Date: August 21-22, 2001
Trails: Zealand, Twinway, and Bondcliff
Distance: 10+ miles
Special Required Equipment: Boots, poles, water, and a sense of humor
Trip Report: My wife Susan and I were waiting for our vacation week to arrive so we could hike to Mount Guyot campsite and spend the night after hiking to Mount Bond, Bondcliff, and West Bond. The weather wasn’t as ideal as we had hoped with threats of lingering showers, however we couldn’t postpone another day for our friend John, who was joining us on our little overnight adventure, had to be back in Connecticut by Wednesday so it was now or never.
The night before we had laid out all our provisions that would see us through the next two days. Not wanting to repeat my earlier sin of over packing when I hiked to Mount Liberty as an overnight earlier in the summer, I weighted both mine and my wife’s pack to ensure that we were not overtaxing ourselves with too much weight. Susan hadn’t been on an overnighter in 17 years and I wanted her to have an enjoyable experience so she wouldn’t object when I next suggested an overnight trip. Don’t get me wrong, my wife can hike with the best of them; she just likes to return home after a hike and have a shower and a glass of wine by the river. I too enjoy returning to our house for a nice dinner and glass of wine after a long day; I just wanted to once again return to my younger years when sleeping in a tent was second nature before the ravages of age took their toll.
We parked in the Zealand Hut parking area off of route 302 around 8:00pm Tuesday morning. We were the only ones at the trailhead and naturally assumed all the cars were for people who had spent the night at the hut. We quickly entered the Zealand Trail and headed to the hut. The trail to the hut is an easy walk with no real obstacles to cause any problems. The last 100 yards or so are a little steep but once again nothing to worry about. Once we reached the hut the families who spent the night were milling about readying themselves for their hike out or for their next destination. We refilled one water bottle before entering the Twinway trail.
After the hut, the trail became somewhat steeper as we headed to Bondcliff trail. Although the hike over Mount Zealand wasn’t difficult, it was a tad more taxing than the hike into the hut. Our packs were not causing any problems since we had acclimated to their weight earlier so my only disappointment was that the weather was not cooperating as I had hoped. The low-lying clouds that seem to hover just over our heads for most of the morning continued to obscure the Zealand ridge whenever we passed an overlook. We would occasionally get a glimpse of the ridge when the clouds momentarily broke as the weather gods continued to toy with us. After an hour or so we came to the spur trail that leads to the actual summit of Mount Zealand and were slightly disappointed that the summit didn’t offer us a view. Undaunted by the lack of scenery, we trudged onward towards Mount Guyot where we hoped to get a view of our ultimate destination, namely the Bonds.
I was a few minutes ahead of Susan and John so I arrived first at the ridge just before you ascend Mount Guyot. I put down my pack and walked around looking to see how the trail continued since it seem to disappear into a valley of scrub bushes before emerging towards the summit. I could see a group of hikers milling around where the Twinway trail separates from the Bondcliff trail and continues towards the Galehead hut. After Susan and John caught up with me we rested a bit before heading south alone the Bondcliff trail and towards the Mount Guyot campsite.
After a brief hello to the hikers in question we ascended the summit of Mt Guyot and sat for a while before heading to the campsite. It was our first decent opportunity to have a view of the Bonds and we wanted to enjoy it as long as possible. We knew we couldn’t wait too long for we wanted to arrive at the campsite and secure a platform before heading to the Bonds for the rest of the day. We picked up our packs and headed into the trees towards the campsite which we hoped would not be too crowded given it was a Tuesday and the weather was iffy at best.
The spur trail that leads to the campsite is at least a half-mile down from the Bondcliff trail and rather annoying after hiking in six hours. When we finally arrived at the caretaker’s tent, the flap was closed so we knew we could register later after our hike to the Bonds. The first two platforms next to the caretaker’s tent had a family setting up at one while the other was empty. The thought of listening to two small children screeching all night was too much to tolerate so we continued on and found the furthest platform from the caretaker’s tent and the children. The down side was that we had to climb back up three additional levels before reaching water and the spur trail but we figured it was worth it to have a quiet platform undisturbed by restless children.
We quickly set up camp and devoured lunch with all the subtlety of a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom special. After refilling several water bottles at the spring, which was running slowly due to the lack of rain, we began our ascent of the dreaded spur tail that would eventual lead to the Bondcliff trail and our ultimate destination. About ten minutes into the hike John decided his knees where not up to the challenged and headed back to the platform for a nap. Susan and I not wanting to wait until the next day to summit the Bonds given that the weather showed no sign of improvement, decided to press on without our trusty companion.
Rather than hike to West Bond first and then head to Mount Bond and Bondcliff, we decided to do Mount Bond first, Bondcliff second, and West Bond last. The hike to Mount Bond wasn’t bad, however, after hiking in six hours it was beginning to take a toll on us. Once on the summit of Mount Bond the view, albeit slightly obscured by mist, was well worth the hike. I couldn’t recall seeing such a vista anywhere else in the Whites that would complete with this view. We both truly enjoyed the scenery and the solitude we were afforded given no one else was present except us. Our energy level was falling so we gathered our strength and headed to Bondcliff, which looked somewhat formable in the distance.
Even though Susan didn’t say anything I could tell she was not a happy camper. We had done a few Bataan death marches this summer so we were not tenderfoots to hiking, it was just that after hiking in six hours we had an additional three and a half hours to go before we completed our hike. Couple that with the fact that after nine and a half hours of hiking, we were still six hours away from our car and salvation. I think Susan forgot how different an overnight hike is to a day hike even when the mileage is similar.
We both (I too was on the verge of a whine) summoned what strength we had left and headed to Bondcliff. The hike down into the trees was a bit steep given the lateness of the day and our rapidly deteriorating strength, but we persevered and emerged from the trees moments later and started our ascent of the rocky trail that leads to the top. I do have to say I did like the trail to the top for it allowed you to see both sides of the ridge at once. Since I do have a slight (ok, big) case of acrophobia, a certain part of my anatomy was tingling as I climbed the summit, which made the hike even more interesting to say the least.
Once again we had the summit to ourselves for about 20 minutes until a couple emerged from the Wilderness trail side, whereby we proceeded to briefly chat with them before they headed off to the campsite for a much-needed rest. We passed them on the way up to Mount Bond and didn’t see them again until we arrived at the campsite where unfortunately the only platform available was the one next to the children. After leaving Mount Bond, we tried to figure out which peak in the distance was West Bond. Susan hoped it was closer than the one we saw off to our left, but I had to break the news to her that the peak she was dreading was the only one around with a large cairn on the top, so that had to be West Bond. Much to her disappointment, I was proven correct as we headed down the West Bond trail and emerged from tree line to see the summit in the distance that she was dreading. I took no joy (ok, a little) in being correct, for I too had to climb this thing before we could head back to camp. We sat for only a few minutes before heading back because our water and strength were slowly running low.
We arrived back at the camp three and a half hours after leaving and found John in the midst of cooking dinner. He had rearranged the rocks so we both had a seat while cooking our dinner, which we both thanked him for his thoughtfulness as we shared our soup with him. Just after dinner it began to sprinkle, so we all headed to our tents for what we would hope would be a good night sleep. No such luck. About an hour after hitting the pads the sky opened up and it poured for the rest of the night. Come morning, it was still misting out as we broke camp and began our six hour hike back to our car and our warn dry house.
We were the first one’s out that morning as we passed the caretaker’s tent and said our goodbyes. The hike back up to the Bondcliff trail felt like it had to be the longest hike we’ve done in ages. Although our legs were not sore, we were still somewhat fatigued given we didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. We simply put our heads down and just put one foot in front of the other without the usual conversation that accompany most hikes. When we hit the summit of Mount Guyot, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees as we all scrambled top layer up so as not to get a chill too early into the hike. By the time we reached Mount Zealand the temperature had returned to normal and the sky actually began to clear. The overlook just north of the Zealand summit that was overcast on the way in gave us the best view of the Zealand notch and the Pemi wilderness that I had ever seen. We discussed how next year we wanted to do a Pemi traverse minus the five peaks that we climbed on this trip.
I arrived at the Zealand hut about ten minutes ahead of Susan and John and began to sun myself by the waterfall while waiting for them to catch up. We all rested for about fifteen minutes before making the final push to our car and eventually our house. We arrived back at John’s car just over five hours after we left the Mt Guyot campsite a little frazzled by in good spirits. The only thing that kept us going was the thought of having corn beef hash and eggs at a local dinner in North Woodstock, which we did. Although it is too early to tell, I think Susan just might be up for another overnighter if John comes along. Sometimes having a third person can change the makeup of a hike where it doesn’t seem so bad. Besides, 44, 47, and 51 year olds need to stick together.