Zeacliff loop (July 20, 2009)

Amazingly, I woke up this morning and found that I could still walk after my 15-h hike of yesterday (see my Northern Presidentials ramble). So I figured I would do a beautiful short hike (well, 5 hours) around Zeacliff using the Zeacliff trail. Starting at the Zealand Road trailhead, I headed out along Zealand valley past Zealand pond and on to the Ethan Pond trail. At the junction with the Zeacliff trail there is a big slide, offering a gorgeous view of the Whitewall Brook valley, looking south toward the East Branch of the Pemigewasset (left) and looking north toward Mt. Hale (right; notice the roof of Zealand hut). This and on to Thoreau Falls is by the way my favorite flat hike in the White Mountains - you feel like you're cheating because you get fantastic views without breaking a sweat.
But this time I was going to break a sweat - that's what the Zeacliff trail is all about! It's just ridiculously steep. After a precipitous descent to Whitewall brook (left), it is a straight up path on the other side of the valley climbing to Zeacliff. No wimpy switchbacks or steps, just straight up. The trail is little used and as it leveled off close to the top in a beautiful birch forest it was in parts badly overgrown (right). I did my part at trail clearing by pulling out all the ferns that I could...
But the real reward from this loop is the view at the top of Zeacliff, where the Zeacliff trail reaches the ridge and meets the Twinway. This is I think one of the very best views of the White Mountains. I fiddled with the Panorama Maker feature on my camera but of course couldnt get it to work. In any case. Here's the view looking out towards the Hancocks and Mt. Carrigain (left) and the view towards Whitewall mountain showing the valley with the trail and the slide from which I had started on the Zeacliff trail (right). After soaking in the view I descended by the Twinway to Zealand Falls and the hut, dinner was on so all the folks were inside and I was on my way. A fine afternoon hike!

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