Chasing Trails and Waterfalls in the White Mountains of NH -
Zealand Falls and Zeacliff Outlook
Last weekend, I got ambitious.
In anticipation of our VoyEdgeRX's upcoming The Great Northeast trip, New England's dramatic reveal of her annual fall foliage, and some quality trail time with a buddy of mine, I finished coaching earlier than usual. I packed a light bag with day hike essentials, and made the mad dash to meet Andrew, who drove us north about two and half hours up to the town of Jefferson, NH.
Zealand Falls, and the Zeacliff Outlook in The White Mountain National Forest, NH
The sun was shining, and after stopping to snag some IPA Tallboys for the trail and confirming directions at the local packy, we turned off of rt. 302 onto Zealand Road, down the gravel road to the trailhead.
We parked. I checked my watch. Uh-oh. It was already 14:30.
Endeavoring an approximately 7.0 mile round trip up to Zeacliff Outlook and back to the parking lot was no joke, considering our late start. But you know what? We're fairly experienced hikers, and we had come to the woods to live deliberately.
We set off, determined to make the most of the daylight. While our timing was ambitious, the gamble could not have been more worthwhile. We were immediately rewarded: the first 2.5 miles were easy going, with wide open, brilliant views of the lowlands.
A popular destination, with intersections that cross the AT (Appalachian Trial), by the AMC Hut, the Zealand trail is well worn, and well loved. And so we shared the hike, passing a few families hiking with small children, solo hikers, and small groups (and of course a beer or two between us), on the way up. At the 2.5 mile mark, the trail took a steep turn up elevation, and so for the next ~.2 miles, we hopped rocks straight uphill, arriving at Zealand Hut, and the falls, both bustling with day hikers and overnighters alike.
Too our surprise, we had really made great time. Even with enjoying the views, good conversation, and without feeling rushed, we had made it in well under an hour. Once again, we were rewarded. The falls and the sound of it's late summer, constant splash was relaxing, and provided a great place to sit and grab a quick snack, while taking in the nice views of Zealand pond.
After the falls, and considering the great pace we kept on our way in, we confirmed our desire to chase more altitude and views. So we continued on, scrambling straight up the mountain to Zeacliff Outlook. Instead of doing the longer, and admittedly tougher loop, we took a slightly more modest approach and followed our instincts to avoid being on the trail much after the sunset. Again, our solid efforts were rewarded.
Though it was a MUCH steeper mile up than the initial approach, the views were breathtaking:
The view from Zeaclif outlook was indeed humbling, and beautiful. Sharing it's sweeping, windy silence, and impactful scope with a friend was second only to the feelings of gratitude at the very chance to do so. Really, for all of it: the fair weather and ideal conditions for moving quickly, and finding such an awesome spot in a manageable time period. We had left late, let spontaneity push us out the door, and were not disappointed.
Sometimes all it takes is having a great teammate for the adventure, and this was no exception.
As we made our way down from the outlook back toward the hut, I reflected on this past summer, in which I've started a new job, turned 30 years old, and have begun in earnest to grow VoyEdgeRX alongside, and under the leadership of Cameron K, and the rest of our amazing team. Side note: meet them below...
I'd had the thought before, but it hit me quite viscerally in that moment of intense gratitude for the life I have been given: as adventurers, there is incredible learning in walking the walk. Every time we say "yeah, we can make that happen," every time we're short on time, but long on confidence in our ability to make the most of it...That is where we grow. And THAT is where the reward is.
And I'm sorry, have I mentioned the views?
Sure, their beauty will stay with me, but the feeling of accomplishment, however humble the endeavor (I mean what's a little day hike, in the grand scheme?) bolsters the ambition to make the irregular and enriching, more regular. Literally getting outside, and sharing the colors, sights, and sounds of the woods (of the enriching) makes them even more precious to your brain, and memory. Those memories; the powerful sense impressions made on them, inform our every day perspective, and serve as bright spots on what are often much grayer, less adventurous days. So my soul takes notes:
Eventually, I came out of my rumination, as we passed back by the falls and Zealand Hut, knowing we still had miles to go before we'd reach the car, and the long drive home.
The now downward sloping trail felt somehow more familiar and, as the sun sunk lower in it's late afternoon sky, the air cooled and I layered up. My excitement for my favorite season really setting in. I couldn't help but smile passing over foot-bridged streams and now easy trails. Our efforts in making the most of our time, meant we'd make it back to the car in plenty of daylight. And ironically, we slowed a bit to linger in the pleasant and crisp fall surround.
We ended up hiking the final miles back to the car next to a group of three cheerful students, who, surprisingly enough, were studying wilderness therapy, and adventure leadership training. What a cool coincidence. And to no one's surprise, we all agreed that the afternoons hike had been more therapy than we'd even expected. We couldn't have been luckier, and we all knew it. Well wishes and handshakes lead to goodbyes, and as Andrew and I tumbled into the car, and back to Boston, we were leg-sore and happy as hell. We'd bagged ~7 miles, amazing views, and powerful memories, all in well-under 4 hours.
The result? Excitement for the next hike, and a renewed gratitude for how accessible the outdoors are, especially if you seek them. Go out, choose a trail, push your pace, and seek the edges of what most would call possibility. I promise, you won't regret it, and you'll be surprised to find that in that place, possible is just a starting point.
And I sincerely hope this leads to the very insight we hope you achieve on a VoyEdge RX trip.
The peace of 'The moment,' and general gratitude for the great outdoors.
Hope to see you on a future trip ~ Cameron Seher