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Mt. Zealand - 9/8/12 ( FOT48 )


New member
Feb 28, 2012
North of the Notch
Date Hiked: 9/8/12

Trails Hiked: Zealand Trail, Twinway

Total Distance: 11.2 miles

Difficulty: Hike: Moderate; Load: Difficult

Conditions: Windy, overcast, rain

Special Required Equipment: 20-foot flagpole

Trip Report:

The trailhead for Mt. Zealand starts at the very end of Zealand Rd., just off Rt. 302. Pay a $3 parking fee and there are plenty of spaces available. Along the road you’ll pass the trailhead for Hale. This day I planned to bag Hale as a loop and come down at the end of the Hale Brook Trail here, but it wasn’t in the cards. The weather didn’t agree and I had a larger mission than just summitting a peak today: raising a flag 20-foot high on the summit as part of the Flags on the 48 memorial hike for 9/11.

I signed up for the hike on flagsonthe48.org and became Peak Coordinator for Zealand. A group of about 10 were set to join me on the hike. Unfortunately on the day of the hike the rest of the group couldn’t make it, so I was on my own for this one.

How to carry a 20-foot flag pole up to the top of a 4,000-foot mountain.

The first half of the trek along the Zealand Trail to Zealand Hut was relatively flat and easy. With a need to have the flag flying by noon, and more than a little worried about setting up the rig on my own, I hustled down the trail and completed the 2.9 miles to Zealand Hut in about an hour. On a non-overcast, non-20-foot-pole-carrying day, this would be an absolutely beautiful trail to take in – the beaver ponds and Zealand Falls just before the hut were fantastic even in the murky fog. The view from Zealand Hut into Zealand Notch has to be one of the best hut views in the Whites. I paused to rest at the hut briefly and chat with the caretaker about the event = then started the climb.
After another mile and a half I reached a clearing and a diverging of the path with a simple sign stating “VIEW.” I had reached Zeacliff. Even on this overcast day I could see why the cliffs are considered the best view in the Whites. I stopped briefly on the cliffs to take in the sights and gaze upon Tom, Field, and Willey and see if I could make out any other peaks in the mist, but soon I was on my way again, determined in my resolve to have the flag flying by 12.

As I quickly discovered on the ascent, 20-foot pole strapped to your back makes it a little more difficult to climb than normal. My center of balance was completely off and the five-foot PVC pipe I used as a hiking pole was the most comfortable thing to grip for an 11-plus mile trek. But I forged on and made it to the peak by 10:30.

The setup proved to be difficult on my own, especially facing the heavy winds. I questioned adding the fifth piece for the full 20 feet, but I had come that far. Thankfully, Vin and Dan, two gentlemen who I met in the parking lot that morning, arrived right in time to help me finish up the guy lines and stabilize the pole.

Vin and Dan helping out with the rig.

By 11:30 we had the flag fully flying. Vin and Dan soon departed, but several others came through during the day. I appreciated the visitors and, while some knew about the event, many were surprised to see a flag and enthralled to hear about the event. All were thankful for our collective efforts. It made me glad to be a part of such an occasion.

The winds remained fierce even on the wooded summit – but I managed to get her above the trees!

It took a lot of adjusting and fighting the wind throughout the day, but somehow the flag stayed upright until 2pm. I have a new respect for the tensile strength of PVC.

At 2pm I disassembled the rig and got the pipes back into an A-frame. Good practice hiking for ski season, I guess.

Despite my hopes of hiking Hale that day, carrying that load – and the encroaching storm – made it unfeasible. I stopped in at the hut again on my way down and met more people who were happy to hear about the successful flag flying. Despite the difficulty in carrying out the climb myself, I was glad to have others to share the day and glad to do my part in the event.

I made the rest of the descent quickly and was glad to be back on the level ground of Zealand Trail before the heaviest rains hit. Unbalanced and soaked, I took a nasty fall on some rocks. Thankfully I wasn’t badly injured.

Back at the parking lot on Zealand Rd. I was soaked, exhausted, and bleeding, but satisfied to do my part in this year’s memorial event. The collective spirit of those that hiked the 48 peaks that day show that we are capable of anything together.