summit light shines into Hale Brook trail.  Elleing stands in center at end of trail.

Mount Hale (4054')

2003 June 14

We had planned on hiking the Osceolas but since the weather was looking really bad we all agreed to switch the hike to Mount Hale instead. The Osceolas are supposed to have great views as their strong point. On a rainy day, I think you would miss the best part of the Osceolas. Hale doesn't have good views but does have a good loop that passes Zealand Falls, so it's a perfect rain hike. Hale also gave us a couple options. If the weather got real ugly we could take the short route back for a round trip of only 4.4 miles, but the weather held up and we continued on an 8.7 mile loop with 2400 feet of elevation gain.

We (Ash, Andy, Jake, Elleing, and I) left the house at 8:05 and only stopped for a parking pass for Ash's car on the way, getting us started on the trail at 10:41. Not counting on the weather to hold, we took the shorter and much steeper direction around the loop to get us to the summit quicker. This took us up Hale Brook Trail which is very steep, but with a number of switchbacks. Even though the 2300 foot climb takes place in only 2.2 miles, we found it easier than the Lonesome Lake Trail at Cannon or the Beaver Brook Trail at Moosilauke. We kept meeting a couple backpackers as we leap-frogged up the trail. The 50 pound packs they were lugging made it a bit easier for us to take another step. The trail was otherwise fairly nondescript, but I did like the "light at the end of the tunnel" effect as the summit clearing appeared at the end of Hale Brook Trail.

summit light shines into Hale Brook's near-summit, tunnel-like trail.  Elleing stands in center at end of trail. shawn_on_summit elleing_on_summit

We reached the summit at 12:48, only 2 hours and 7 minutes after we started. The rain clouds were thick around the odd summit, which consisted of a large cairn ("Big Rock Pile" is easier to say but not to type) in the center of a roughly 60' x 100' clearing, so visibility was nil. (This site has pics of what little can be seen from the summit on a clear day.) Some iron bars still jut out from the foundation of the now gone fire tower. Elleing was first to the summit and the only person in our group to see the mysterious White Mountain Chicken. A couple hikers who also saw it asked if we had seen the "wild turkey", but Elleing's and their description didn't sound like a wild turkey. I downloaded a picture of a Rick-necked Pheasant off the net and Elleing has confirmed that the strange beast she encountered was indeed a common pheasant.We ate lunch on some comfy rocks and started down the Lend-A-Hand Trail to the Zealand Falls Hut at 1:18pm.

I imagine the Lend-A-Hand Trail gets its name from the lack of trail maintenance. This trail could have used a hand in a few areas to get it back into shape. Nonetheless, this was a great section of the hike. The trail has lots of character (and lots of mud) as it runs across water for much of the distance. You actually start hopping from rock to rock in an almost surreal scripted nature.

brook-like Lend-A-Hand Trail Lend-A-Hand needs a hand but looks nice. zealand_falls_hut

We arrived at the water-powered Zealand Falls Hut at about 3:10pm. We stopped for to eat some of our food, use the restrooms, and rest a bit. Some in our group noticed a propane smell and it was a bit crowded in the hut, so we hung out outside on the porch benches for a while. We thought the falls were immediately adjacent to the hut and almost missed the actual Zealand Falls which is at the end of a short spur off of the Twinway Trail. I'm glad we didn't miss it because it's certainly among the more impressive waterfalls in NH and the best I've seen on these hikes. Zealand Falls are more like a real waterfall and less like the cascades that are typical in the mountains. We left the hut area at 4:10pm via Twinway Trail and Zealand Trail.

zealand_falls at_zealand_falls zealand_falls_group

Twinway Trail is a short descent before the Zealand Trail junction. Zealand Trail is flat and scenic. This trail would certainly be a very easy 2.7 mile hike to the hut. For us, it was a very easy 2.7 mile hike to the road passing through moose country (no moose today), beavers and beaver dams, some nice views from bridges over the ponds, and some cascades which were slightly less impressive after Zealand Falls, but worth a look. We reached Zealand Road and the Zealand Trail trailhead at 17:20. We followed the road for 1 mile back to the car and arrived at 5:40pm.

zealand_trail_view beaver_pond

Overall, this hike was easier than the recent Cannon or Moosilauke trips. Mount Hale itself isn't very interesting compared to other mountains, but adding Zealand Falls to the loop made a big improvement. Book time for this hike was 5:33. Our time was 7:00 with 1:30 breaks, a very good pace. I think we made a wise choice considering the weather and lack of familiarity with the route, but looking back on the hike, the other direction is probably a better option since the descent down Hale Brook Trail has good footing and the ascent would be much more gradual.

We continued our post-hike trend and went searching for a steakhouse. We tried Truants, but it was packed with cigarette-wielding bikers from the nearby Motorcycle Weekend event. Not that the biker are a problem, but Truants converted most of the restaurant to smoking to accomodate them and we didn't want to wait for one of the few non-smoking tables. We went to Gordi's instead and all five of us ordered steaks. They were even properly cooked this time.

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