Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mount Hale Loop: 7/4/13

Carol told me to take a hike, and, better yet, offered to watch the store on this hot, humid Independence Day. Like many hikers, I don't enjoy climbing much when the dew point is pushing 70, but I needed to get out somewhere, and up. I hadn't been to Mount Hale for a few years, and though there is virtually no view anymore from the summit, I always enjoy the loop along the Lend-a-Hand Trail and back through the scenic Zealand River valley. The plan was to spice up the hike with a short bushwhack to a small clifftop with a fine view on the south shoulder of the mountain, and a slightly longer whack to a look for cascades on Whitewall Brook.

Though the temperature wasn't high yet, the humidity was brutal as I set out on the Hale Brook Trail at 8:30 am. This is a steady, straightforward climb at mostly moderate grades with an occasional steeper pitch, one of those trails you just plug away at. A sweatfest today, for sure.

About halfway up the trail makes a traverse through birch forest on a steep sidehill, a stretch that can be quite difficult in winter, when you could slide right down to the brook.

A cascade at the second crossing of Hale Brook, which was flowing strongly. No problems with the crossings, though.

The final approach to the summit of Hale.

Hale's summit, once the site of a firetower, is still quite open. When I first climbed it in 1978, there were good views here, especially looking south through Zealand Notch to Carrigain Notch. But the trees surrounding the flat summit have grown up so much since then that the summit is now 99% viewless.

By standing on the topmost rock of the large cairn, I could see the tops of Mt. Field and Mt. Willey. That's about it. There are several fine viewpoints on Mt. Hale, but the summit ain't one of 'em.

This inscription commemorates the construction of the firetower, completed on 10-17-1928. Served by the tractor road now known as the unmaintained Firewarden's Trail, it was in operation until 1948. The Forest Service removed the tower in 1972.

After eating and resting for a while, it was time to head out on the Lend-a-Hand Trail. This route was opened in 1934 by the AMC, to provide a nearby hike for guests at the new Zealand Falls Hut.  Mt. Hale was named for Rev. Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), a Boston Congregationalist minister, avid White Mountain explorer, and author of the classic short story, A Man Without a Country. The Lend-a-Hand Trail was named for a journal for charitable organizations edited by Rev. Hale.  

The upper part of Lend-a-Hand meanders through some beautiful glades of balsam fir.

A nice birch and fern glade, a legacy of a forest fire that burned over much of the mountain in 1903.

Nice walking on the south shoulder.

At the end of the south shoulder, a spur path leads left to a vista of Carrigian Notch seen beyond Zealand Notch.

After a short but thick bushwhack I found a small open clifftop that I had visited years ago, offering a clear 180-degree view to the south, including this perspective on the Willey Range. When Lend-a-Hand Trail was built in 1934, this whole area was open and Harland Sisk, the AMC Councillor of Trails, wrote in Appalachia, "At the top of the cliffs the tramper has one of the finest views in the mountains."

This spot offers a clearer look at the unique perspective on Carrigain Notch through Zealand Notch.

South and North Twin loom close by to the west above the Little River valley.

A closer look at North Twin and its eastern slide. I made an interesting descent of that slide back in 1986.

Two large slides in the ravine to the south of South Twin. My bushwhacking friend J.R. Stockwell has ascended the upper, larger slide.

South Hale, aka Zeale, a NH 100 Highest peak, looms close by to the south. It has several good view ledges.

I baked here in the sun and haze for a long time. Below is a parting shot, looking at the long profile of Zealand Ridge. Click here for a video of the view from this spot.

I returned to the Lend-a-Hand Trail and continued down through a scrubby area with glimpses of South Hale....

...and Zealand Ridge.

Farther down, the trail crosses many plank walkways in a lush, boggy area. The planks provided a respite from the mostly rocky footing on this interesting and varied trail.

My second bushwhack, over to Whitewall Brook, led me thorugh some nice birch glades.

After a while I found a nice ledgy cascade on the brook, far upstream from Zealand Falls Hut.

I spent an hour relaxing on this comfortable granite slab.

The upper part of the cascade. Click here for a video of the cascade.

There were more nice ledgy spots upstream from the cascade.

Then I bushwhacked downstream for a ways, passing this tall patch of Indian Poke (Veratrum viride).

Another little cascade.

Whitewall Brook splits around an island.

I whacked back to Lend-a-Hand Trail and continued down to the open ledgy section of Whitewall Brook just above the hut.

Mountain Avens was in bloom here.

Looking out to Mt. Tom and down at Zealand Pond.

Looking back upstream.

Zealand Falls Hut was hopping just before dinnertime. I stopped in for some lemonade and water, then took a shot of the view from the front porch.

On the way down from the hut I took the short side path to Zealand Falls, which was in good flow.

Then it was time to head out through the Zealand Valley on the Zealand Trail. Zealand Ridge was nicely reflected in Zealand Pond.

Looking north across Zealand Pond to the spur ridges of Mt. Hale.

The former large beaver pond just north of the A-Z Trail junction is now a mud flat. It was still a pond last summer. I assume the beaver dam was somehow breached.

Evening along the Zealand Trail.

A new linear bridge has replaced the old "Z-bridge" over a beaver-flooded area. All told, this leisurely 11-hour day was one of the most interesting hikes I've done on Mt. hale!


  1. That was so nice of Carol to provide you with the independence to hike on "Independence Day"! And you certainly made the most of your freedom to do some mountain wandering.

    One of my favorite views in the Whites is that vista of the Carrigain Notch as viewed from that spur path off the Lend-A-Hand Trail. That nearby bushwhack spot that you visited offers quite an enhanced view of that same vista!

    Informative narrative, excellent photos and videos! What else could one ask for in a report?!


    1. Thanks for your kind comments, John! I really like that view - it certainly adds a lot to the "Hale experience." And I am very grateful to Carol for giving me "independence" that day.


  2. Great stuff as usual Steve. Never knew about that spur off Lend-A-Hand and the nearby by ledge to whack to. I have visied a ledge on South Hale with a similar unique view.

    You seem to be better at dealing with the heat than I. I headed out on the Zealand Tr. on the 4th to bushwhack Shoal Pond Peak. I had to abort mid-way into the bushwhack do to the heat.

    That talk, and photos lately of that beaver pond had me very curious as to it's demise. So on the way out I ventured into the now mud flats to see what happened. I've included a link to a picture of the breach.

    Thanks for sharing,

  3. Steve,
    As always thank you for allowing me to join you via your terrific trip report! I usually hike Hale when its raining. You had a wonderful outing on such a hot humid day.
    I wonder why we suffer the loss of grand vistas. I don't want to see forest fires or huge clearcuts but take a few trees adjacent to our trails would be okay with me. Oops didn't mean to stray, Enjoyed your outing very much, thanks,
    Amy P.

    1. Thanks, Amy! If you look at the picture in the Mount Hale chapter of "50 More Hikes in NH" you can see how grand a viewpoint it once was.