Willey Range circuit (May 8, 2016) - 6 hours - Click on pictures to enlarge!

Low clouds hung over the White Mountains today. The loop around the Willey range is a good choice under these conditions: it caps at 2.500 feet, is fairly wild, and has great views despite being mostly flat. Peter Wyatt and I had done it previously in foliage in 2011. This time there were no leaves on trees yet. I spotted my car at the end of Zealand Rd. and Peter's wife Nancy drove us to Willey House on the other side of Crawford Notch. We hiked up the steep Keldron Flume Trail, whose highlight is the Keldron Flume (left) and ended up on the Ethan Pond Trail. There was ice on the trail starting at 2,400' and lots of ice and snow around Ethan Pond. We hypothesized that frozen ponds keep the surroundings cold in spring.
We continued on the Ethan Pond Trail all the way to Thoreau Falls. This is part of the AT so it's very well maintained, with some impressive stretches of bog bridges extending forward to the horizon (above right and at left). The North Fork of the Pemigewasset river was roaring to our right and we wandered off the trail to get a picture (right). We skipped the visit to Shoal Pond (see 2011 trip), crossed the impressive footbridge across the Pemi, and arrived at Thoreau Falls.
The trail to Thoreau Falls leads you to the top of the falls, which is very nice but doesn't let you see the bottom. There is a well-defined herd path going down the north side of the falls and that's well worth it. At the bottom is a deep pool and a spectacular view of the falls looking up (left and right).
From Thoreau Falls we went back on the Ethan Pond Trail towards Zealand. The clouds had lifted some, giving us a great view of Zeacliff (left). Water in the Zealand Ponds was high, almost at the level of the beaver dams (right). There were now quite a few people on the trail, headed to Zealand hut. We hiked back to Zealand Rd. and to the car.

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