July 4, 2012. What a better way to spend the holiday than hiking up one of the 4000 footers. The goal is to do Zealand and then go over to Guyot, a peak 4580 feet tall but not one of the official 4000 footers. The only thing is it is supposed to rain with the threat of thunderstorms in the AM and clear out later on. The good thing is this hike to Zealand is in the cover of trees for the majority of the trip. The only exposed parts are Zeacliff and then Guyot.
So I set the alarm for 3 am because I wanted an early start on this one because it is one of the longer drives. The trailhead is located off of Route 302 just past Twin Mountain 3.5 miles in but part of the road is a so-so maintained dirt road. But as the alarm went off at 3 the wind was picking up outside so I stayed in bed until 3:30 knowing it was going to start to rain. Sure enough by the time I left the house at 4 it was raining. I knew it would not last all day and anyways this would give me a decent chance to hike in the rain to get ready for the Appalachian Trail. Almost three hours later with a quick stop in Lincoln at Dunkin Donuts and I am ready to hike at 7 am.
It has been raining all the way up and slowed down to a drizzle by the time I am on the trail. Everything is wet which is a great look in the forest. The only thing that would be better is if it were fall and the leaves were wet and changing color. I wear my rain jacket for the first part of the trip until I get to the overheating stage. Then it comes off as it is also muggy with the temps around 60°. The bugs are not out yet which makes it enjoyable to not have the smell of bug juice impede the smells of the forest. The trail starts out wide as an old logging road and then goes through varying transformations from rock strewn to root strewn.
The first two and half miles of the trail is relatively flat gaining negligible elevation. There is only one brief downpour and I throw my jacket over myself and my pack to keep dry. Other than that it is just misty and finally breaking up, just the rain not the clouds. It is another one those great walk in the woods trails passing and crossing through ponds and tributaries. Just before the climb up to Zealand Falls Hut there a couple of viewpoints to see two sections of the falls.
The short but steep rocky climb up to the hut will come back later to haunt me. As I crest the top there is the hut right next to the trail and there are about 6-8 young hikers milling about right directly on the trail. Oh did I forget an adjective there, INCONSIDERATE! They all see me coming up but make no attempt to move out of the way to let me through. I am forced to go up the steps of the hut to get around them so holding back what I really want to say to them. This isn't the first time I have run into bone heads like this on the trail and it is one my pet peeves about the small minority of selfish hikers out there.
A little over a mile later and I reach the top of Zeacliff. Unfortunately there are no views from this impressive viewpoint, hopefully on the way back the clouds will have broken.
Just after passing the spur path for Zeacliff Pond I come across another steep section of trail and then a bigger than life ladder in the middle of the woods. I have always thought that Paul Bunyan was just folklore but now I am beginning to wonder.
After climbing the ladder I am on the ridge leading to the peak of Zealand. It is a little over a mile between the pond and the peak with many many false peaks. I come to a crest hoping the spur path is just up ahead and then the trail descends a little bit. This scenario repeats itself over and over until finally I reach the one tenth of a mile spur to the wooded summit. It is an odd place where the path comes to a dead end and there is a sign marking the summit.
I stop and take off my backpack, hang my raincoat on a tree and lean my hiking poles up against a tree so I can have a bite to eat and take a quiet break in the woods. It is a peaceful spot a chance to reflect on the past 47 peaks I have accomplished. Not long and my solitude is broken up by two teenagers and it is time for me to go. I pack my raincoat and hat and put on my backpack and start to leave. 10 yards and hey wait I am forgetting something, hiking poles! Back to get them and as I am walking back to the Twinway I start to contemplate if it is worth going on to Guyot or to just head back. The clouds have not lifted and it was only about 10:15 when I got to Zealand. The trail description describes it as being steep going down into the col between Zealand and Guyot but it is only 1.3 miles from the head of the spur path. Guyot is a bare peak with great views, two weekends ago it was in view from the Bonds, but on a cloudy day what is the point of going there. By the time I reach the Twinway I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to head over and started to turn left to head back the way I came. I stop as I turn and remind myself to not let the trail or weather deter me and instead turn 180° and start the hike over to Guyot. After all even with the clouds there have been quite a few peaks I have been on that were socked in and that didn't stop me then. So down the trail I go and it is steep and bouldery but not as bad as the description made it out to be. I am glad now that I did make the decision to continue on.
A short time later at 11:05 and I have reached the summit of Guyot. It is still socked in and it is 11:05. It is viewless and quite different looking from when I could see it from Bond a few weeks ago.
Back down I head returning the way I came and no more than thirty minutes later the clouds start to blow out. Just my luck, oh well, I'll be back on this section of trail again someday. Less than two hours later and I am back at Zeacliff and the views are much better now than early this morning.
One of the reasons I'll be back on this trail eventually is I forgot to mention that the entire trip today has been on the Appalachian Trail.
A short stop at one of the cascades above Zealand Falls hut to rest and rinse off some of the sweat. Then as I am coming down just below the hut I step on a slab of rock and out go the feet. Remember earlier when I said this section of trail would come back to haunt me? Down I go on my butt and landing on my left elbow and amazingly nothing is broken. Elbow is sore and forearm a little tender but all is good. Eight hours from starting this morning and I am back at the car. One more mountain to go to finish the 48. This Sunday is the scheduled date of completion on Waumbek.
Final numbers: 14 miles, 8 hours , 1 peak, # of peaks to date - 47.