What an amazing couple days weather wise. Too bad there were so many monsters in the forest that would not let me and Pauline sleep. More on that later.
Both our packs weighed in at 18lbs, both with food and 1L of water. From the Zealand trail parking lot we headed south on the Zealand trail to Thoreau falls. A brisk 4.5 mile hike on mostly level terrain, and only a few bolders to walk over and around. Along the way we took a break at the beaver ponds; pretty sure it was the northern pond, but both are really something to look out at. While sitting there stairing out into the pond, what really struck me were the dragonflies. They are amazing insects to watch. I remember wondering, "why do they always have to make such sudden turns?" They just don't do long and graceful. I guess you can draw a parallel with a humming bird vs a sparrow. When you look at a sparrow, you think about how fast and manuverable they are. But when you look at one after seeing a humming bird, they seem slow and sloppy. Dragonflies are the humming birds of the insect realm.
There was a group of kids at the bottom of the trail to zealand hut. Turns out they were a summer camp group, up visiting for a week long visit to the whites. We ran into about 5 others along the trail. I finally asked one how they liked the whites, and he told me he loved it. When I asked where he stayed, he told me he stealthed somewhere just on the other side of the highway. It was then that I realized that he wasn't part of the camp group! Well, he seemed too old, but thought perhaps he was sweeping behing everyone else.
The trail between zealand hut and thoreau falls is really something. As you are walking along the trail, it will turn into gravel a little before you break out of the trees. It's a wide open clearnig with a view of Whitewall Brook to your right (west) and then the ridge and peak which is Zeacliff. Looking north you see Mt. Hale, a 4000 footer, then and looking south, in the distance you see some mountains and a ridge. I didn't check if it was Mt. Hancock to the south or some unnamed peaks. But did take out the maps and compass to figure out our position and check that we were looking at Zeacliff and Mt. Hale. Hancock has a special meaning with me and Pauline, as we had tried doing a 3 day backpacking trip at the end of May. We ended up turning back early because there was so much water on the trails; slow going and a pain in the butt. We do plan to try it again later in the year, when we know there won't be so much water.
Continuing along the trail, which by the way is part of the AT, we entered the woods again, and finally came to the fork in the trail. Continue straight along the AT, or turn right and head along Thoreau Falls trail. We went right, and just before we break out of the trees to the falls, I slip and manage to splash water all over my leg, and up under my shorts. My trail runners don't have particularly good grip apparently. We didn't spend a lot of time at the falls, and contiued across and back into the woods. Shortly after we started desending I think is when my knee went out. And now that I think about it, sun of a gun, my knee started hurting after I had slipped on the way down to the falls. Well, good to know that my knee didn't randomly go out. Something triggered it, and that something was the slip on the rock.
Once on the other side of the falls, we continued along Thoreau Falls trail, which goes right back into the woods, and almost immediately starts decending. Not all that steep, but that is about the time my knee went out. Very sharp pain when I am walking downhill. It is totally fine if I walk flat or uphill. But go down, even slightly, and the pain is quite startling. We passed the first stealth site, which is like 5 feet off the trail and right next to the water, but a very nice spot just the same. Passing that we were able to find our favorite spot about 1/2 mile along. We had worried that a couple people that had passed us were going to take it, but I guess they were planning to hike on through.
We setup up camp and took a nap. All seemed quite peaceful. That was until we had dinner and turned in for the night. First my restless legs kicked in. Then the forest monsters started acting up. They made funny sounds, even stomping on the ground and waking me up. They somehow leach into your mind and turn your dreams it into, if not a nightmare, a very disturbing string of events/images that lead to you jerking awake, and a burning desire to turn on your flash light and look out into the woods. -- That by the way is a mistake, becasue once you go down that rabbit hole, you are gone. You'll keep wanting to check and recheck that there is nothing out there.-- I woke up twice, and one of those times I felt myself trying to vocalize something; not a scream, but more of a raaaaahhhh! I was glad Pauline had already fallen asleep. But sleep did finally come for me, and was quite restful. About 5am we woke up and went for a pee break. I'm usually quite cold after I get back into my sleeping bag after a pee break, and had to put my puffy jacket on to get warm again. With a cold breeze coming in the open vestibule doors open, my legs continued to be cold. I had to sinched up the bag around my legs. I almost forgot to mention that I was sleeping directly on my air mattress, and had my 35F bag over top of me like a quilt. Very comfortable, since you can tuck it in around you when it's cold, but when you are too warm, a blanket can be tossed off or you can stick your leg or whatever part of your body you want to cool off.
Next morning, we had breakfast and headed back the way we came. My knee was still sore. Between the stealth site and the falls, some birds flew across the trail. Turns out it was a family of partridges. The mother turned around and charged at us with feathers flared and hissing. Scared the both of us! But it quickly turned back and started making a very sad sound, so we quickly left, as the even was far more tramatic for them then us. We spent some time at Thoreau Falls, watched a couple clouds come into being then back out. Stopped at the beaver pond again for lunch. Then back to the car.
Couple stats for myself. 12g of fuel was used for boiling 1 1/3c water in the evening, and 2c in the morning. Befree water filter worked amazingly well. Super easy to fill, and it has an amazing flow rate. The collapible bottle I'm a little unsure about, but if you hook up a hose it will be just fine.
Brought: Zpacks backpack, Zpacks Duplex. Helium 2 wind breaker, cyan hoodie and thin running pants for sleeping in, orange puffy, thin wool hat. Worn, hiking pants, EMS green t-shirt, northern exposer baseball cap, hiking shoes, dirty girls, synthetic toe trail socks. 35F bag, neoair xlite air pad, blow up pillow.
Wish I brought: Could have taken a lot less food.