Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A half-day hike into the beautiful Zealand area, one of the most peaceful locales in the White Mountains. Though the red maples had mostly flamed out after a spectacular show reported by hikers a few days earlier, the scenery was nonetheless superb. This area was originally called "New Zealand" in the late 1800s, supposedly a humorous reference to its remoteness.

After an initial rather miserable rough and rocky section, the Zealand Trail is a very pleasant walk, mostly along the grade of timber baron J.E. Henry's logging railroad, which ran in the late 1880s. I call these the "halfway rocks," marking the 1.25 mi. mark of this 2.5 mi. trail.

In another half-mile, you get the first of several views of the surrounding mountains across beaver ponds, swamps and meadows. This is Zealand Ridge, with Zeacliff on the L and "Zeacliff Pond Peak" on the R.

Beavers have recently flooded the approach to the "Z-bridge."

New beaver pools and dams.

A typical Zealand scene.

Along the Zealand Trail.

A view across another beaver pond to Mt. Tom. This flat spot was reportedly a loading area during the logging railroad days.

Zeacliff Pond Peak seen across the north end of Zealand Pond.

Zeacliff over the south end of Zealand Pond.

Looking north to various spurs of Mt. Hale.

The Ethan Pond Trail heading south along the railroad grade from the Twinway/Zealand Trail junction.
My plan was to explore in Zealand Notch today. Rather than continue on the trail out to the spectacular open rocks, I decided to do some bushwhacking along the floor of the notch, starting off with a descent through these beautiful maples.

First I visited some cascades on Whitewall Brook that Ken Stampfer and I had found a couple of years ago.

Looking south down a long reach of Whitewall Brook.

As I made my way down the sometimes brushy floor of the notch, there were occasional peeks up at Zeacliff from meadowy spots.

There were some lovely birch glades down there.

A moose bed in one of the meadows. I was hoping I didn't run into a bull, it being the height of rutting season.

After whacking a good 3/4 mile, I came to an open area of meadows and beaver ponds, with a clear view up to Zeacliff.

The beaver dams here looked fairly recently refurbished, with quite a bit of mud in them.

After some poking around, I found a spot with a fine view of Whitewall Mountain rising above its namesake brook in the heart of Zealand Notch.

A closeup of the Whitewall cliffs. As I was preparing to leave this wonderful spot, I inadvertently dumped my camera into the brook, ker-plunk! I fished it out and tried to dry it off.

This is the kind of picture a point-and-shoot digital takes after being immersed in three feet of water. It then ceased operating entirely - Carol later told me trying to operate it after it's wet is the worst thing you can do. A week later, though, it's working again, but for how long, who knows? Despite my bonehead move, it was yet another rewarding visit to Zealand country.


  1. Nice report, Steve. Sorry about the camera!

  2. Thanks, Steve - we'll see how long the revived camera works...


  3. Height of rutting season, eh? I wondered about that. I encountered one on FR85 about .10-mile from the Signal Ridge Trail on Thursday. It moved away at first, then I thought I heard it running at me and I looked for a place to hide. Lucky for me, it had actually moved away and was waiting just out of sight. I had wanted to explore that road, so after several quiet minutes, I took a couple more steps and the moose reappeared, beating a hasty retreat. Oh well.

    Also, Steve, you probably already know, but for the next edition of the White Mountain Guide, there is now a parking lot for the Mount Kinsman Trail, but it’s not at the town line, it’s just past the tennis club and a large red barn, on a dirt road between two stone gateposts. I missed seeing it while driving, but climbed Reel Brook and came down Mount Kinsman and walked back to my car down 116 and Paine Road.

    Good luck with the camera. Was that the A720?

    ~ Raymond (VFTT)

  4. Thanks Raymond,

    Glad your close encounter went well. Going up the Reel Brook/Harrington Pond route is the most scenic Kinsman route, for sure. How was Reel Brook Trail, any damage from Irene?

    The camera, to my amazement, is now working fine, so far. It's an A3100.


  5. The Reel Brook Trail was pretty wet as I got near the ridge, but seemed fine to me otherwise. There was a fork just before the puddles began — the trail went right — not sure if it was a campsite to the left, or hunter’s camp, or what.

    But the Kinsman Ridge Trail near Harrington Pond was awful. The bog bridges were all underwater. There was a herd path around a big puddle just before the right turn where the pond becomes visible. The first part of the herd path went over several logs that were laying there side-by-side; I wondered if they could have been removed from the trail and thrown into the woods for some reason. The herd path rejoined the trail and that’s where the boards were all inundated. And the ground around them was too mushy to walk on, natch. So that section of the trail needs some work.

    I climbed Carrigain on Thursday. There was one section of trail (not far from that first difficult crossing after leaving the road) that was taken away by Irene. A new path has been beaten up the slope, but I don’t imagine it will last very long. There is a rounded rock or ledge about halfway (it’s not a very long section, but long enough) that is going to be trouble as the soil disappears around it.

    I wonder how long the bit of road at the huge washout on Sawyer River Road is going to last, too.

  6. I meant to ask about the moose bed, too.

    When my ladyfriend, Susan, and I tried to climb Mount Pliny four years ago, we saw several big crop circles like that on those grassy roads that we mistakenly took (rather than staying low on Priscilla Brook Trail all the way to the col). Would those have been from moose, do you think (we did see a moose above us on the slope) or might bears make them, as well? We were imagining bears were around. I even could swear I heard something rolling or crashing through the underbrush just ahead of us as we were descending. Didn’t see anything as big as a moose — didn’t see anything at all, actually — but imagined it was a bear.

  7. Thanks for the info, Raymond. Glad to hear Reel Brook Trail is OK, but sorry to hear about the flooding at Harrington Pond. Wonder why the water level is up. It may be a while before Sawyer River Road is fixed.

    I always assume those flattened areas of vegetation are moose beds, but maybe some of them they could be bear beds as well.