After breaking camp, we drove farther down Zealand Road to start our hike - a 9 mile loop up and over Mt. Hale (4,054'). The first leg of the loop was 2.3 miles on the Hale Brook Trail. On Friday, when we hiked to the Hancocks, the first few miles were relatively flat. On this day, the ascent began immediately and did not stop until we reached the peak.
The AMC guide says this trail is relatively easy. I thought not. Perhaps it was because my legs were fatigued from our 10 mile hike the day before. My pace was slow. It was also warmer and more humid, despite a cool start to the day. The forest here was much different -- more birches, maples, and birches and less spruce and fir until we reached the top. It was noticeably less enchanting.
Ten years ago the views, apparently, were excellent from Mt. Hale, but now the fir have grown, obscuring all views. A large pile of rocks and the remnants of a fire tower amidst a small clearing marked the peak. Other hikers were there too and a playful 4-month mastiff-rottweiler mix. While Kodi and Willow chased each other, we exchanged hiking stories with the small cast of characters that wound up in this small clearing together for a brief time.
We set off on Lend-a-Hand Trail, which immediately descended into another enchanted fir and spruce forest. It felt good to be among the land of the gnomes again.
Lend-a-Hand Trail passes through the conifer forest then emerges into a shrubby, ledgy area with some nice views. By now clouds had moved in, a dramatic change from the blue skies the previous day.
The trail then dropped down into a boggy area with a network of small streams before arriving at the Zealand Hut. Lend-a-Hand is named after a journal edited by Edward Everett Hale (for which the mountain is named), but could easily relate to the hard work of trail volunteers who have laid down many bog bridges that help hikers through muddy sections.
Bog bridges on Lend-a-Hand Trail
We rested for awhile at Zealand Hut -- a busy place. Hikers coming and going constantly; many with dogs. Kodi watched it all from the hut steps.
Kodi on steps of Zealand Hut
We pushed off on the final leg of the hike along the Zealand Trail. An 84-year old man who said he was in good enough shape again after some heart surgery, was just reaching the hut when we departed. Later we passed many other hikers coming in -- including very young kids. A trail for all ages.
View from Zealand Hut
Zealand Trail is relatively flat, following along and across the Zealand River. Beaver are active along this river, creating a series of scenic ponds with their dams lined with freshly cut stems. A fine ending to two days of hiking with our dog Kodi.
Nannyberry at edge of beaver pond along Zealand Trail