Yesterday, we went on a phenomenal 9.5 mile traverse that began with the Zealand Trail and ended at the Ethan Pond Trail/AT where it meets 302. Longer, by our current standards, but easy mileage - this is a great hike for those who are comfortable with the distance but not looking for a day of elevation gain. It also has some of the most unique scenes and vibes we've encountered and I am forever in love with the portion that walks along where a slide and railroad bed converge (thank you Bob and Geri for the history lessons!).
Under cloudy skies, we reached the Ethan Pond Trailhead around 9:00 for the car spot. By the time we parked on Zealand Road, the sun was already promising to come out. The walk to the junction for the hut (which is just beyond, after a very brief, steeper climb), is a meander, mostly over dirt trails, that travels through woods and opens to beautiful beaver ponds. For the record, if your dog is prone to giardia, keep an eye on him/her, as even our iron-tummied Tango has gotten himself into trouble when he traveled this trail.... And if you have a dog who likes to sniff out beavers and deer-hop through the tall grasses to find them, again, keep an eye on her! There are beautiful and well-maintained raised boardwalks that carry hikers over the marshy fringes of the ponds.
As I'm told, the trail is an old railroad bed. Close to the junction for Zeacliff Trail (the wilderness sign is visible below, adding to the remote feeling), the trail breaks from the trees and becomes an awe-inspiring walk through the notch. Above and below are the consequences of a slide - huge boulders covering the land that the trail traverses briefly. travelling southbound, to the right is Hale and Zeacliff (another fave!) and to the left, Whitewall looms above. The combination of being between such great masses, the broad, open trail, and boulder field is unforgettable.
|The falls are intimidating and breathtaking. Take care with adventurous or "green" trail dogs.
Some time after the junction for the Shoal Pond Trail (really, could be a mile or afterwards based on my terrible memory), the footing became more White Mountain-esque - rockier and muddier. Still no (discernible) elevation changes and the embedded rocks are easily walked on/around. There a many boardwalks to assist with the mud and standing water. We took the spur marking the Ethan Pond Shelter for our last scenic detour.
Not much to report after that. The trail became more family-friendly as we hit the spur for Ripley Falls, crossed the tracks, and dumped back at the parking area at the end of the road.
**Thanks to Bob and Geri for allowing me to use some of their photos!
|Random favorite from Ethan Pond Trail shortly before the junction with the Zeacli