Member Trip report
Mts Guyot, Zealand & Hale Loop Hike
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
The Little River Trail was a trail developed in the 1930's using some of the old Little River Railroad grade (this logging railroad was abandoned in 1900). The trail continued along the Little River from where the present day North Twin Trail starts to climb (after the last water crossing) and joined the Twinway just to the north of Mount Guyot. According to some information found, the trail was in bad shape in the 1950's, but may have continued on for awhile longer until it was finally abandoned in the early 1960's.
Of course, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out on Sunday, July 29th. I arrived at the North Twin Trailhead at the end of Haystack Road at about 6:15AM. It was forecast to be very nice and sunny. I got quickly ready and headed up the trail about 10 minutes later.
For the most part the trail just followed the river at a very easy grade. I stayed on the eastern bank of the river using the herd path and reached the last water crossing (there were 2 other water crossings that the herd path allows one to avoid). I thought with all the rain that we've had lately, that the crossing would have been difficult, but it was relatively easy. It was 7:15AM and now on the western side of the river, I began to look for a spot to jump off the trail into the woods. Right along the river the woods appeared to be a little dense with vegetation, so I followed the North Twin Trail a little further. Just up the bank the trail veered south and stayed relatively flat for a bit and then it turned west. The grade was still modest and I finally found a decent spot to hop into the woods (I had hoped to find the old railroad grade, but at this point it may have been on the other side of the river or lost through erosion). The woods were easy to navigate even though there was quite a bit of blowdown in a few areas. I pretty much stayed on a southerly course keeping the river within earshot. I periodically climbed higher on the bank to avoid tougher spots and I was still meandering a bit to see if I could run into the old railroad grade. I was probably too high on the bank to find the old grade, since there was a lot of boulders through the woods. At a little after 8AM, I reached the first significant side brook (which leads to a large slide to the east of North Twin) and it was here that I stumbled upon an old blaze on a tree. I looked around, but couldn't tell where exactly a trail had gone from here. Since nothing was obvious, I crossed the brook and continued to head south. The woods continued to be easy to walk through and by 9:10 I had intersected with the Little River again. I stayed close to the river for another 10 minutes when I reached the second major side brook. This one led up to a slide off the Twinway. I had thought about using this slide, if all else had failed, but since the woods were good, I continued as planned. As I crossed the brook, there was an obvious trail, which re-entered the woods and followed the southern bank of the side brook for a short distance. As this trail started to veer away from the brook and start the climb of the headwall, it faded away. Luckily, the woods were still fairly open, but the grade steepened quickly. It was rocky and my progess slowed significantly as I had to continually adjust my route to avoid some blowdown and thicker sections of trees. Also, surprisingly I was "postholing" quite a bit, due to the soft, decomposing ground...at times up to my knees. As I climbed I was starting to get obscurred views of both Mt. Hale and the large talus fields on Mt. Zealand. I was hoping that I would pop out onto a ledge with some clearer views over the valley, but there was no such spot along my route. At 11:30, I was pretty much at the top of the headwall just to the north of Mt. Guyot, and I emerged into a massive area of blowdown. Despite the mess and the trouble getting through this with the young, thick pine that had taken over, there was a wonderful view of Guyot and the Twinway Ridge. Since the area was difficult to get through, I had to climb a bit higher so I could get back to the larger trees, which didn't have the thick undergrowth. From here I headed west for the Twinway. The woods were again easy to get through and I popped out onto the Twinway Trail (AT) at 12:10PM. I came out of the woods directly opposite a stealth camping site and I sat down here for a quick bite to eat.
Now on the Twinway, I made my way south and it wasn't long before I emerged out above treeline with some fine views over the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Unfortunately, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield and the Twins were still in the clouds. I reached the summit of Mt. Guyot (4580') at 12:45. As I still had along way to go, I quickly began my descent, making it to the col by 1:20. After this there was a moderately agressive climb up Mt. Zealand and I reached the junction for the summit spur trail in about 15 minutes. I stopped to chat up some AT section hikers and then took the spur trail for the unremarkable, treed summit of Mt. Zealand (4260'). The sun was finally starting to emerge and I could feel it warming up quickly. I made my way back to the trail and began the long descent off of Zealand, stopping along the way to take in the views of Zealand Pond and off of Zeacliff over Zealand Notch towards Mt. Whitewall and the Willey Range (the Presidential range was still in the clouds). After crossing the upper section of Zealand Falls at 3:35, it was only a couple of minutes more until I encountered the junction for the Lend-A-Hand Trail. I turned onto this trail and started to make my way to Mt. Hale. Despite the fact, that Hale doesn't have much in the way of views, this approach is very picturesque with views out over the wilderness, open wetlands and views of South Hale. I made it to the summit of Mount Hale (4054') by 5:20. It was getting late for a Sunday, but I met a couple up here who had just come up to cook and have dinner on the summit before returning to Boston...kinda cool. In order to return and complete my loop hike, I used the old Firewarden Trail off the west side of the summit. This trail is no longer officially maintained as a trail; however, I was surprised to find that blowdown was recently cut and cleared. I made good time and after descending throug a series of switchbacks, I reached the North Twin Trail again at 6:50. I immediately took this trail back to the trailhead parking lot, which I made by 7:20PM.
This was an interesting adventure for sure! While I didn't find any portions of the old railroad grade (aside from the parts which makes up today's North Twin Trail), I did run into some evidence of the old Little River Trail. If I ever explore this area again, I'll try to stay closer to the river. For the most part the bushwhack through the woods was fairly easy despite the steep headwall and heavy blowdown near the top.
Mileage and Elevation Gain: Approximately 15.8 miles with about 4410 feet cumulative elevation gain.
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I give you a lot of credit Steve. I know today I would not be as adventurous. When I lived in the woods of CT I would do this kind of thing lots. Now I’ve become a city dweller, I would want someone with me. But I actually do love hiking small woods like Blue Hill on my own. Of course you are never really alone on Blue Hill!