Despite only a few hours of sleep and a late start, I figured Hale would be a nice trip today.
Zealand Road is closed in winter, which adds another 2.7 miles to the hike each way, but after the initial uphill, its relatively flat. This puts the road in my “time miles” category – these miles add time to my hike, but not much effort.
A round trip of 9.8 miles via the road and Hale Brook Trail isn’t high mileage for me this season, so even though I was tired, it was worth a shot. I wasn’t too happy with my start time of 10:15, though.
To illustrate how lazy I was today, I wore my Hillsound Trail Crampons from the car – across the highway – to the road/trail. They were still on my boots from my previous hike, and I just didn’t have the motivation to take them off (I’m not a fan of these things at all, by the way. I’ll be updating my review soon. That might have had something to do with my choice to punish them on the road, too).
The road was a pleasant walk, despite some flashbacks to walking out from Owl’s Head or a semi-Pemi loop. I stayed close to 4 miles per hour on the road to help offset my late start.
Hale Brook Trail is hard to miss on the right at 2.5 miles into the road walk. The sign is very visible, and you’re not going to walk past the big parking lot and picnic tables without noticing.
After the road walk, Hale Brook Trail feels steep (and parts of it are) – I tried to think about my time here during the summer and fall to keep me going. I also told myself that my road walk had been .3 miles longer than this trail would be to the summit, which helped.
It was a warm day, and soon I was kicking balls of snow off my Hillsounds every few steps. I could have barebooted, but the grip was helping keep my speed up and there was exposed (or just hidden) ice in many places.
The trail was well broken, but was definitely chopped up, and getting slushy in spots. Oh well, only a couple miles.
Soon I was at the traverse above Hale Brook. It wasn’t tough today, but can be tricky if the snow is firm or it’s iced up. Careful here. It would be a long fall or a good slam into a tree if you went over.
Just as I was about halfway through this section, I ran into my friend and coworker Tom and his brother Jim. I had forgotten Tom might be out here today. They had stayed at the AMC Zealand Falls Hut the night before. Now they were heading down from Hale.
Tom and I have been trying to hike together for a couple years now, but it has never worked out. Mostly because I’m generally lousy at planning hikes in advance… excluding my AMC trips, of course. It was nice to run into him for a few minutes on the trail.
These guys hiked a significant portion of the John Muir Trail in August of 2015 – pretty sweet.
After running in to Tom and Jim, the remaining mile or so of trail between me and the summit was a grind for me. Even though it was a bit colder, the snow remained slushy, and I even noticed some light rain for a few minutes here and there. My lack of sleep was catching up to me. I’m old.
When I finally reached the summit, I only took a short break. This is easy, as there isn’t much at all in the way of views. The trees were noticeably higher than the last time I had been here in June of 2013.
I was able to get limited looks out toward the Pemi to the west, and south at Tom, Willey and Field, but that was about it. The best views of the trip were probably on the traverse above the brook, at the Presidential Range to the east (also through trees).
Of course I didn’t leave before playing around with my compass and the summit cairn. This is one of the more interesting things about Hale.
Time to leave. I was tired, mentally and physically. I had a late start. I wanted to blink and open my eyes at the car.
Take it easy on my body with an easy, slow walk down, or suck it up and get there faster?
I decided to move as quickly as I could for the remainder of the day. On Hale Brook Trail, this meant between 4 and 5 miles per hour. The chopped up trail was good for this. I did slow down a bit on the road, but I made great time. I left the summit at 1:10 and arrived at the car at 2:40. Including a couple of long breaks, I made the 4.4 miles in an hour and a half, averaging 3 mph (I don’t know why I care about these stats, truly).
I got back to Newburyport around 5:30 and started this write up after some food, but fell asleep at 8. A good day.