I haven’t hiked yet, and wanted to do something longer, but not too long. The idea of hiking Zealand and West Bond come up in the conversation, but at almost 17 miles for the round trip, I knew I didn’t want to attempt it in one day. My husband suggested staying at Zealand hut on Friday night, and hike out Saturday from there. Since this was Thursday morning, and space was limited at Zealand for Friday night, I put in a phone call to the AMC and by a miracle, got the last bunk at Zealand hut!
I took off mid-afternoon Friday for the Zealand Trail trailhead and had a nice walk to the hut. The 2.8 mile trail to the hut is relatively easy and flat, with the only significant elevation gain in the last .2 miles to the hut’s doorstep. I arrived in plenty of time to set up my bunk, chat with my bunk mates and enjoy the scenery before eating a good, filling dinner.
The weather was good, but the weather reports indicated that hurricane Earl would be due to move past the coast of New Hampshire overnight, bringing rain and cooler temperatures. Sure enough, later that night it started to rain, and at times, quite heavily. My bunk mates and I could hear the rain on the roof and dripping off the roof during the night in our bunk room. When it wasn’t raining, we could hear the sounds of the waterfall that is right next to the hut.
The weather the next morning was cloudy, windy, gray and misty. The rain had stopped, but there was a forecast of possible rain with clearing in the afternoon. After a good breakfast, I packed up and headed out. The first 1.2 miles from the hut is a hike up to the Zealand ridge with about a 1,100 foot elevation gain in 1.2 miles. You know you’re at the top when you see the sign for a side loop trail that says, “View”. What a view from the top of the Zeacliffs that is! It was spectacular even with the clouds and wind. It is certainly worth the hike up and a nice spot to take a break.
After enjoying the view, I was on my way again, crossing the ride toward the Zealand summit, another 1.6 miles down the trail. The walk was pleasant across some ledges and then through the trees. If the weather would have been nicer, it would have been perfect. I can’t say that it was all bad – the weather the entire week had been pretty miserable in NH, with temperatures in the 90s and humidity added to that. At least I wasn’t hot and sticky!
There is one more elevation gain before getting to the part of the ridge where a little side trail leads to the actual Zealand summit. Part of the elevation gain features this ladder, which is missing half of the rungs. It is still easy enough to negotiate, and much better than trying to scale the rock without the ladder.
Following the little side trail, the summit is marked by a small cairn in the woods. On a tree next to the cairn is the Zealand sign.
The weather was holding in the same cloudy, windy pattern, so after a snack by the main trail and a chat with another hiker also hiking into Zealand and the first person I saw since leaving the hut, it was time to hike to West Bond. I hiked down to the Twinway and Bondcliff trail junction and the onto to the Bondcliff trail over Mt. Guyot and ultimately to the West Bond spur trail. The summit of Guyot is out is the open and it was windy. I took care here to not only stay on the path, but also to cross safely in the wind. Once back into the scrub on the other side of Guyot, the weather start to clear!
By the time I got to the West Bond spur trail, the sun was shining! I left my pack at the sign, taking a jacket and the camera with me for the half mile walk to the summit. The trail isn’t hard, but there is a little bit of rock to ascend right at the end. From the top of West Bond, there are views in every direction and with no cloud cover and now the sunshine, I had 360 degree views! Most impressive was the ridge leading from Mt. Bond to Bondcliff and then of course, Bondcliff itself.
After enjoying the views and taking some pictures, I headed back to my pack for a lunch break to prepare for the hike back to the hut and then to the car. I then retraced my steps, going back over Guyot and Zealand and because the weather was so much nicer, I stopped back by the view from the top of Zeacliffs to get some better pictures than the ones I had taken earlier that day.
I then headed down to the hut, got some water, had a quick chat with a hut volunteer and was on my way to the car. At this point, I was very happy with my day – I went to all the summits I wanted to, the weather improved throughout the day, and I was feeling good. I passed several people along the way and then got behind an older gentleman, who began to talk about the trails, the wild animals and history of the general area that we were in. We hiked together for a while and he continued to talk about his experiences in the White Mountains. Eventually it came out that this man had written a book which I read a few years ago: Not Without Peril. I was hiking with none other than Nicholas Howe. He is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced man, and I learned some interesting things that I did not know about beavers, White Mountain history, the AMC huts, Mt. Washington and the observatory located there. We ended up hiking all the way back to the parking lot together and he gave me a copy of Not Without Peril, which he signed for me.
Meeting Nicholas Howe was a great experience, and was one of the highlights of the great day I was allowed to have. I hiked 14 miles total on Saturday, saw beautiful scenery, reached two more summits, met great people along the way and learned new things about the White Mountains.