May 2003
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Zealand to Ripley - May 24-26, 2003
Activity, photos, report by Ern G.
Additional photos by Jack

Zealand to Ripley Trip Report

Bear Attack!

…and a little truth


Bretton Woods, May 24 – 26, 2003


Bruce and Pat at the Ethan Pond Shelter


We dumped our packs on the deck of the Ethan Pond Shelter.   Exhausted, we simply wanted to “veg out” and enjoy the peace of the afternoon.  Our feet were wet, our packs were damp, our spirits were soaked, and we yearned for warmth and dry clothing.  Most of all, we wanted to rest our weary bones.  We trudged our way from Zealand Hut over roots, rocks, through the boulder fields along the face of Whitewall Mountain, slept in our tents through a downpour, and then packed and carried wet sleeping bags and tents.  The challenge for the day was trying to step from rock to rock, negotiate loose or floating puncheons over muddy areas and to keep our legs from being shredded by scratchy shrubs along the overgrown trail.  All of us stepped in mud and filled our boots with smelly muck.  Why had we decided to go on for more of the same punishment?


Whitewall Mountain and Boulder Field


Don exclaimed, “What’s that?”  I walked over to the trees he pointed out. 



“It’s either fresh clawing by a bear or the deed of a thoughtless hiker.”  I replied.  Pat winced.  Joan wiped a tear from beneath the rim of her glasses.  I shared their concern.



Each hiker inspected the four saplings.  The creature that had bullied these trees stood tall enough to claw the trees up to nine feet from the ground.  A lump developed in my throat as I tried to assure each person in my care that there was nothing over which to be concerned.  My words of encouragement fell on deaf ears.  No one replied.  Silence.  Each knew we’d likely be receiving some unwelcome guests tonight.  Would it happen during our sleep?  Would anyone become a victim?

Pat looked at Joan, Kathryn and Guillaume.  Don looked at Jack and me.  I looked at Bruce and Michelle.  There was no assurance in the group.  We’d either have to pack up and move on or stay and try to find a way to be safe.  Everyone looked to me for a word.  The little snowman Kathryn and Guillaume made on the way in from the main trail seemed insignificant at the moment. 

I joked, “Bears don’t eat much.”


Jack exclaimed, “If you’d brought your hatchet for my tent pegs like I’d asked, I’d have something to use on him!” 


Only the night before around the campfire at Thoreau Falls, I’d told the story about the high population of bears on the Wilderness Trail, not 25 miles from Ethan Pond.  Forest Rangers found it necessary to burn down the shelter because of the high bear population.  I wished I could have taken those words back.  I’m sure the memory lingered on the minds of my hiking friends.


We decided we’d be safe as a group if we planned our vigilance properly.  My thoughts shot back to “Parent Trap” where the twins taught Vickie to knock two sticks together.  Bruce told us of his days of warden duty, on horseback, with bells on the harness to alert bears of human presence.  We hadn’t piece of mind to be walking around knocking sticks together, and we certainly didn’t have any bells.  We only had each other and a long night ahead.


Within minutes we hustled to gather up some firewood to make a campfire near the shelter.  The choicest spots nearest the fire pit were taken already.  Kathryn and Guillaume had no choice but to put up their two-person hammock for their second night, Pat would also set up her hammock between trees, but Bruce was the only real man in the group willing to sleep away from the shelter in order to make space for the wimps.  Those of us in the shelter had a campfire and safety in numbers.


Kathryn and Guillaume


It was only mid-afternoon, but the murmurings indicated that a campfire would not only warm us from the chilly day of hiking, but it would also afford us something against the helpless feeling each of us experienced.  Joan peeled some loose bark from a white birch while Don, Jack and Pat gathered some starter twigs.  The campfire came alive, and though nice under normal circumstances, it was rather premature.  We pretended to enjoy the warmth of the fire.  In our hearts, the real reason was for protection and distraction.


At first we joked that it might be fun to see a bear foraging for food until we realized that it might not really be a good idea to entertain such a confrontation.  There was even talk of taking turns, two people at a time, to walk through each of the tenting areas during the night.  How would we be safe?  What would we do if a bear roamed near Pat’s tent or Bruce’s tent?  We had no weapons, and our wits offered little assurance against the odds of a real meeting with a bear.

Bear foraging for food?



By dusk no one left the campfire without an accompaniment.  Even the most trivial tasks were done in a guarded fashion.  I opened the door to the outhouse with caution only after peering through the thicket of spring foliage and hemlocks.  Any movement, large or small, would send us in the opposite direction.  Pat and Joan came back from the tent platform, visibly shaken from fear.  Kathryn and Guillaume weren’t especially anxious to spend another night in the hammock, knowing they’d be ALMOST alone during the night.


Kathryn and Guillaume


We discussed every precaution that we should take against a bear.  Don rigged up a strong line over a high tree limb with a strong hook capable of hanging all foodstuffs in the hiking party.  Each person double-checked his personal belongings for food whether sealed or canned.  We weren’t taking any chances. 


Don and Joan would take the first watch from 9 to 11, Bruce and Pat would take over at 11, Jack and I would take watch from 1, Guillaume and Kathryn offered to take watch at 3, and Michelle and I would take watch at 5.  I don’t think any of us would be sleeping very much anyway, but we’d need our rest, nevertheless.


The crackling campfire offered comfort as we looked out over the edge of the shelter floor.  Once in a while a stick would pop and whistle.  Charlie-Dawg took notice and then put his chin back down on the edge of the deck.  Though we were tired from our hike, it was going to be a restless night; tossing and turning with the picture of those claw-scathed trees were etched in our memories.


It was around three in the morning.  Snap!  My eyes popped open.  Jack turned and looked out in the direction of the noise.  The dying embers of the campfire did well to last this long, but they did little to give us any comfort during these moments of duress. 


“Where are Guillaume and Kathryn anyway?  They’re on watch!  Wonderful.”  Jack propped up on his elbows as my words barked into the darkness.  His flashlight did little to penetrate the milky fog.


Snap!  This time it was closer and seemed to be to the left side of the re-vegetation area.  One thing was obvious.  It was moving toward Pat’s hammock.  A guttural noise penetrated the silence.


“C’mon, Jack, we have to do something quick.  Let’s get our boots on!  Guillaume!  Kathryn!  You out there?”


Then Jack made an ugly nasal noise as he snored yet another tune.  Now I knew this was simply a nasty nightmare.




Now, I shall tell you the truth about our weekend.  Nothing tragic happened.  It was marvelous.  Actually we had a terrific weekend hiking from Mt. Zealand to Ripley Falls.  Of the sixteen who’d originally signed up for the hike, we left the parking area as a group of nine.  Those who braved the threat of a wet weekend were Pat B, Bruce H, Jack L, Joan W, Michelle M, Guillaume M, Kathryn D., and Gramps (that’s me).  Things happen, plans change, that’s life. 


Michelle, Don, Jack


Someone emailed, “I’m wimping out, but I promise to get my feet wet every day this weekend… in the Jacuzzi.”  I won’t say who he is, but his initials are D. K., and he resembles Dave Kehs.


Zealand Pond


The air was heavy with moisture, but the ground was still dry.  We stopped for lunch at Zealand Hut, just in time to see a train of day hikers led by an AMC team.  At this point we could still see Whitewall Mountain and the boulder fields from the hut.


Zealand Falls (upstream)


During last summer, the AMC had been busy adding on an annex to the main hut complex.  They’ve moved the bathrooms over to the new unit.  I’m not sure what the final arrangement will be, but at present, one must go outdoors beneath a roof-covered boardwalk to get to the new building.  Seems rather inconvenient, but the familiar odors of the old bunkhouse will only be from body odor and stinky boots now.


We made good time from Zealand Hut over the Ethan Pond Trail.  Once through the boulder fields on the face of Whitewall Mountain, we were less than a half hour from Thoreau Falls.  The fog became very dense, and the droplets tickled bare skin.  Actually it was a blessing in disguise.  Bugs, if any, won’t fly in the stuff, so we wouldn’t have to deal with them.


Thoreau Falls


Everyone had a good look at Thoreau Falls, refilled water bottles and went back to our campsite on the opposite side of the trail.  We found suitable spots for our tents, gathered up some kindling wood and started a campfire.  I’d prepared a wrapped shish kebab for each hiking participant.  Once the coals were in abundance, we tossed our evening rations in the “microwave”. 


We enjoyed a relaxing evening around the campfire, told some stories, tried to sleep and awoke to the pitter-patter of a brief morning shower.  This always happens five minutes after I’ve decided to answer the call of nature...but then procrastinate.


Shoal Pond


By mid-morning we were already at Shoal Pond.  Several anglers were practicing a new language.  Jack said one fisherman caught some fish but looked rather small.  Fishing can fun and relaxing anyway.


The weather cooperated with us for the rest of the day, and there were even brief periods of sunshine.  Since we took only brief breaks, we arrived well ahead of schedule at Ethan Pond Shelter.  Kathryn and Guillaume couldn’t resist making a snowman from the patches of snow along the trail. 


After a closer inspection of the claw scathed trees less than 30 feet from the front of the shelter, we decided it best to hang our food over a tree limb.  Don had the strongest rope, so most of us took advantage of his good nature.


We thought it would be nice to have a campfire to ward off the chill and to give that “we’re home” feeling.  Joan did a marvelous job gathering some birch “paper” and lit off a great campfire.  It burned all through the night.


During the night … NOTHING AWFUL HAPPENED.  We slept.  Not even a plastic tote with some trash placed beside the top step by the clawed trees attracted anything except our curiosity.  Good thing, I suppose, that we didn’t have any nighttime visitors from the Smokey family.  Michelle, by the way, reminded me that she was also a “real woman”, since she elected to sleep in her tent. 


By mid-morning the weather took a turn for the worse.  It was obvious we would be wet by day’s end.  With only four miles between the parking area and us, we donned packs and said “Good-bye” the Ethan Pond.  Though the trail has been greatly improved, the light to medium rainfall made the descent quite slippery in places.  A few of us took falls on slippery rocks or puncheons, but the injuries were more embarrassing than painful. 


Charlie scouts the Shoal to Ethan Pond Trail


Many know the northern end of the Ethan Pond Trail at Ripley Falls is a heart breaker going up end and a tough knee knocker coming down.  Because the rain was coming down rather hard at this point, visiting Ripley Falls was abandoned.  Of course, this consensus vote didn’t occur until Kathryn, Guillaume, Bruce and I had already made out way to the falls.


Ripley Falls


Oh, Michelle did see her moose crossing Route 302.  Actually I thought Bruce
and I did a fair representation of what a moose looks and sounds like.

Charlie-Dawg slept all the way home, and then he ran around the house and
through the woods for a few minutes.  It's not fair.  I can barely walk this


As Sharon Arkoff puts it, “A good time was had by all.”


Your host, Ern Grover



A few words from those who participated in the event:


Michelle M. wrote:


Jim and all those that pulled out of Ern's backpack because of the forecast -

You missed a great backpack!  Ern's shish-kabob was tasty! It drizzled here and there Saturday and Sunday, but not enough to matter and just enough to keep the bugs away!  Monday was a steadier rain, but who cares at that point cuz you're going home anyway! And, a group of us even saw a moose standing in the middle of the road as we were driving back to Zealand to get our cars!  Very awesome (especially since Jack saw it and didn't hit it)!

Thanks to Ern for yet another fun trip!  By the way, this is not the official trip report - just thought I'd let folks know it was fun.

Sorry to those that missed out.

Good Luck Jim in your quest to see something off of Mt. Washington – I know today you couldn't even see Mt. Washington as we drove by it.






The weekend was fun!  Thanks so much for running it and for making the tasty shish-kabob.  Actually, I just posted something on the chat (isn't posted yet) about how much fun the weekend was. You'll have to see it before you know what I may have already given away in terms of stretching the truth!  Your story is pretty funny though and I think you should go with it - by the way, I was also "woman" enough to sleep in my own tent away from the hut you know :-)

Anyway, we came upon a moose in the middle of 302 on the way back to Zealand.  Jack saw it and said "Oh, shit," - I said, "what?" and he said, "There's a moose standing in the road!"  We slowed down and he stood there for a minute or two and then mosied (or moosied - hee hee) over to the other side.  He was huge!  It was very cool because I had never seen one before.

Hope Charlie doesn't get sick from all that junk we gave him.

Thanks for running a fun event.  I really had a good time.

Hope to see you again at another event before you leave for VA.

Take care.



Pat B. wrote:


Very funny, Ern - you clearly got home ALOT sooner than we did


Great weekend everyone - thanks Ern for the great Saturday dinner and leadership, K and G for the ride back to Z - everyone - for great company - look forward to seeing ya'll on other GONE hikes.   Pat


Jack L. wrote:


My turn! Not only did Ern accept as true the completely unfounded rumor being spread by Michelle about me snoring, he chose to perpetuate AND immortalize it in print! I smell a libel suit!



Michelle’s comeback for Jack:


Yeah, well, I believe unfounded means that no one has heard you snore
and from the small amount you dozed off and were snoring when many of
us were sitting there, you were founded! No libel there dude!

For the record, I did not tell Ern I was "man" enough to sleep in my
own tent - I said I was "woman" enough.

Thanks everyone for such a fun time! Hope to see you all again!



Jack replied:


(with my head hanging) ok...


Joan wrote:


Hi Ern,

I appreciate very much of your leadership, gourmet Saturday dinner, and bringing the saw so that we could keep up good campfire for two nights and one morning in wet weather condition. I really had a wonderful memory of my first backpacking trip hiking and camping with everyone in 2003 Memorial Day long weekend.

Your story is very funny and I enjoyed reading it.

Special thanks to Jack to give me a ride and Don to lend me one of his poles.   Also many thanks to everyone’s friendship, I really had a good time and wish to meet you soon somewhere in the hiking trails/campgrounds.



Jack’s serious side:


Ok folks, here comes my serious side.

An addition to your report Ern- leaving the parking lot I hadn't even reached the speed limit when I saw a leg step over the guard rail ahead, causing me to mutter "whoa...moose!" We slowed to a crawl as the bull ambled across 302 and up the banking on the other side. He was kind enough to give us a full profile before checking out the four gawking GONErs in the suv. A milestone as it was Michelle's first moose sighting!


I was hoping for the best on our trip and was more than rewarded. I knew about half our group prior to the hike but am grateful I can count four more of you among my circle of friends.


Ern was the first face I met at my first event nearly three years ago. It wasn't until last July when I joined him at Gulf Hagas that we met again, though he occasionally entertained me via his postings on the chat. Many of his tales either inspiring, stirring memories, or causing reflection upon reading them. He offered me endless advice on organizing a trip, ensuring success for the canoe trip Michelle Hamil and I ran last August. I knew I had done something right when he recruited me to lend a hand at Bartlett Inn last November, barely giving my feet a chance to hit the ground as we returned from a hike. Those of you who've not met her will have to believe me when I say his wife Anneke truly is his "better half." OK, just barely, as you all know by now they don't come any better than Ern. He's opened his home and imagination to us all, and led us on adventures both real and, well, "real." I truly hope our parting handshake was not our last. If so, Thank You my Friend.


To All of you...Be Well




Thanks, Jack.  You’re good people.  How much did I say I’d give you to write that about me?


Hope to see each of you folks again1




Ethan Pond - Sunrise


Pulpit Rock - May 17, 2003
Activity by Pam F.
Photos by Jan G.

Making the trek on this beautiful day were Diane, Richard, Jan, Jen, Marilyn and Pam. Rx for success: Mild weather, beautiful scenery, and the bugs were not a problem! We enjoyed the waterfalls and sink holes which had an abundance of water. We saw many egg masses...soon it will be tadpole time, then frogs to eat the bugs. Since it has rained and rained and rained another trip here to view the falls is in order...cannot promise the bugs will not join us next time.

Quinnebaug River Paddle - May 15, 2003
Activity and trip report by Sheila C.

We joined up with the Pioneer Valley Hiking Club & James McNaughton, owner of Adventure In/Adventure Out, who supplied our choice of a canoe or kayak and guided 9 of us on the beautiful Quinnebaug River from Holland Pond into the 2 1/2 miles of river that flows into E. Brimfield Lake.

This was a great opportunity for us people who do not have our own boats. For a fee of $35 per person we paddled from 10:00 till about 2:30. This was Mothers Day; Jane chose a canoe to paddle with her son. We had 3 canoes & 3 kayaks. Richard got to paddle a kayak for the first time and loved it.

One canoe got off to a bad start and tipped over.  The water was still too cool for this today, but all their gear floated, and we retrieved it all.  James got the canoe upright and off we sailed.

My canoe was very stable and comfortable--the seat especially--some canoes have plastic seats that are harder than rocks, but these had a webbed nylon material.

Along the way we spotted a Great Blue Heron that stayed ahead of us as if it was leading the way through its beautiful river...and several Painted Turtles sunning themselves on logs watched us pass by, Canada Geese tried to hide their goslings on shore, a Red tailed hawk soared above, we spotted beaver lodges...and we flowed right over all those beaver dams because the water was still high. We passed thru different types of interesting tunnels, too.

We stopped at a nice area for our picnic lunch that we brought with us.

When the river entered the E. Brimfield Lake, we paddled over to another tunnel under Rt. 20 where we went to explore Long Pond. Then we backtracked to our take out point at E. Brimfield Lake.

We had left a car parked at the boat ramp. While most of us waited here and pulled the boats up on shore, Sybila drove the other drivers back to the access spot to get the boat trailer and other cars.

We were tired but very relaxed. I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend the day.

Our wonderful 5 mile trip finished up just as the clouds rolled in and rain began later on in the day...

Beaver Brook - May 4, 2003
Activity by Ken L.
GONewEnglanders Ken (Your Webmaster), Jen, Eva, Pam, Shadow, and Randy made it out to Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH, for a walk.

Beaver Brook is a 2,000 acre parcel of land with trails for walking and biking.  We've even been there in the winter for some great X-C skiing.

Very much worth a visit any time of year.  It's located just west of Nashua, NH.

We left the Brown Lane Barn, crossed over a small footbridge (the water was up a bit), and then made our way to Wildlife Pond.  This pond has a trail going around it, and we took full advantage of that.

Your Webmaster spotted something that was entirely too cute for words:

Turtles were all lined up in a row getting some sun.  Hope you had the SPF-30, guys, as it was pretty sunny out there!


After Wildlife Pond we made our way along a brook a ways:

The black flies were out, but, fortunately, they weren't biting.  Whew.  Betcha they are now...

On our way to the Maple Hill Farm and garden we spotted a beaver damn---then continued down the trail a ways to see the rest of it!  This damn is immense, and it's doing a great job of keeping the pond up several feet.

Our final stop of the day was the garden, and there were some things in bloom, but its time is yet to come.  By mid summer there are flowers and bumblebees galore in the garden!

Another nice walk at Beaver Brook.

Our post walk chow was at Shorty's in Nashua.  After the meal nobody had any motivation to leave, though, so we chatted for a little while before finally calling it a day.