A long backpack usually involves a resupply somewhere. Even though Ethan was out on an 8 day hut-to-hut trip (hopefully he’ll post about his adventure!), part of the strategy for keeping his carrying weight low was for me to resupply him with snacks and fresh clothes somewhere along the way. Halfway through the trip would be somewhere in the Zealand or Crawford Notch Area, so I hatched a plan to meet at Zealand Hut, spend the night and give him his supplies. Of course, if the weather was good, it would have been a shame to walk in via the Zealand Trail and miss out on the magnificent Bonds, so I decided that I’d hike in from LincolnWoods. While this is a lot more mileage (17 vs. 2.8), a good day on the Bonds is not to be wasted since we were blessed with one. When Cameron heard of the plan, he wanted to come too. Despite my best efforts to be extremely realistic about what such a trek would entail having done such treks myself (sore feet! continuous ups and downs between Bondcliff and Zealand! bugs!), , he stilled wanted to come along.
So, at 3:30a, I was out of bed and fixing Cameron a hot breakfast to eat in the car. Right before 4:00a we were in the car and headed to Lincoln Woods. At 5:00a, we started over the suspension bridge and headed toward the interior of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. I realize that is very early, but after calculating mileage and hiking time, I knew we’d need a good 12 to 13 hours to complete the hike and be at the hut for dinner by 6:00p. He’s still not quite adult size, even though he thinks he is, and still needs more breaks and a careful fueling strategy to keep him moving.
For all that the Lincoln Woods is not, and if you’ve hiked it, you know how flat and straight and long and boring it can be, it was a really nice warm up for what was ahead. The morning was cool, no one was on the trail, and it was just getting light when we started out.
We made great time and in a few hours we reached the Bondcliff Trail. Now the fun would begin. I’d never been up this trail, only down. Trails tend to be very different when traveled in the opposite direction, and different when you’re at the beginning of a long hike rather than at the end! Although it is a long approach to Bondcliff, 9 miles from the parking lot, it is a nice gentle grade and never gets ridiculously steep in any area. We continued on, enjoying the morning and only having minor skirmishes with the mosquitos until we gave in and put on some bug repellent. I kept track of the landmarks along the way, and I thought we had about half mile further, but then the Bondcliff step appeared! That was really exciting, because once up that, we’d be in the scrub and very, very close to the top!
Up the step and through the scrub and the 360 degrees started to open up! It was completely beautiful! We made our way to the summit to eat a bit of very early lunch and chatted with a few other hikers, the first ones we’d seen all day. Of course, we had to venture out and get our pictures taken on the ledge before moving on to Bond. We made good time to Bond, and after making up the steep rocky cone, we were on top, with slightly different, yet still great 360 degree views.
Next up: West Bond! We headed down to the West Bond Spur junction, enjoying the views and knowing that we’d be able to hike without packs for the little bit over and back to West Bond. We hung our packs on a tree and headed over to West Bond, feeling much lighter. West Bond was just as nice as the other Bonds, and after chatting with another hiker, we left so they could have a little solitude on the peak.
By this point, we didn’t have too many climbs left, and due to a miscalculation, I discovered we actually had a mile less to hike than I thought between the West Bond Spur and Guyot! That was a nice mistake! Up and over Guyot we went, and then it seemed like we entered a time warp. Everything slowed down, it didn’t seem like we were making progress, it seemed like I stepped on, around or over the same rock multiple times, so it was time for a long break and the rest of our lunch. That made a huge difference and we felt ready to continue on to Zealand. We picked up the pace and soon could see Zealand ahead of us. We started climbing upward, mentally prepared for the long haul and were really surprised when we came up some rocks and saw the Zealand spur sign! We were both sure we’d have another half mile or so to go. Excited, we dropped our packs and scurried down the trail to the sign, where we met a couple of parties of hikers, enjoying their summit time. Some of them had seen Ethan along his trek from Galehead hut to Zealand Hut and relayed a message. After a nice chat, we headed back to the packs and started the last three miles of the day.
Across and down we went, with only a quick stop at Zeacliffs, getting closer and closer to the hut. Along the way, we also met GreyBear, who also had a message from Ethan that he’d have dinner ready for us when we got to the hut. Not exactly true as the hut crew was going to take care of that, but it was nice to know that Ethan hadn’t lost his sense of humor on the Garfield Ridge Trail the day before and seemed to be in good spirits. We checked out the view at Zeacliff, and then it was down, down, down to the hut. It was a quick 1.2 miles, and soon we were seeing signs that we were nearing the hut, the quarter mile sign, some outlying equipment, and then the hut itself. We popped out the woods at the corner of the hut, and there was Ethan, sitting on the porch, waiting for us! We arrived at 4:30, with plenty of time to spare and relax before dinner.
We sorted out the resupply, exchanging items Ethan wanted for those he didn’t, enjoyed dinner and relaxed for the evening. The next morning, we ate a hearty hut breakfast and were able to hike together for a little bit. We parted ways on the Zealand Trail, he was headed up the A-Z trail over to Crawford Notch to Mizpah Hut, and we were headed down the Zealand Trail to the trailhead to pick up the shuttle back to Lincoln Woods.
While it wasn’t the shortest way to Zealand, it was an incredible day to hike over the Bonds. I was glad to have the company of my son and was thankful that he has been given the ability to rise up to the challenge! We were just so blessed with beautiful weather, the mountains themselves and safety (gotta love our rocky and rooty trails!).