A cool warm-up

It was in the low ’30s with chill winds when the New Zealand crew began its shakedown cruise Saturday morning. We climbed out of Crawford Notch on the Avalon Trail, warming up and getting to know each other as best we could, rock-hopping uphill in single file. We were two from Connecticut, three from Rhode island, one from New Hampshire, seven from Massachusetts. A New England crew, not unexpected on an AMC trip. The trail was slippery in places, and as we climbed we hit the snow line. At the Mt. Tom spur, after picking up the A-Z Trail, we took a break for a snack and chat.

Having gained 1,700 feet or so, the walk heads generally downward  from here, eventually into Zealand Notch. From its  junction with the Zealand Trail, it’s just a few flat minutes to the Twinway and the final, notorious, steep bit up to Zealand Hut. On this weekend evening, the place was ringing to the cries of a dozen or so very young, very active Boy Scouts (absent in this photo, using one of the bunkrooms as a sound stage), who had walked in down the notch. Cooking, eating, and cleaning up together gave us NZ-ers a chance to get better acquainted. We are, if I say so myself, a mighty fine group. We will rock the Antipodes.

Ready for the off next morning, we found it warmer and much less windy.

We headed south on the Ethan Pond Trail (which is actually, if weirdly, north on the Appalachian Trail), to Thoreau Falls,

then headed on toward Ethan Pond over thin ice, frozen mud, and puncheons. Those aren’t ripples on the water. Well, they are—but the water is frozen. Not a good surface for skating.

Lunch at Ethan Pond Shelter…

then onward and downward to the trailhead on Rte. 302, 13 or 14 miles by trail and four or five miles by road south of where we started. We re-shuttled cars and all said goodbye until we meet again at Los Angeles International in February.

I came away feeling reasonably fit—we all seem to be—much more comfortable with the idea of hiking in a group—this group, at least—and more enthusiastic than ever to get this show well and truly on the road. And I learned a new term: “Bio-break.” I like it. It might even make me smile on my nightly 3 am excursion.

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