Hiking Zealand & Bonds in the White Mountains

Mrs.Katie’s Valedictory
TheZealand and Bonds Hike
19.5Miles, 9 Hours
August7, 2010
I have two wonderful hiking partners; standardpoodles named Mrs. Katie and Mrs. Baby (AKA the Girls). These peculiar monikerswere bestowed on these unsuspecting canines by a former Colombian house keeper,and like many nicknames, they just stuck. These dogs are 11 and 8 years of agerespectively, and started out life as pampered house pets, living in a tonysuburb of New York City. For them it was a life of gluttony and boredom,punctuated by the daily chance to get a piece of a much hated visitor, themailman.
Mrs.Katie in her prime
We moved to Hanover NH in 2002, and the entire familywas utterly clueless regarding the potential for fun in our new home, at leastfrom a dog’s perspective. Our neighbor introduced us to the joys of off-leasedog walks in Pine Park, a nature preserve a short walk from our house. Theresults were astonishing. These dogs greeted every new visit like wild women.Endless energy, pointless dashes, running through the brook and even braving thewaters of the Connecticut River were the sequence for each walk. The girlsloved it, and it was a joy to watch.
From Pine Park it was just a short conceptual hop toan assault on might Mt. Moosilauke, a 4,802 foot mountain about an hour away,and favored by Hanover locals. I had a hip replacement in 2003, and recoverywas slow, but Moosilauke beckoned as a concept and proof of recovery andrehabilitation. Neither the girls nor I were really ready for the mountains–but what the Hell – let’s just go for it. The first climb started out slow,and degenerated into a series of slow short pitches, separated by longs periodsof rest and heavy breathing. Panting was the order of the day for all parties.We made it up and down, but just barely. Afterwards, two days of rest werenecessary for all participants, and my wife, Martha, was unsure that any of uswould make it back to fighting form.
Somehow, that one hike changed everything. We didnot stop, but went back to Moosilauke at least 15 more times that summer, finallydoing two laps up and down the mountain in a day. What started out as a localobsession moved to include all 48 of the 4,000 foot mountains in the WhiteMountains, then the 67, 4,000 foot mountains in New England, and finally the100 highest mountains in New England this summer. All along the way we went asa team, and we did it rain or shine, in all four seasons. The only climbs thatI left the Girls behind were skiing trips in the winter and a trip to BaxterState Park, where all of our canine friends are forcibly excluded –discrimination does still exist in America.
Kate has lost a couple of steps over the years, andwinter bushwhacks are now out of the question due to arthritic hips, but in thesummer she can still get it done. This past weekend the three of us headed outto finish off the four remaining 4,000 footers in the White Mts. (out of 48) forthe Girls, with a 19.5 mile hike over Zealand Mountain and the three Bonds.This is a long hike over rough country, but we had lots of daylight and greatweather. Martha gave us a lift to the north end of the hike and we were off ata dog-trot.
RescuingKatie from Rocky Branch
The first three miles are fairly flat, on an oldrailroad bed beside a beaver flowage. We saw plenty of moose sign, but nomoose. We had just gotten the first Canadian air mass of the season the daybefore, and there was a hint of color change in the leaves. The cool air madefor great walking and we were all feeling our oats.
We made the right at the Twin Mt. Trail, and headedup the only steep uphill part of the day, a 4-5 mile push up over Zealand andto the top of Guyot. Kate made the hill with no real problem, and asurreptitious lift over a couple of steep sections. The ageless Mrs. Babycontinues to amaze me, with the ability to leap 6 feet up onto a 50 degreerock, and scramble up over the top. It is actually humbling to watch her go –and she just loves it.
It was breezy on top of Guyot, so we headed over toWest Bond for our lunch, hoping to be out of the wind.
This part of the White Mountains is one of the fewlong ridges all above tree line, and the views are spectacular. The best partabout the Bonds is the relative lack of human traffic. Although it was aSaturday, we encountered few people, and those we met were all fellow OCD-WhiteMountains sufferers like us. It’s nice to spend some time with kindred spirits.
Havinga great day with the Girls
The views were simply spectacular all the way acrossthe ridge, and with the exception of one steep section, the descent to thePemigewasett River was blessedly uneventful. The 5 mile trip from the junctionto the parking lot took only 1.25 hours, we all were just about running – andreally loved it.
Mrs.Katie on Franconia Ridge
Mrs. Katie probably will never do a hike like that again, and we will miss her terribly on the longer hikes. She has been a great companion,always uncomplaining, and a fellow traveler that really loved the sharedexperience. In many ways, that is all that you can ask of any friend.
Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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