- Elevation: 4,260 Feet
- Location: Whitefield, NH
- Dates Hiked: July 2017
- Companions: Stud
- Trails: Zealand Trail to Twinway
Summer in the Whites has arrived. I finally broke in a fresh new pair of sneakers that I had stashed away. They are the same sneaks that I hiked the Long Trail in after finding them on a clearance rack of a cheap department store. I loved them so much and they were so cheap that I ended up buying 2 more pairs online. I was really waiting for summer to kick in before breaking in this last pair.
Stud and I decided to hike Zealand as we are chippin away at the Pemigewasset Wilderness section of the NH48 ever since our heavenly backpacking trip over the bonds a couple summers ago. Zealand Road, the road to the trailhead, is a long dirt road that is closed in Winter. Zealand Hut stays open all year round and outdoor winter enthusiasts will ski and snowshoe up the 3 mile road all the way to the trail head. The trail itself is super gradual and mellow. Once at the hut we refilled water and ate some snacks and I left a big fun encouraging note in the trail registry for Little Bear Stumbles who is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and making her way thru the White Mountains right now!
I met Little Bear last summer on the Long Trail. She started north from Harpers Ferry in April and I’ve been following her blog and enthusiastically waving my internet pom poms as she makes her way north. I figured once she got into the White Mountains I might run into her on one of my hikes. The White Mountains have a reputation among the Appalachian Trail. They are hard, they are beautiful, and have some long stretches of relentlessly rugged exposed alpine ridges that can be super dangerous in bad weather. These same ridges offer some of the most spectacular views and fun scrambly hikes in good weather.
I reached out to Little Bear as she got closer to the Whites offering support if she wanted any. We talked in the phone once she crossed the border into New Hampshire and she told me her plans for hiking thru the Whites and asked some questions about it. I gave her lots of encouragement while cautioning against traversing the Presidential Range in any chance of lightening. We reminisced about the Long Trail and I reminded her how rugged that northern section was and that the whites would be similar…just more exposed.
I knew there was a chance that Stud and I might see her on our hike because we would be hiking south on the Appalachian Trail/Twinway Trail towards the summit of Zealand and Little Bear would be in this area hiking north. But I honestly didn’t expect to see her given the heavy rains, thunderstorms and tornado warnings from the day before so I figure there was no way she would have gone over the Franconia Ridge in that. But she did! And made it across just in time getting into shelter before the weather kicked up.
Once Stud and I left the hut there were a couple water crossings that made me think our hike was over. With all the rain from the last few days the Zealand Falls were running high and I honestly didn’t think we could get across. We hiked up and down the bank looking for a better spot and there just wasn’t one so we went back to where the trail crosses and debated what to do while the white water rushed by in front of us. Finally Stud figured out a good way over and I followed her with my adrenaline pumping wide eyed and wide awake. Neither of us slept the night before but after a couple of these water crossings we were wide awake. Water crossings scare me so much. I don’t mind getting wet. I just tremble when I feel the pull of that current.
As Stud and I climbed up the rocky trail I see Little Bear Stumbles coming down the trail and I holler out “WHATS UP LITTLE BEAR STUMBLES!!!” She was like “NO WAY!!!” She recognized Stud from my blog and we chatted. She told us of her wild adventures thru the Pemigewasset Wilderness. I was shocked that she was this far along given the weather and I was so happy to see her and regretted not having like a backpack full of oranges and like ice cream sandwiches to offer her. I had texted her to ask if I could bring her any special requests in the chance that I ran into her up there she just said to bring sunshine and fortunately that worked out! Stud and I brought loads of sunshine and it was a beautiful hike.
We parted ways with Little Bear who still had many miles to her next campsite. We hooted and hollered as we hiked on and popped out on Zealand Cliff which was just stunning with views for miles. Then we followed the ridge to the summit of Zealand which was not particularly mind blowing but the ridge was one of the most fun hikes I’ve had in a while mostly in the trees but with views thru them the whole time and occasionally popping out on some rock ledges.
There were lots of hikers out given the good weather and the holiday weekend but the trail did not feel like a hiker highway or anything. We hardly leapfrogged with anyone and the trail was unusually not super challenging so we didn’t take many breaks. Once back at the car we drove down the road a little ways to a spot along the Zealand River where we soaked our feet and tried to fully submerged but it was just way too cold. We managed to sit in it for a few minutes but that was it. We cleaned ourselves up and put on dry cotton and headed home stopping at the Red Arrow Diner for a fun dinner.
As I head off to work this morning I am thinking about Little Bear heading into Crawford Notch and gearing up for the Presidential Range! Weather is lookin good Little Bear!!! You got this!