Zealand Mtn & West Bond & Mt. Bond & Bondcliff
Zealand Trail --> Twinway --> Zealand Spur --> Twinway --> Bondcliff Trail --> West Bond Spur --> Bondcliff Trail --> Lincoln Woods Trail
Distance: 18.4 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2,664 ft. (Overall) 3,753 ft. (Total)
Time: 3:39 (Zealand) 5:21 (West Bond) 6:00 (Bond) 6:44 (Bondcliff) 11:06 (Total)
The trail starts off pretty easy and gentle. The Zealand Trail to the base of the falls area very slowly gains elevation and only gets a bit rocky in places. It mostly follows the brook and all the bridges crossing the brook are very well built. The bridge at the beaver ponds requires walking along a lot to get onto it as the water level looks like it has been coming up on to the trail. This 2.5 miles went very quickly and was pretty easy. I only wish I hadn't been the first one down the trail this morning because of all the spider webs across the trail I kept walking through. From a ways before the beaver ponds until the junction with the Ethan Pond Trail, there was also a set of moose tracks that almost always stayed in the trail. The tracks were fresh and I was on the lookout, but I never saw anything.
Beaver pond bridge
The short trek up to the hut was easy with a quick stop at the falls and again at the hut. Since someone made a lap outside in a chicken suit at the hut, I can only guess they were doing the end of breakfast skit. After a quick stop and some pictures, I was back on my way again. The trail stays at a pretty good incline leaving the hut. There are a couple short breaks, but nothing major until you near the Zeacliff outlook. I was glad I stopped at this great viewpoint on my way up rather than waiting for the return trip (more on that later). This was also the first place I saw any hikers on the trail.
Zealand Falls hut
Leaving the cliff, the trail stays pretty easy with some small ups and downs as it works along the top of the ridge. There are a couple good views towards Zealand up ahead and some other directions through breaks in the trees. I decided to bypass the short side trip to the pond, figuring I could do that on the return. Just after this is the only short steep climb before Zealand. There is a short ladder and at the top there are some limited views. Just before the Zealand Spur, there was a friendly thru hiker headed north that I had a quick word with before wishing him luck on the rest of his journey. Soon I was at the short spur path and over to the small wooded opening of the summit.
Almost to the spur path
After a short break and a small snack, I was back on the trail. Heading down off Zealand is a bit rocky and steep and I was thinking that on the way back this section wouldn't be fun after so much mileage. The hike up out of the saddle between Zealand and Guyot wasn't as bad as I expected. It wasn't overly steep, but was quite rocky for a ways. There was plenty of steping from boulder to boulder. When I made it up onto the ridge, I was presented with a beautiful view. With 45 peaks done so far, I must say that this has got to be one of the best views yet.
View from Guyot
With it being warm out and now being in the wind, I planned on putting on a dry shirt here, only to find out that I left the extra shirt at home. I remembered once I was home though, it was actually in another compartment of my pack I only normally use in the winter. With the breeze, I dried out quickly anyways. I headed down to the junction and turned out to the Bonds. The rocks in the trail here made me remember the Presi Traverse I just completed a couple weeks ago. Before long I was at the trail for the campsite. It was hot and I was sweating, so I debated getting more water here. I decided I would do it on the return trip so I wouldn't have to carry it up the remaining peaks.
Quickly I was at the West Bond Spur. It goes downhill to start which always seems wrong when heading out to a peak. After reaching the low point the trail heads up steadily, but not too steep until the last few feet. I was really starting to slow on the uphills now from the heat. I was doing good drinking water, but needed some food. I sat on West Bond taking in another great view in all directions and started having something to eat. Unfortunately, this didn't work out well as all of a sudden my stomach wasn't feeling good. Before I could get to the trees, I got sick. Sorry to anyone here after me, but I didn't have time to make the trees completly. I didn't lose much food, but the fluid loss was what bothered me. This also zapped more energy out of me.
South Twin from West Bond
I headed back to the main trail and was slow going up to the summit of Mt. Bond. The trail isn't overly steep here or rocky, but I was going slow. About the time I thought I should be just about to the summit, the trail goes to the right of the small ridge on the summit before finally climbing the last couple feet. I took a good break here as were quite a few other hikers. I didn't think I could keep food down at the moment, so I just made sure to drink some fluids. It was about this point I started debating if it would be easier to go down over Bondcliff and out to Lincoln Woods rather than back up and over the peaks. I knew I could do the miles, but the elevation gain was worrying me. My truck wouldn't be at the trailhead, but maybe I could get a ride from a group doing the same hike with a car spot.
View from Mt. Bond
Crawford Notch and the Presidentials