Although this clear-cut offered great views, it was very difficult to walk in. I'm not sure but I believe this area was logged about 3 years ago and what I call the leftovers, for lack of a better term, was thigh deep in spots. I opted to get to the edge of the woods and just bushwhack. Once to the other side and now pure whacking, I came to my first head dunking spot which was already needed.
After a good soaking there I continued to bushwhack through great woods west until I reached the foot of the talus.
I've been on East Hale before but that was a bushwhack from the Hale Brook Trail. Some friends eventually want to visit E. Hale and I will be recommending this route. Although this talus seemed slightly unstable to me, carefully ascending was pretty easy. I pretty much went to the top of this first section where the vegetation starts and had great views. A bit hazy though. And this would just get worse throughout the day.
Next up was Zeacliff Pond and my second set-back. My first though was just to bushwhack on a SE heading for the Zealand Tr. so that's how I set off. Then I thought in this heat I didn't really need to be bushwhacking too much and was going to just head back the way I came and basically start over on the Zealand Tr. at it's beginning. Then second guessing myself again, I thought after seeing great looking woods heading the way I wanted to go, I decided to just go for the whack. See, looks awesome.
Well after going over the top of this unnamed bump at 2565', I was in killer hobblebush. 6-7' tall and as thick as I have ever seen it. So thick that the branches of each were tangled together making it extremely tough to push through. At this point I was already committed. I was in the middle of this when I heard a thump, crack, whoosh, and a brown flash. No picture but yup, I almost stepped on a moose. All I can think is that in the heat it didn't really want to move. It was probably thinking, "Crap, I'm actually going to have to get up because this butt-head's going to step on me. I think I was only about 15-20 feet from doing so. Scared the crap out of me. This one mile or a tad more whack took an hour and a half, and sucked a ton of energy out of me. But being close to the beaver ponds know, I knew a good head soaking would do the trick.
Jumping heading ahead a bit now. I'd plenty of water spots now to cool myself in plus I was carrying one, 1 liter bottle solely to keep filling to douse myself with occasionally which was working nicely. It was a bit tough in this heat but slow and steady got me to Zeacliff for some very hazy views.
Next up was Zeacliff Pond. Rahter the view of it from off trail at around 4000'. The only reason I knew of this was while looking at Google Earth for something entirely different, I clicked on one of those picture icons and got this. A pretty cool view about 50 feet, through thick stuff, off trail.
It was here that I knew there was no way I could continue to Zealand and the talus slope on it. It was now around 1:00pm and hot as hell. So I just had enough to descend to Zeacliff Pond to check it out. I'd only been this far twice before and bypassed it on both occasions. Peak-bagging does that to you. It was worth checking out.
Now it was just a matter of getting back to the car as quick as possible where there was a treat waiting for me in the cooler. I passed up on Zealand Falls on the way up but thought I'd make a quick stop on the way out to take a couple photos. But when I got there it was littered with what I assume were to be overnight guests at the hut. I was slightly angered by this but I guess I could not blame them at all. Was kind of jealous actually. I had to settle for the cascades just bellow. Which I soaked my head in as well.
Then I was back at the ponds which are just gorgeous.
The day was taking it's toll on me. I love the Zealand Trail but that first half mile or so in that rooty-rocky section was tough on spent legs.
I was finally out at 3:30. Hot, tired, and in much need of what was in that cooler. I'll admit this was a bit much on such a hot day but all-n-all, I handled it pretty well. Would have been nice to have made it to all my objectives though as the talus on Zealand was the one I wanted to see the most.
Hopefully it will be there for a couple more years. :-)