Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Twenty-Mile Bonds Traverse

Today I would be hiking one of the epic hikes in the White Mountains, a Bonds traverse from Zealand Road to Lincoln Woods on the Kancamagus Highway. I calculated the actual distance from the map which added up to 19.9 miles, with the extra walking around the summits and spur paths the total was very close to twenty miles. I would be joining fellow hikers Jill and Henry. Today's summits included the following 4,000 footers, Zealand Mountain (4,260'), West Bond (4,540), Mount Bond (4,698') and Bondcliff (4,265'). We would also be crossing over Mount Guyot (4,580') but it does not meet the criteria as an official 4,000 footer.

 After a day of heat and humidity on Saturday I was glad to see the weather forecast calling for cooler temps and less humidity today. But when I woke up and glanced out the window the sky was looking very threatening with fast moving dark clouds and a hint of rain. The drive to the trailhead did not show much promise of clearing.

Mile 0 @6:30 Zealand Parking Lot - I arrived at the Zealand parking lot just before 6:00 am. Jill and Henry arrived a little later having had to spot a car at Lincoln Woods. We began our hike at approximately 6:30am under cloudy, overcast skies. It was a nice cool walk through the woods with a hint of humidity. We got to Zealand Falls and I got a quick photo before moving up the trail to the hut.

Mile 2.6 @7:35 Zealand Hut - When we reached Zealand Hut the sky was still cloudy and there were no views. We topped off our water and I stripped down to shorts and short sleeves. It was a quick break and we were soon on our way.

Mile 4.1 @8:36 Zeacliff - After departing from the Zealand Hut we turned onto the Twinway Trail. We started meeting hikers that had stayed at Guyot Campsite last night and they told us of the heat and humidity that they had endured yesterday. The cloudy morning was a welcome relief to them. We took the short path down to Zeacliff only to find clouds and no views but what's an extra 0.2 mile round trip when you're hiking twenty miles.

Mile 5.9 @9:32 Zealand Mountain - Continuing on the Twinway Trail took us across a misty bog bridge that appeared to be floating on mud. When we got to the spur path to Zeacliff Pond a hiker came up behind us while we were taking a short break. The hiker's name was Mark and he had been hiking since Thursday. After not seeing anyone for two days he was hoping to join us on our hike over to Lincoln Woods, it would be 68 miles of hiking for him at the end of today. We welcomed him into our small group and continued the hike. Our next stop was Zealand Mountain. We dropped our packs and hiked the 0.1 mile to the summit sign. Not much for views on this summit and in a matter of minutes we were back out to the Twinway Trail. There was some insignificant ice in a few spots along this trail. It was the first time this year that I have not needed traction on a 4,000 foot hike. The microspikes stayed behind today.

Mile 7.3 @10:32 Mount Guyot and Bondcliff Trail - As we went over Mount Guyot to Bondcliff Trail the summits were in and out of a moving cloud cover. Photos had to be taken quickly as the clouds were constantly changing the scenery. We turned onto the Bondcliff Trail and were on our way to the next summit.

Mile 8.6 @11:25 West Bond - We dropped our packs at the West Bond Spur for the one mile round trip hike to West Bond. When we got to the summit the clouds were still clearing out. There were many hikers here today. We took a nice break on this summit and I got my first panoramic video of the day. There were ocassional obscure views of the ridgeline to Bondcliff but the clouds never lifted completely while we were here. We hiked back out to Bondcliff Trail, picked up our packs and continued our ascent to Mount Bond.

Mile 9.6 @12:30 Mount Bond - The hike to Mount Bond was easier than it looked from West Bond. We dropped our packs on the summit and basked in the sun while we took a nice break. The last of the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining brightly which seemed to have brought out the black flies. I used this opportunity to apply some sunscreen and insect repellent. I also had something to eat and did not hold back on replenishing the fluids. While the extra water that I brought added some weight to my pack I was now glad that I had it. We still had another 10+ miles to go. It was on to our final summit of the day.

Mile 10.8 @1:15 Bondcliff - The hike from Mount Bond to Bondcliff follows a spectacular ridgeline. The views are amazing and it is deep in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. From Bondcliff it is at least 10 miles and many hours back to civilization in any direction. It's a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the White Mountains. The clouds had cleared from Bondcliff and we enjoyed wilderness views all around us.

Mile 17  @4:09 Lincoln Woods Trail - While the trails from Bondcliff are all downhill it is a very long hike out to Lincoln Woods on the Kancamagus Highway. The trail eventually levels out and is very straight giving the appearance of looking down a long dark tunnel through the trees. Reaching the bridge over Franconia Brook brings us to the home stretch and the final 2.9 miles. Everyone is tired but in under an hour we cross the suspension bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, the end of a long hike.

Mile 19.9 @5:00 Lincoln Woods Visitor Center - After 10.5 hours and twenty miles of hiking we arrive at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center having successfully completed our Bonds traverse. I was tired but it was exhilarating to have accomplished such an awesome hike with all those summits and miles. It was great to be able to hike this traverse with Jill, Henry and later Mark, it made the miles pass quickly. The weather cleared up nicely throughout the day and turned out to be better than I expected. This was my second Bonds traverse and it was just as exciting as the first time. I have every intention of doing this hike again someday!

The hike starts here

Painted trillium

Hobblebush blooming

Old beaver dam

A bunch of painted trillium

Another old beaver dam

Zealand Falls


Zeacliff view

Crossing a misty bog bridge

A ladder climb

Summit of Zealand Mountain with no views

Making the turn onto Bondcliff Trail

Diapensia lapponica

On Mount Guyot

Mount Bond

Mount Washington poking through the clouds in the distance

On the summit of West Bond

View of West Bond summit from Bondcliff Trail

Clouds lifting from Bondcliff

Beginning the descent from Mount Bond

Looking back at West Bond

Ridgeline to Bondcliff

Ascending Bondcliff

Bondcliff precipice

Standing on Bondcliff

Jill, Mark and Henry relaxing on Bondcliff

Starting the descent on Bondcliff

Vertical drop on the Bondcliff Trail

Painted trillium

Easy water crossing

Another easy water crossing

Mark about to finish his hike of 68 miles 

Lady Slipper

Bridge over the Franconia Brook and 2.9 miles to go

This red squirrel appeared to be injured

Lincoln Woods parking lot on the other side of this bridge

East Branch of the Pemigewasset River and the end of the Bonds traverse

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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