Now that Ethan is done with the four thousand footers, his attention has been drawn to redlining. What could be nicer than looking at a map, picking some new trails and taking off? Last Sunday, he went out for a two day Pemigewasset excursion that included Thoreau Falls. His plan was to start at Lincoln Woods and take the Pemi East Side Trail plus a few others up to the Thoreau Falls Trail, then take Ethan Pond and Zealand Trail westward toward the Zealand parking area. My part of the adventure involved starting at Zealand and meeting him somewhere, preferably close to Thoreau Falls.
I awoke to rain on Monday morning. A quick check of the radar showed things weren’t going to improve, so I suited up in the rain gear and headed toward Zealand. On the way, I drove through a thunderstorm with rain so hard I had to slow to 50mph on I-93. By this point, I was wondering what in the world was I thinking – driving in a monsoon, then hiking in a monsoon to meet someone, who considering the weather, might have packed up and high-tailed it right back to Lincoln Woods! Love is a pretty strong bond, so not knowing what adventure would await me, I stepped out of the nice, dry, car at Zealand and out into the rain. Even though there was thunder in the distance, it really wasn’t too bad, after all, I’ve hiked through worse and I was there to support my husband. The rain started to let up and soon I was able to take off the hood and my hat, and as I passed all the familiar parts of the Zealand Trail, the weather continued to improve. It wasn’t raining when I passed the Twinway junction and now I was getting to the bonus part of the adventure: some new trail. I had never been on this portion of the Ethan Pond Trail, so off I went and it seemed like no time at all I arrived the open area at the base of the Whitewall Cliffs. I had seen this portion of the trail from high up on Zeacliff several times, but never had been there. What an amazing portion of trail – with the large talus slopes and the trail winding right through them.
I kept going and half way between the talus slopes and Thoreau Falls, I saw a hiker coming towards me – it was Ethan! We met sooner than I thought, and since we weren’t too far from Thoreau Falls, Ethan was willing to hike back hike back so that I could see the falls and complete that section of the trail. Because of all the rain, the falls were full of swift moving water, adding to the natural drama of the area. The clouds were low, but we were still able to enjoy the beauty of the falls.
As we hiked back toward the Zealand area, it turned out to be a nice morning with no more rain. Catching up with each other’s stories of the past 24 hours made the trail go by quickly, but closer to the Twinway junction, I could tell Ethan’s feet were hurting a bit. At the junction, he removed his shoes, and sure enough there were blisters. He then did the unthinkable: he hiked out in his flip-flops. Right away, I could tell he was happier because his feet didn’t hurt as much. Since Zealand trail is a reasonably easy walk out, we made it with no problems, but he probably did get a few questionable looks from hikers we passed. Even with the foot issue, we ended the day on a good note.
Back at home, the remaining portion of Ethan Pond Trail that Ethan hadn’t done was on his mind, so he suggested a hike for Saturday from the east end of the Ethan Pond Trail at Rt. 302 toward Thoreau Falls. I had hiked the section from Rt. 302 to the Willey Range Trail junction a few times as part of a hike to the summit of Willey, but never beyond that. As a bonus along the we would also visit Ethan Pond and the shelter, thus redlining that short spur trail, too. The weather seemed agreeable with a prediction of overcast skies, but no rain. With the hard part of the day out of the way first due to the small hill we had to ascend, we then cruised easily to the Willey Range junction passing the Kedron Flume Trail along the way. We took a left at the Willey Range Trail junction, continuing on the Ethan Pond Trail. All along the way, we kept on meeting people who had stayed at the Ethan Pond Shelter; seems like it was a busy place the previous night! We reached the shelter spur and headed toward the pond which we discovered was surrounded on one side by cliffs. The whole scene was just being illuminated by sunlight as the clouds were breaking up, making it even nicer.
After checking out the shelter and a snack, we were off for our next stop, Thoreau Falls. The trail was relatively level, so we cruised along through relatively open forests and came to the Shoal Pond Trail junction. Also along the way, the trail is parallel and close to the North Fork, so we were able to enjoy views of the river and cascades. We crossed a bridge and were soon right back at the Thoreau Falls Trail junction. We headed to the falls, and were greeted with a beautiful, but different view from earlier in the week. Today there was blue skies, sunshine, and less water. Less water didn’t make the falls less attractive, it just made them different. We were able to see out to the mountains, which were before robed in cloud cover.
We enjoyed a quiet lunch all to ourselves before another couple arrived. Since we were done, we decided to leave and let them have some solitude at the falls. The trip back was really quick and with blue skies, we were able to enjoy slightly different views on the way back. We had expected overcast conditions all day, but agreed the weather had turned out better than we’d hoped, and the day was fun and enjoyable. On the way home, the clouds started to thicken up, and the blue skies were gone. We couldn’t have timed it any better!
This was a different sort of hiking for me; usually I am concerned with bagging a peak or making a certain mileage by evening or meeting a time requirement. It was a fun to go somewhere new, and I was certainly happy to get a couple of chances to hike with my husband!