Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Zealand and The Bonds Beyond

Up at 3:00 am, out the door at 3:50 for a Bond traverse. I'd be joining up with fellow hikers Denise, completing her 48 4,000 footers today and Jill, a veteran Bonds climber having made several trips to these summits and wanting to hike them again. We delayed our trip one day to await the spectacular weather that was forecast for today. Turned out to be a great decision!

Zealand Trail

Stopping for photos

Beaver dam

The plan was to spot a car at Lincoln Woods and start from the Zealand parking area, in on the Zealand Trail (2.5 mi.), turning onto Twinway (4.4 mi.) with a round trip spur path to Zealand Mountain (4,260')(.2 mi.), back onto Twinway and over Mount Guyot (4,580' but NOT on the 4,000 footer list) continuing onto Bondcliff Trail (8.7 mi.) and another round trip spur path to West Bond (4,540') (1 mi.). Then up over Mount Bond (4,698') and over to Bondcliff (4,265'). The home stretch would be Lincoln Woods Trail (2.9 mi.) back to our car spot for a total of 19.7 miles. Whew!

Bog full of spider webs

Zealand Pond

After a close encounter with a moose on the foggy roadside I picked up Denise just after 4:00 am and we headed for Lincoln Woods. The drive would take us just about one hour and fifteen minutes. It was still dark when we left but there were no more moose encounters. We were making good time and should have been to Lincoln Woods on time except for driving by the exit for the Kancamagus Highway. I ended up turning at the Tripoli Road exit and found the exit on the way back.

View from Zealand Hut

Maybe Lend-A-Hat Trail

We arrived at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center, used the facilities then made a loop around the parking area looking for Jill, she was there waiting. We decided to leave her vehicle, she jumped in with her gear and we were on our way to Zealand Road.

The drive to Zealand was uneventful and the early morning sky was starting to brighten. We arrived at the parking area and there were plenty of avaiable spots which surprised me, I thought the lot would be full. It was a nice cool morning and it felt great, we were all eager to get started on this epic hike.

A view from the edge of Zeacliff

We moved along at a good pace and were soon at the beaver pond. The cameras came out in full force. There were plenty of photo opportunities, from dew-soaked spider webs to water reflections to taking photos of each other taking photos. We spent a few minutes engaging in our photogenic indulgence before continuing on.

Mount Carrigain in the distance

Fire tower on Mount Carrigain

Bog bridge

At the Twinway trail junction we turned right and made the ascent to Zealand Hut. We were met by the pungent smell of the toilet facilities from the hut wafting down upon the trail. It was an incentive to move a little faster.

Zealand Mountain #36

There was the usual crowd of hikers that you would expect to see on an early Sunday morning at the hut. We stopped long enough to use the facilities, change to shorts and short sleeves and had a quick bite to eat.

A rocky section of Twinway trail

Looking over at Mount Guyot

The Twinway trail goes around the side of the hut and starts its climb past some beautiful waterfalls. Our next stop was at the Zeacliff Outlook and we had some spectacular early morning views. After a brief break for some photos we continued to climb Twinway.

Our first 4,000 footer of the day was Mount Zealand. A short spur path took us to the viewless summit, and I mean there was NO view just a sign on a tree. So got the summit photo by the sign and promptly returned to the Twinway trail.

Summit of Mount Guyot

We then climbed above treeline over Mount Guyot, although over 4,580 feet it does not meet the criteria for addition to the 4,000 footer list, but it is in fact a 4,000 foot mountain. Another brief stop for photos and it was off to West Bond.

Bondcliff behind me from West Bond #37

Just after passing the trail for Guyot Campsite the West Bond Spur trail turns off to the right and it's one-half mile to the summit and it seemed like a long half mile. There were impressive views from this peak especially looking across to the ridgeline leading to Bondcliff. Here is where we ate lunch while enjoying the views.

On top of Mount Bond #38

Bondcliff Trail on the ridgeline to Bondcliff

Another half-mile return trip to the Bondcliff Trail and we made our ascent to the summit of Mount Bond. More spectacular views! This particular viewpoint allows one to look directly down onto the Bondcliff Trail as it snakes along the top of the ridge. We didn't stay long on Mount Bond and were soon hiking along the ridgeline we just looked down on. The temperature was getting very warm and there was only the slightest breeze...ocassionally.

Looking back over to West Bond

Along the Bondcliff Trail

As the trail started climbing again we knew this would be the final ascent of the day. Once on top of Bondcliff it would be all downhill from there, albeit a long downhill with a long flat hike out after that. While this might have been the last summit of the day it was certainly not the least.

Denise's #48!

Heading out toward the cliff face

Stepping up

As far as I'm going

Approaching the top we could see those brave souls standing out on the precipice of Bondcliff to get their photo taken as somehow proof of conquering this summit. I wasted no time in dropping my pack and walking out onto this small piece of granite with LOTS of thin air on three sides and a very long way down to a rocky bottom. It was an unnerving feat to say the least but I did not hike all that way NOT to do it. Denise declined and there was no shame in not standing out there on the edge of certain death from one misstep. Jill on the other hand charged out there and was enjoying all that thin air below.

Jill brought the cupcakes for Denise's #48 4,000 footer celebration

Resting on Bondcliff

After the photos it was time for a little celebration, afterall this was summit #48 for Denise. She had completed all the summits on the 4,000 footer list, an enormous achievemnt. Jill presented Denise a poster representing this accomplishment and had somehow managed to pull three large cupcakes from her backpack with a mound of frosting on each one fully intact and unscathed from the hike up, great packaging. And I don't mind saying that cupcake hit the spot!

Mount Washington in the distance

Starting our descent from Bondcliff

More mushrooms

Not out of the woods yet

We still had almost ten miles of hiking ahead of us in order to get to Lincoln Woods. Denise set a quick pace and it was a good hike down to the long, flat hike we still had ahead of us. Although we saw a few hikers far up on the Bondcliff Trail we started seeing people again when we reached the bridge over the Franconia Brook and many more the rest of the way to the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center.

Bridge across Franconia Brook and the home stretch

End of the trail at Lincoln Woods

We reached the bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River 12 hours after leaving the parking lot at the end of Zealand Road, always a great sight after a long, successful hike. This would have been a very long, lonely solo hike so it was very nice to have Denise and Jill along for company on this epic adventure! Congratulations Denise on the completion of your 48 4,000 footers!

Panoramic view from Mount Guyot

Panoramic view from West Bond

Panoramic view from Mount Bond

Panoramic view from Bondcliff

Starting the Bondcliff ascent

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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