I was able to quickly get up the Zealand Road, which will be re-opened by the Forest Service in the next couple of weeks. I hit the trail and for about the first mile it was mostly snow free. After taking
the 90 degree right turn away from the river, I came upon the classic spring time trail feature which I like to refer to as the "monorail." Although taking the monorail into Zealand sounds fun, it doesn't make for the easiest hiking conditions. As pictured, the monorail is a strip of snow going down the center of the trail which looks out of place compared to the bare woods. It's created by hikers, snowshoers and skiers who pack the snow down over the winter into a dense base that takes longer to melt than the unpacked snow in the woods. It usually starts off in a narrow strip of snow and as you climb higher, it gets
wider, deeper and makes for slow and slippery progress.
After passing the bogs and ponds and almost running straight into a moose--sorry no photos--I made it to the hut. I was greeted by Matt and Tom, the project manager for the construction work at Zealand. Although it was just Wednesday afternoon, the crew of four had done a great amount of work since Monday when the materials were airlifted in. Tom, Jeremiah, Nathaniel and Carl had completed one side and were busy putting stick-tight down on the old plywood. The rain was supposed to come in later and they hoped to finish shingling the back half by the end of Thursday. The new roof is a welcome sight as the old shingles were put on in 1989 and they were at the end of their 20-year lifespan. With luck, the new roof will last another 20.
I got the chance to catch up with Matt, who had been enjoying being back at Zealand. Although Matt has never been a self-service caretaker, the last time he worked in the huts was in 2004 when he was the Hutmaster at Zealand. Since then, he has traveled the world, taught English in Korea, lived in Texas, rode his 1970's motorcycle across the country and now he is back at Zealand for the next month and a half. There hasn't been much change since he worked there 6 years ago. The Zealand Falls still put him to sleep at night, the view towards Mt. Carrigain continues to capture attention and the more solitary experience of caretaking has been
After a snack of Clif bars and apples, I packed up my things, took a few more photos and another walk around the hut. I headed down the trail and was happy to see the very first signs of spring with buds coming out, green grasses sprouting, birds singing and a fast melting monorail beneath my feet.