Zealand + Bonds Traverse – 6/16/2020

Hey pals!

I’m back with another hike recap… and it’s another traverse like my last hike recap of Jefferson to Jackson! I do love traverses, but the car spots are oh so interesting right now. As I mentioned in my last post, the human I’ve been hiking these traverses with and I wear our masks in the car when carpooling. Trying to do our best?

In other news, I had also mentioned this “June hiking project” we were working on, but remained non-specific. We were attempting to hike all of the New Hampshire 4000 footers in a single month. Aaaaannnddd, WE DID IT! 48 mountain in June 2020. More to come on this entire experience, but I think my brain is still processing it in its entirety. Jess and I have been individually writing up hike recaps and will go over it all together when done. Lots happened, to be expected.

It still doesn’t feel real. It also feels like we ended a few weeks ago, not this past Tuesday aka June 30th… nothing like last minute. I’m going to be slowly adding hike recaps from this month because 1. it was such an unique experience, 2. I want to remember and share, and 3. I’ve decided that this “project” is the end to my book and blogging recaps is going to be helpful for the mega cathartic book writing process. Oh, and I have sweet pictures to share. So, mainly it’s just me wanting to share pictures and talk about hiking. Typical.

Strava GPS of our route

Hike info: Starting at Zealand Road, covering Mt. Zealand, Mt. Guyot, West Bond, Mt. Bond, and Bondliff. According to my Garmin watch: 21.64 miles and 4,636ft. elevation gain (4,301ft according to Jess’s watch… they rarely agreed).

Trails taken: Zealand Road, Zealand Trail, Twinway, West Bond Spur, Bondcliff Trail, Wilderness Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail.

Bridge along Zealand Trail

We began our hike at the Sugarloaf Trailhead, as Zealand Road was still closed mid June. This added a lovely 2.6 mile warm up to our day. Why not, right? Honestly the road walk wasn’t awful and went by real quick. The road and the first part of Zealand trail, up until just before you reach Zealand hut are relatively flat and make for quick morning miles.

My favorite part of Zealand Trail is the bridge in the above picture. Hands down my favorite bridge, that I know of, in the White Mountains. I remember my first time hiking Zealand in 2017, it was one of my first 4000 footers (before I know what the heck I was getting myself into). This bridge, and Zeacliff are some of my best memories from my “early hiking days”, and will forever remain some of my favorite places on trail.

The day before this Zealand and Bonds, we hiked Franconia Ridge from Skookumchuck to Osseo (another traverse, another car spot). Mondays in June tended to be our “tired” day – getting back into the swing of things for another week of hiking after the resting weekend. The weather this third week was PRIME for Pemi hiking, and Pemi hiking we did (all of it actually, minus Owls Head!).

Magical places in the woods along Twinway by Zeacliff
Zeacliff

At Zealand Hut/Zealand Falls (the hut was also closed at this point), we topped off our water from the falls and had a quick snack break before beginning the first “real climb” of the day. The section of trail between Zealand Hut and Zeacliff lookout is a climb, for sure. But it’s worth it, it’s always worth it.

Zeacliff and the section of trail shortly before and after it (pictures above) are stunning. Zeacliff was actually the first hike I did back in the Whites and then Pierce first mountain following my last stress fracture a few years ago. Apparently a good tester hike when getting back from injury? Don’t take my word for this, obliviously… please and thank you.

At Zeacliff we took another break, because, it was a gorgeous day and June wasn’t about kicking our butts to be fast.. rather actually being able to hike all 48 in a month, and to actually enjoy it.

The best summit sign

From Zeacliff to Zealand was a rather quick jaunt. The terrain isn’t tough here, and it’s a little bit of ups and downs before Zealand spur to the summit which always makes me question “did we pass it?!”. We didn’t. At the summit it was “backpack yardsale” (take everything out of your pack for wide display) time as yours truly left the zipbloc holding my water filter/dirty water bladder unzipped and thought something was leaking in my pack… it was… thankfully the filter and not my actual water. Good job Sarah. A+.

After Zealand, you’re in the woods for another mile or so before popping out above treeline close to Mt. Guyot. From this point it’s fairly exposed until right after Bondcliff, with the exception of West Bond Spur and the section just before and after this.

Guyot!

There is something magical about the Bonds (and Guyot). The last time I was on the Bonds was September 2018, and Bondcliff finished my first round of the NH48. On this day, I was giddy to hit the Bonds for round two and near the finish of round two (at this point, only Owls and Moose were still needed)! I guess that’s a perk of hiking all of these in a month, you finish whatever round you’re working on and get a good start on the next one 😉

One of my “goals” for this current summer is a Pemi loop, so between this Zealand and Bonds traverse plus the two other Pemi hikes that week I was really getting excited about the Pemi loop! I think it’s good for me to have hiked all of this so recently as I move forward now in July and into the fall with other goals in these mountains. I never would have expected being able to do these hikes, this close together, years ago. The Bonds and Owl’s Head were my only big hikes summer 2018, my body handled them fine then but this would have been too much at this point from a bone density/injury risk perspective. It’s really cool to see how far I’ve come in two years with gaining my endurance/strength tank, but most importantly with allowing my body to trust me again. Thanks, body. Thanks.

West Bond summit cairn

West Bond is the first of the Bonds coming from Zealand direction and is my favorite of the Bonds. Yep, even over Bondcliff. There is something about the little spur path that brings you to the summit. And there is something about the remoteness of the summit. I dig both, and West Bond still remains one of my favorite peaks. Looking forward to being back there soon!

From West Bond, we headed to Mt. Bond and quickly kept going towards Bondcliff, the final peak for the day! It was amazing how few people we saw on this day. And it felt a little strange having seen so many the day before on Franconia Ridge – but that was very much to be expected. Still, the Bonds are popular so we enjoyed the lack of humans on this day.

To Bondcliff (Narnia) we go!
How Jess felt about getting to Bondcliff? Anti-climactic?

At the summit we first did a sandwich and stretch break – both essential. I’m still deciding if I want to do a “stats” post for June – miles hiked, miles drove, elevation, sandwiches consumed… would be fun… right? right. Next up was picture time – Bondcliff is so iconic for photos in the Whites, so we had to take our share of summit pictures! One of my favorite summit photos is from the first time I was on Bondcliff and is the header image on my other website! While

Me! Jump jump.
Jess
“hiking mates”… well our feets.

This was my first time hiking from Bondcliff to Lincoln Woods, as my first round of the Bonds was hiked as an out and back from Zealand. Let me tell you, for those of you who haven’t hiked this… lots of flat. Pancake flat. Which honestly was well welcomed at the end of this hike with all the other hiking we were doing. Bondcliff Trail off of the Bonds, the Wilderness Trail, and Lincoln Woods Trail all follow along the Pemi so the hike out is accompanied by a river and the very serene sound of flowing water that comes with that. This is an example of one the things I “took for granted” in my first years of hiking – the little things. The sound of flowing water, birds chirping, flowers alongside the trail, the history of these trails (which thanks, Jess for teaching me more about this), gentle trails (while I do love my boulder scrambling). These things matter, and they are beginning more and more to matter to me. It’s so much more than the hiking, the summits. It’s also so much more than the little things, for me. But, that’s a story I’ve told before and will continue to tell over the years.

Upcoming are more recaps from this month, recaps from my current hiking escapades, and a post to recap this “June project” (which I think I need Jess’ help on for her perspective).

“I see myself forever and ever as the ridiculous [person], the lonely soul, the wanderer, the restless frustrated artist, the [person] in love with love, always in search of the absolute, always seeking the unattainable.”
Henry Miller

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