View Full Version : Isolation via Rocky Branch, Engine Hill, Isolation Trail, Davis Path, Christmas Eve

12-25-2009, 11:13 AM
OldMan Ed and I had good beta that Isolation was well-broken out and so given a good forecast we set out from Rocky Branch at 7:45 under cloudy, but clearing skies. The was a breeze coming through Pinkham Notch, but it was relatively warm. After a quick inspection of the trail, we decided to start out without snowshoes, and as it turned out, they stayed on our packs the whole day. We did wear Microspikes, but they probably weren't necessary. The small creeks were all solidly bridged, or could be stepped over. Up an over the false height of land, past the Wilderness sign, over the real height of land, and we turned right at 3200' for the Engine Hill bushwhack. It appears a single set of snowshoe tracks followed the trail. Kudos to Hiker Ed and company for an excellent track. Go now before the next heavy snowstorm!

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Engine Hill bushwhack starts here, goes through open birch glades

After a brief up hill through some hemlocks, the track we followed went through several birch glades which were open enough to play football, or at least Frisbee. There was ample moose tracks everywhere, and while we didn't see a moose, on our return trip there were several trees stripped of bark that weren't stripped on the way out. The track deposited us on the Rocky Branch Trail just before the 3rd crossing which it skipped leaving only crossing #5 which was easy, although not solidly bridged (rock hop-able though.)

We followed the Isolation Trail until a triple tip-up where the track left the trail and short-cut around the campsite, coming out on the Davis Path and saving additional mileage and elevation. This was easy to follow, once you got on it - I imagine it looks like a herd path in summer. Right on cue, we spooked a grouse on the Davis Path (all three times I have been there, I've seen grouse.)

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Baldfaces, and the open birch glades from above

The track continues right up to the Isolation spur trail, but not beyond. Climbing to the summit from here was the only place where traction might have been an issue but with caution even here it could be bare-booted. We climbed out of the trees into a completely cloudless and deep blue sky. The contrast of white from Washington and company was amazing. The birch glades we'd traversed earlier stood out against the dark evergreen background covering the rest of the hillside.

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Wildcat, Washington

We tagged the summit cairn in 3:30 to make it official (25/48 for me, 29/48 for Ed) and were immediately greeted by a pair of gray jays. After some fruits and nuts were surrendered, we dropped back to the ledge below the summit. Holding up the camera to take a photo of Washington, I was startled when a jay landed on my hand. They were bordering on obnoxious, nearly poking around in our packs looking for something to steal. I think Ed offered a sandwich crumb in one hand and the jay went for the whole sandwich in the other.

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Jackson to Lincoln & Lafayette, Winter #25

On the east/northeast sides of some of the peaks we could see some undercast. Pinkham Notch definitely had a few clouds, as did Crawford Notch. Occasionally a wisp would blow over Monroe and disappear into Oakes' Gulf. After 45 minutes of views, food, and gray jay tomfoolery, a breeze picked up and so we packed up our stuff an headed home, on a pace to be back for dinner. Retracing our steps was even easier than following the trail in the AM, although the sunnier spots were softening up now and snow stuck to the Microspikes and pole baskets. We made it back to the parking lot in 2:45, for a round-trip hiking time of 6 hours and 15 minutes (my best round-trip summer time was 6:30.) The trail conditions can't be any better than they are right now!

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180-Degree Panorama

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Click on the photo of the hiker with the bird on his head for the complete album.

Merry Christmas,

12-25-2009, 12:50 PM
What a great way to spend Christmas Eve. Beautiful pictures Tim. I was still laughing about the gray jay going for the sandwich when I got to the last photo. Too funny. That definitely made the complete album. Merry Christmas!

Snow Miser
12-25-2009, 01:29 PM
Great photos and TR. I agree, what a great way to spend Christmas Eve day. Thanks for sharing with us!

12-26-2009, 08:58 AM
Great stuff Tim. How long was the round trip? I'm headed up Tuesday, hopefully there won't be any major storms before then.

12-26-2009, 06:57 PM
Great stuff Tim. How long was the round trip? I'm headed up Tuesday, hopefully there won't be any major storms before then.

We made it back to the parking lot in 2:45, for a round-trip hiking time of 6 hours and 15 minutes (my best round-trip summer time was 6:30.) The trail conditions can't be any better than they are right now!

Buried in the TR was the time of 6:15 ;)


12-28-2009, 05:56 AM
great pics & thanks for taking the time to share :)

interesting to hear about the jays as I did mt jackson about 2 weeks back I encountered the same thing... very aggresive begging bird trying to take the bagle right out of my hand; geuss the birds are hungry this time of year??

thanks again for sharing & best wishes for the new year

12-28-2009, 07:05 AM
Fantastic trip report and pictures. The last one cracked me up. Thanks for sharing with us.

KD Talbot
12-28-2009, 05:32 PM
Great Tr and pics, Tim! I'm heading there this winter. Hope I get similar conditions, as unlikely as that may be! :)


12-29-2009, 09:39 PM
Well I made it out alive. The whole trip in it sounded like a freight train above us. Tough to get a good reading but it was -10 on the summit and the winds were a steady 50mph with higher gusts. Total time on the summit, about 2 minutes. No Jays in sight looking to be fed.

KD Talbot
12-30-2009, 04:48 PM
Drastic difference in conditions, eh Billy? Hope to have milder conditions for myself.:D


12-30-2009, 05:17 PM
I hope so Kevin. The last river crossing was a little dicey especially on the return trip. One of those leap of faith kind of things. Hopefully all this cold will harden it up quickly though. The rest of the route was in good shape.