Hale . . . Again . . . and Again : Mount Hale to Zeacliff Out n' Back

Date of Hike: 12/7/14

Little River Herd Path:  1.0 miles  / North Twin & Herd Path: 1.0 miles  /  Mount Hale Trail (AKA Fire Wardens Trail): 2.3 miles  /  Lend-A-Hand Trail: 2.6 miles  /  Twinway:  2.4 miles  /  Len-A-Hand Trail: 2.6 miles  /  Fire Wardens Trail: 2.6 miles /  North Twin & Herd Path: 1.0 miles  /  Little River Herd Path:  1.0 miles
Total Miles: 16.1 (5,150 feet elevation gained) Garmin GPS Forerunner 910XT

Trip Report:
- Sunday I was invited to join Denise, Heather & Kali on a Hale-Zealand-Bonds Traverse.  The weather called for bluebird skies by late morning, the only catch, it was going to be brutally cold and a bit gusty. Luckily, as we started our hike around 6:45 a.m. the wind was non-existant and it seemed quite pleasant out as we snowshoed our way over the old logging road and the North Twin Trail along the Little River.
- The snow depths increased as we ascended the old tractor road up the abandoned Mount Hale - Fire Wardens - Trail.  It was a lot of fun breaking out the trail through the beautiful birch glades which were covered in the previous days snow.
- Breaking trail is great because it gets your body warmed up, the only set back is you sweat, and on a day like this that can make it extremely difficult to stay comfortable and warm.  Today definitely was one of the more difficult days to stay warm, I had to keep changing into dry layers more than I wanted to, and knowing that the worst parts to stay warm were ahead of us, Guyot and Bond to Bondcliff, I made sure to save my thicker layers for the latter half of the hike.
- We made decent time to Mount Hale's summit and were happy to see someone had broken out the Lend-A-Hand Trail.  We quickly caught up to the hiker breaking trail, he spent the night camping under a tarp near the summit, which is crazy awesome!
- I couldn't shake the chilled feeling descending so I once again had to put on dry layers.  As I made the approach to the junction of the Twinway my enthusiasm sunk pretty low,  The Twinway was unbroken.  I was really hoping that hikers who spent the night at the Zealand Falls Hut would have broken the trail up to the summit, no dice!
- Our pace up to the Zeacliff outlook slowed up and I was starting to notice Denise wasn't her usual upbeat self as we took a few pictures at the outlook.  Her fingers and toes had become really cold and she was unable to find her second gear.  I told her we should expect to be breaking trail for another threeish miles to the West Bond Spur junction.  She decided it would be best to turn back.  Not wanting her to have to re-hike Hale back to her car, I told her to head to the hut, warm up and then hike out via Zeeland Road to the winter lot off Route 302 while I would go back up Hale and bomb down the Fire Wardens to the Jeep and then pick her up at 302.  I then ran ahead and caught up to Heather and Kali who were breaking trail and told her what was going on.  She said her and Kali were going to proceed ahead, they went about another quarter mile before they turned around and descended and caught back up with Denise.  Heather didn't want to have to break all that trail alone, she definitely could as she had all the proper gear and is experienced having completed the Grid, but she made the smart move to play it safe and called it a day at the ladder step section.
- Meanwhile, I was back ascending Hale...again.  Having done it last Sunday, then this morning, it was time to tackle the big hill one more time!  Hale, oddly enough has supplied me with some of my toughest trail breaking days out, May (yes May) 2010, December 2011, January 2012, January 2013, and the past two weekends! 
- The hike back up was not too fun as it was friggan cold, to make things worse the hike / jog down the Fire Wardens Trail was even chillier.  Luckily I made great time as the trail was packed down perfectly from six other hikers.
- At the bottom of Hale I ran into four hikers enjoying their hike of Hale.  I was happy to see other hikers out and about enjoying the winter wonderland of the birch glades route up Hale.  They asked where I came from, I let them know of my route with my friends and the change of plans, they had heard from two others about our group going for the HZB Traverse.
- Over the last two miles I thought of how Heather & Kali were going to catch an amazing sunset from Bondcliff.  I also thought that I'd probably run into them somewhere on the lower end of the Bondcliff Trail as my plan was to head to Lincoln Woods and hike in to keep her company on the long walk out in the dark.
- However, that plan was scraped as I saw she was waiting with Denise at the Winter Zealand Road Lot off Route 302.  I was happy to see her there, even though it would have been a great night walk under a full moon, It was nice to be able to head home a little earlier!
- It was an adventurous day breaking trail, I liked the challenge even though the bitter cold axed our big plans.  Still, heading over to Zeacliff from Little River Road and then retracing those steps was pretty kick ass and a lot of fun!

 North Twin Trail
Herd Path water crossing and Fire Wardens Trail
 Fire Wardens Trail
  Birch Glades
 Kali!
 The upper section of the Fire Wardens Trail
 Mount Hale summit and trail junk right below it!
 Lend-A-Hand Trail
 Twinway, Zeacliff Outlook, Descending the Fire Wardens Trail
 Whitwall Slide
 Mount Carrigain under a bright late morning sun
 Carrigain Notch
Route for the day, click here for details

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