Since my son had a little more time last week due to Spring Break, we took a little trip at the end of the week to Zealand Hut and Mt. Zealand. He had never been to Zealand, so of course, we were able to cross that one off his list, too.
Friday morning we packed up and were on our way to Zealand Road. This week the forest roads opened, so we benefited from the easy 2.8 mile walk to the hut. The weather wasn’t perfect, but not completely miserable, either. It was overcast, the wind was blowing and it was lightly snowing, but we were in the trees for the most part and the trail was mostly snow free.
Eventually, we saw some tracks, and knew whoever it was had moved quickly ahead on the trail. When we arrived at the hut, we found out the prints were the caretaker’s and we were the only ones staying that night. The caretaker was happy with that, and we had a quiet evening, playing cards, eating dinner and enjoying the warmth of the wood stove.
When we got up in the morning, the weather wasn’t much better than the previous night, still overcast, windy and light snow. We got up later, took our time eating breakfast and waited to see if the clouds would break and the snow would stop. Around 8:30a, we started to see nice big patches of blue sky, so we set off for the summit of Zealand. The trail was protected by the trees the almost the whole way, the snow had almost stopped and soon we had some sunshine as we ascended the biggest and longest climb of the hike from the hut to Zeacliffs. It wasn’t terribly sunny at Zeacliffs, but I assured Cameron that on the way back the view would be much better as the weather was supposed to improve as the day wore on.
Once past Zeacliffs, we quickly headed over the rocks slabs and on to the next bit of excitement, the next short steep section that included the Zealand ladder.
Up the ladder we went and continuing on an easier grade, we encountered a bit rougher footing. The trail included some bony monorail with a dusting to 1″ of slippery powder which made for some careful foot placement. After what seemed like a little bit longer than it should have been, we arrived at the spur trail for the summit of Zealand. Down the spur trail we went and arrived at the clearing with the cairn and famous Zealand sign.
Happy that we had bagged another peak, we had a snack at the spur trail junction before starting back the we came. Going out always seems quicker than hiking in and soon we were back at Zeacliffs, enjoying better views that earlier in the morning. We also started to see more groups coming up, not a surprise since the weather was improving.
After Zeacliffs, came the long downhill back to the hut. Just when Cameron didn’t think the descent would end, we came to the 1/4 mile from the hut sign, then to the two brook crossings, the Lend-A-Hand Trail and in a few more minutes the hut.
We ate a late lunch at the hut, filled up on water and headed back out to the car. The weather was sunny, although still windy and we took opportunity to check out the beaver ponds and dams and to get some better pictures as we hiked out.
On the way out, I noticed all the higher peaks had a new dusting of snow, so we took a quick detour down to Bretton Woods to take in the view of the Presidentials. Cameron had never seen them in real life with a coating of snow, so this was a real treat and a nice ending to a quick, fun trip to Zealand.