Last of the month, an unexpected trifecta!
Mt Hale, Mt Zealand, Mt Guyot, Mt Bond. 2018-05-31 (Thursday.) Via the Hale Brook Trail, Lend-A-Hand Trail, Twinway, Bondcliff Trail, Zealand Trail. Approx 22 miles.
Hale: 4054, Zealand: 4260, Guyot: 4580, Bond: 4698 feet.
72-84 dF throughout the day. Winds in the 20-25 MPH range on Guyot and Bond, moderated on the other summits by tree cover. Sunny throughout the day, turning to partly cloudy by dinnertime. Humidity in the 30-40% range, depending on altitude. In a word, clement.
Trailhead: 0930 (Approx 2 mile walk along Zealand Road to reach trailhead). Hale Summit: 1100. Zealand hut: 1245 (left at 1310). Zealand summit: 1500. Guyot summit: 1550. Bond summit: 1630. Zealand hut: 1900 (left at 1915). Car: 2100.
Without a doubt, the trail maintenance crews do yeoman’s work. Today, I walked around precisely zero blowdowns or other trail debris. (I did pick up a couple pieces of litter, however. Not their fault.)
It wasn’t supposed to turn out the way it did. I was planning on doing the Twins and the Bonds together on the same outing, another day. But opportunity knocked.
First, the walk to the trailhead. The USFS had a crew actively working on the roadway. I had a chat with a member: apparently, Sawyer River Road WILL be rebuilt — which is exactly the opposite of what I’d expected. September seems to be the timeframe for opening the road. Let’s all hope. He did seem eager to fix that bad Larry, and it almost seemed like a point of pride for him.
On Hale Brook trail, I made good time. There was a lot of up, but Hale isn’t one of the higher 4,000 footers, so it wrapped up quickly. I passed through the green tunnel, savoring every bit. The trail was in fine shape, which made it doubly enjoyable. At the summit, I met a couple, and we kept bumping into each other throughout the day. But they were such nice company, so that was very nice indeed. (The constant throughout my time in the Whites has been “nice people”, which I’m not at all upset about. It’s at least as much about the people I meet as it is about the peaks I visit.) As has happened so many other times, if I meet these people again on the trail, my day will get better.
The second half of the Lend-A-Hand trail had a phenomenal amount of bog bridges. No kidding, it seemed like they’d stretch for 100 yards at a time, over and over. I was able to hike super swiftly.
Moving on, I made swift time to Zealand hut. The croo was wonderful, as expected. I was greeted with warm hearts and warm “iced” tea (it having been made very recently), but it was delicious and everything I needed. I filled my water bottle, and pressed on toward Zealand, after having a strategy meeting with the hut caretaker. I was concerned about time, but he suggested I keep an open mind about Bond, because in his opinion, the way going wasn’t bad, and I’d probably make good time. He also stamped my “High Huts” book with the hut stamp.
Not far from the hut, I passed a gentleman coming the other way. Asking about his day and where he was coming from, he answered “well, I was in Hanover last Friday.” He’d left Springer Mountain in 2006, section hiking the AT since then. This trip wouldn’t at Katahdin, but he was aiming for Pinkham Notch within the next couple days. Wow. This was the second time I’ve met a current or former AT hiker on the trail. (And yes, it’s on the list.)
Meeting with that couple again on Zealand, we had a delightful conversation on the summit, and although I probably spent more time than was prudent, given my hopeful goals for the day’s peak bagging, I don’t regret a minute of it. My day got a little better for them being a part of it a second time. On the way to Guyot, I stopped at a vista and… wow. All of the eastern half of the Pemi was laid before me. I can’t put into words the feeling of serenity that washed over me, but wow, it was incredible.
I raced onward to Guyot, hoping to gain a sense of whether Bond would be in the cards. If nothing else, I’d be able to pay homage to Guyot; from what I’ve read about the man, this would be a worthwhile goal in and of itself. While Hale and Zealand had viewless summits, Guyot made up for that in spades. I became a bit upset that this peak wasn’t on the 4,000 footer list, for nothing more than the view. It’s just that amazing, and the lead-up to the summit is fantastic, in the way it whets your appetite as you approach.
Coming off Guyot was a rock garden that slowed my pace considerably. I gave myself ten minutes to prove I could make time… and fortunately, the mountain delivered. Standing on Bond less than 45 minutes later, I bagged my third 4,000 footer of the day, and just after the majesty of Guyot! I took some pics (including a selfie of me with Bondcliff’s well known cliffs in the background) and then wasted no time getting back. The day had gotten long at least an hour ago, and I needed to beat feet in order to get off the mountain before the light disappeared. I raced to Zealand hut in order to refill my water before heading home. If the day could be defined by one single thing, that would be thirst. I need to resolve hydration, and soon.
I showed up at the hut as the croo was finishing dinner. As I refilled my bottles, they asked if I was interested in the risotto they had left. Wow. Hands down, this was one of the best dinners I’ve ever had. Risotto is one of the most simple meals in the universe, and yet, to break bread with the croo, regardless of what was on the menu, was an honor. After filling up with a delicious meal, I got some more info on the fastest way to get off mountain, and was off.
On the way, I bumped into an AMC scientist, who was returning to his car… coincidentally parked near mine. His studies are of how the flowers on the mountain are affected by climate conditions, and as we hiked, he told me about his work. It was a fascinating lecture, and I learned a lot. Every time I hike with a scientist, I return to the mountains with new eyes, so this was indeed a treat.
So it was an epic day. Standing on Bond, a massive sense of accomplishment washed over me. Heading back to Zealand hut, I was exhausted and ready for the day to end. But back at my car, I was jubilant, and planning for the next one.
This is why I do it.
Bond summit marker.
Heading to Guyot.
Puncheons spanning a bog. Some parts of the trail are practically paved with bog bridges.
Some days, it feels like you’re never far from the AT. And by extension, Springer Mountain.
Lots of waterfalls.
Finally heading home.