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Mt Hale
April 24, 2009

Route: Zealand Rd, Zealand Trail, Lend-a-Hand Trail, Hale Brook Trail
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Elevation: 4054 ft
Vertical Climb: 2809 ft
Distance: 14.3 miles
Who Went: Paul (solo)

I had attempted a loop up to Zealand Falls Hut and Mt Hale twice in the past and ended up changing my plans both times. The first had been in the spring of 2008 when I climbed Mt Hale via Zealand Rd and the Hale Brook Trail in deep wet snow, and was then too tired to try the unbroken Lend-a-Hand Trail. The second was in the fall of 2008 when I was unable to drive up the still open but slippery Zealand Rd to the Zealand Trailhead. As I had not contemplated hiking the entire length of Zealand Rd that day, I climbed North and Middle Sugarloaf instead. This time, I was mentally prepared for the entire 14+ mile loop from Rt 302.

The hike up Zealand Rd was quiet and mostly snow-free, which made for quick hiking. When I reached the Zealand Trailhead, a sign announced that "an aggressive bull moose is in the area and has repeatedly charged hikers on the Zealand Falls [sic] Trail. Do Not Approach." I had read about the moose on the Views from the Top website, but that had been a couple of months earlier, and I was hoping that the threat was over by now. Never-the-less, I kept a sharp lookout as I walked along the trail, making sure that I wasn't too quiet so as not to surprise the moose (in the probably erroneous assumption that it might react like a bear and try to avoid me).

Anyway, I didn't encounter any moose, bull or otherwise, just a pair of mallards swimming peacefully in the Zealand River and snow that become somewhat deeper as I trekked on. I made reasonably good time, but was a bit tired by the time I made the last steep climb up to the hut. It's a considerably longer hike coming all the way from Rt 302 than it is when you are able to park at the trailhead.

There were a couple of other hikers on the porch when I got there but the caretaker was gone for the day. I had hoped to be able to buy a hut t-shirt or hat. I took a look around behind the counter and would have left the money, but I didn't see anything and dropped the idea. Maybe the 2009 hut stuff wasn't even in yet.

Before continuing on, I took a few pictures of the hut, the falls, and Zealand Notch. The falls were flowing quite well, but not as fast as I had expected. At least the rocks at the viewpoint by the falls weren't slippery. Running the rapids on my butt was not in my plans for the day. With this thought in mind, I figured that it was also time to put on my snowshoes, as postholing in wet snow was another thing that was not on my agenda.

Zealand Trailhead. It's a nearly 4-mile walk along Zealand Rd from the parking lot on Rt 302 to the start of the trail itself.

Zealand Trail. Boardwalks span several marshy areas along the trail.

Zealand River and Zeacliff. Zeacliff is the highpoint at the east end of the ridge coming down from Mt Zealand. It overlooks Whitehall Mtn and Zealand Notch.

Ducks in the Zealand River. As I neared the shores of Zealand Pond, I saw these two mallards swimming in the river.

Zealand Falls Hut front porch and main entrance. Note the wreath that is still up almost 4 months after Christmas.

Zealand Falls Hut front porch and bathroom facilities. The bathrooms used to be in the main building but were later added in a separate building.

Zealand Falls. The first photo shows the falls looking up from the viewpoint near the hut. The second one is from the same spot but looking down. Even with the snow still on the ground, it was nice and warm in the sun.

Zealand Notch and Whitehall Mtn with Mt Carrigain in the distance. Spring has not come up into the mountains yet!

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