Member Trip report
Ethan Pond Trail Traverse
Trip Report/Photos from Robert.L
It has been a tough spring to be a weekend warrior of the White Mountains. Even at this late date snow, ice and the infamous “monorail” persist at elevations above 3,000 feet. In addition, the weekend rains would make for a chilly time!!
My good friends Rebecca and Glen are enjoying some brilliant time between gigs and they wanted an outdoor adventure so I offered to lead them on the hike of hikes! This original plan was to tag three summits in a loop fashion then scoot over to Zealand Hut for an overnight. The projected rains and frozen conditions above 3,000 feet caused us to rethink the plan more than once. I love a good adventure but this was Rebecca and Glen’s first backpack experience in quite some time – I wanted them to enjoy it and also come back, lol. It was decided we’d go easy so we finalized the details to meet up Sunday afternoon at 12:30pm at the Ripley Falls trail head. We’d park a car there and make our way up to Zealand Road where we’d hike into the hut for a late afternoon casual hike in. It poured most of the way up Sunday morning and I was wondering if in fact the rains would stop. As predicted – by 1pm the rain let up and the clearing began. The day was warm and humid, but at least we’d be dry!
Zealand road is only half open. The gate is closed from where the road turns to dirt due to some moderate washouts. We parked at the gate and made our way to the trail head. We enjoyed a very casual and immersive hike through the forest. I captured some photos of emerging wildflowers but it was clear spring is making a late arrival in the White Mountains. We left the car at around 1:15pm and arrived at the hut a little after 4pm. At the hut we chatted up two hikers who were from Pennsylvania. They had come to do the Pemi Loop but altered their itinerary for lower elevations after their first day. They came prepared with snow shoes and microspikes but were considerably slowed by the constant post holding – with their snow shoes on! They described hip high depths which they found frustrating because they had to remove their packs and snow shoes to get themselves out. They’d suit up and start hiking only to collapse through the monorail over and over. Their experience validated my decision to keep us at lower elevations – “fun” – was what I wanted to deliver for R&G. Canadians were also enjoying a long weekend of their own and so there was a family from Quebec and I indulged my French and them!!
Dinner was my mom’s homemade pork pie with mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits!! The last of the Christmas pies eaten – yay!! It was a big meal on the tail of a small hike – that wasn’t quite the plan but we polished it all off just the same.
Monday morning brought blue skies, sunshine and warm weather – SCORE! It was the pick of the weekend. We were in no rush so we enjoyed a lazy morning at the hut and around 9am were fully suited up to begin the hike out. We scooted off the ledge and down to the head of the Ethan Pond Trail – something new for me – and headed out.
We LOVED this trail. Aside from it being the flattest of trails I’ve been on in ages – it’s beauty was beyond description. We passed through the most amazing rock slide, took in Thoreau Falls, passed through dense pine tree tunnels and awed at the open forest. We had many small water crossings, one bridge, some wet trails, and some rock hopping but the beauty of our surroundings did not disappoint. Early in the afternoon we arrived at the Ethan Pond Shelter where we saw lots of snow!! It also happened to have the sweetest deep forest lake I’ve ever seen. That body of water was calling to me but I did not do it – the water remains cold and I’ve not yet mustered the courage for a spring dip!! We had a late lunch/afternoon snack here before we began the final stretch.
We emerged at the trail junction for Ripley Falls and the parking. We decided to take in Ripley Falls before calling it a day. It was a short 4/10’s of a mile detour and well worth it – pretty stunning.
This hike did not disappoint. We pretty much had the forest to ourselves as we encountered only a handful of folks. R&G were delighted with their experience and found the pace, length (8.1 miles on day two) and level just perfect for a reintroduction to backpacking. I promised them I could notch it up for the next time and they smiled… of course I could! I was just plain happy to bring the outdoor experience to two fantastic buds!!
Thanks to my buddies for entrusting me on this journey. We had an awesome time and look forward to more.
See you on the trails gents!!
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