I led an AMC trip up to Zealand Notch. I always like the views up there, a reward for the 7.5 mile ski in.
Only one participant signed up. I think because it had poured rain mid-week and everyone expected the snow to be dreadful. It wasn’t. There was a firm layer topped with one to two centimeters of snow.
The streams had carved the snow out of their channels and dumped it elsewhere in piles of rubble. Some of the streams had since refrozen, but the one crossing that is always open, was wide open.
Thor, my co-leader, decided we aught to instead backtrack to the previous bridge and bushwhack til we met the trail again. Thickets of bushes and fir trees pushed us away from the stream. I spotted shortly after a bridge, a split in the stream. The first split looked harmless on my map, but after fifteen minutes of traipsing around, I realized my map showed a second split headed west towards Mount Hale. Thor halted in a glade looking at Mt Hale, we pulled out my compass. The trail was somewhere true south or southwest. Thor remembered the aviation mnemonic
“Variation West, Compass Best – Variation East, Compass Least”
After a brief debate, we turned 90 degrees left and quickly found the trail.
The snow conditions seemed fine, but it was slippery. Thor and I would have passed it off as improper wax, but our participant on aggressive scales was slipping too. I think it was a combination of residual ice, and hikers tromping the snow into lumps. Worse than the slipping, though, was that some times when I caught myself with my pole, it held, and sometimes the pole punched through the firm layer deep into the snow below.
We got first tracks on Ethan Pond trail. The new snow was nice, but I quickly realized I was tired. Everyone else was silent and a little frustrated at all the break downs. Thor is sure the mountain has slid down on the trail since he was last there ten years ago. And the fir trees are overtaking the beeches.
We stopped at the first views and called it good enough. From the GPS track, we made it almost to Zeacliff trail.
As I predicted, Thor and I glided out faster than our participant on scales. In fact, I did little more than pole once every thousand feet.
We decided to tackle the Zealand stream crossing rather than bushwhack again. Normally, I can step from one snowbank to the other. This time, the stream bed was scoured to the rocks several yards across. And those rocks were covered with slick ice. Thor threw his skis across, and then swung himself across on some hanging branches. Our participant threw her skis over too, then shuffled sideways across an icy log. I tried throwing my ski across, but misjudged and hit the side of the bank. The ski fell into the stream and started floating away. In a brief moment, I decided to let it continue floating rather than risk slipping on the ice in an attempt to get the ski. Luckily the ski stopped. When I pulled it out, the water froze onto it so fast I couldn’t wipe any water off with my handkerchief.
On my second try, I got across. It took me five minutes to scrape the ski clean, but then we were on our way, no worse for the adventure.
The sun was just starting to set when we glided back to rt 302.
See the other trips to Zealand Notch.