Saturday, August 17, 2013


Neither Carol nor I were in the mood for a big climb on this fine summer day, so we decided to take a nice long walk out through Zealand Notch to Thoreau Falls, one of our favorite spots in the  mountains, and possibly on to the remote shore of Shoal Pond. Late in the morning the parking area at the end of Zealand Road was overflowing with cars, and we figured the trails would be very busy, but that turned out not to be the case. We ambled up the familiar Zealand Trail, where you catch nice views of Zealand Ridge at 1.7 mi. from the start.

At the junction by Zealand Pond, we continued ahead on the Ethan Pond Trail and soon dropped down through tall sugar maples to a well-used campsite for a lunch stop.

Upon returning to the trail, we would not see another hiker for more than five hours - much of it spent on or near the Appalachian Trail - on a beautiful August afternoon! The outline of the old J.E. Henry logging railroad bed can be seen here along the Ethan Pond Trail as it approaches Zealand Notch.

The open area of Zealand Notch on the side of Whitewall Mountain has good views, including this look at North Hancock and Northwest Hancock far off to the south beyond Shoal Pond Peak.

A closer look at Hancock.

Zeacliff towering above the lower Whitewall talus.

Looking north through the notch to Mt. Hale. The roof of Zealand Falls Hut can be seen just L of center.

Carol heading south through the notch towards Mt. Carrigain.

An easy walk brought us to the junction with the Thoreau Falls Trail, 4.6 mi. from the trailhead.

The broad ledge at the top of Thoreau Falls, one of the great places in the Whites, looking up at Mt. Bond and Mt. Guyot.

Looking down at the long, curving waterfall.

The view also includes Zealand Ridge on the right.

Side view of the upper part of the falls.

Zoom on Mt. Bond and its great eastern shoulder, which sports an unusual lower-elevation patch of alpine vegetation.

A wonderful place to relax, and maybe take a snooze. We spent an hour and 20 minutes here, and no one else came by.

Looking upstream from the falls.

We returned to the Ethan Pond Trail and continued along the railroad grade through the open spruce forest of the eastern Pemi.

Footbridge over the North Fork.

Looking upstream from the bridge.

We turned onto the lightly-used Shoal Pond Trail for more railroad grade walking. It's amazing how far in J.E. Henry's railroad went in the 1880s.

A very wild trail.

A mossy spruce forest extends for miles eastward to "Ethan Ridge."

After negotiating a few muddy spots we took a short side path to the eastern shore of Shoal Pond, with a view NW to the entire length of Zealand Ridge.

The prize view here looks south to the mighty Mt. Carrigain.

What an impressive mass of a mountain!

Wilderness serenity rules at Shoal Pond.

It was getting late in the day, time to head back through Zealand Notch.

The talus and cliffs of Whitewall Mountain.

Looking back to the south from the notch.

Evening at Zealand Pond.

Last look at Zealand Ridge before heading into the woods on the Zealand Trail.


  1. Shoal Pond brings back memories. I saw my first moose there. I believe it was 1982. I was camping on a knoll overlooking the pond I think and I saw the moose in the pond the next morning.

    Zealand Notch was wonderful. I'd still like to get back there to ski in the winter.

    1. A friend and I were once sitting on a little gravelly beach at the shore of Shoal Pond when a moose stepped out about 50 feet to our left. We were surprised at how quietly it appeared. It's peaceful place. It's great in winter when you can get out on the pond and see all the views.

      I've been to Shoal Pond, Whitewall Mountain and Zealand Ridge in winter, but never actually out into the Notch. Should be quite spectacular.


  2. Hi Steve,

    First of all, that second photo of Carrigain as viewed over Shoal Pond is possibly the best capture of that vista that I've seen. And your caption for that photo says it all, i.e. "What an impressive mass of a mountain!"

    It's beyond terrific that you and Carol were able to experience this classic hike together, and speaking of terrific . . . what beautiful weather you had!


    1. Thank you, John - that's always been one of my favorite "pond-and-peak" vistas. It was a classic summer day.