Mt. Isolation 4-29-12
Rocky Branch Trail --> Isolation Trail --> Davis Path --> Isolation Spur
Distance: 13.2 mi. (Total)
Elevation Gain: 2,746 ft. (Overall) 4,010 ft. (Total)
Time: 5:15 (Summit) 9:00 (Total)
The trail starts off prety gentle from the parking lot working its way slightly to the right towards a small brook. Once next to the brook, the trail gets a bit steeper and works back to the left. The lower end of this trail is a series of long gradual switchbacks that help keep the trail pretty easy. It doesn't seem very steep here, but on the way down it did seem steeper to me than on the way up. The trail keeps working its way up slowly back and forth. Soon I started to see some wild flowers that were going to be blooming soon.
Large downed tree
About two thirds of the way up to the height of land on the ridge, the trail levels out for a period and then heads downhill very gradually. This is where most of the wild flowers were and soon there should be lots of large patches of Yellow Trout Lillies in bloom. This section is wet to start, but there are rocks placed that you can step across to keep your feet dry and out of the mud. As the trail starts back up, it turns to the right. Shortly after this is where I started to see some snow. Mostly a dusting that was remaining in the shady spots. The trail continues gently to the height of land getting a bit rockier in places. I wouldn't be surprised to see a moose in here as there were plenty of trees the moose had been eating the bark off of.
Near the height of land
At the height of land I found the start of the bushwhack. I had planned on using this at least on the way to the summit. I had wanted to make it here in the winter to really see where it went, but didn't have a chance. I started onto it, but soon wasn't so sure which way it went. Even though I knew more or less what to do to follow it, I got back on the trail and stuck with that. I'll be back some other time and get it then. Coming down to the river, the trail had water running down most of it. To stay out of it, you had to hope from rock to rock. This wasn't hard, but goes on for a while. It wasn't long before I was down to the river.
The first crossing was a bit tricky as some rocks still had some ice on them from the cool night and being in the shade. I just had to be careful with my footing getting to the middle of the river. Turning right at the junction, the trail started off muddy. On my way back I saw why. I had actually gone just above the trail as the trail actually had a bit of debris in it. After some easy walking, I was up to the second crossing. It was more of the same with finding a spot that wasn't too icy.
Back on the east side of the brook, the trail goes for quite a while slowy gaining elevation. I started to see more snow through here with about 2-3 inches of fluff on the ground. It doesn't seem to rocky through here, but water/ice might have been in some low spots. Nearing the third crossing, the trail goes around some muddy/wet areas. The trail stays out of them though by just skirting around the right side. Soon you get to the third crossing. Once done with this crossing, it doesn't take long and you are at the fourth crossing. The fourth was the only crossing where I didn't cross right at the trail. This was only due to ice on the rocks and not wanting to slip. Again, it isn't too far before you reach the last crossing where the brook has certainly gotten narrower and shallower.
After the last crossing, the snow and ice get deeper and more frequent. It seems like this section of trail could get quite wet at times. I had to be careful not to slip on ice or to fall through and get my feet wet. Luckily, one person had come down the trail and I could tell where some weak spots were. Eventually I started to come across small sections of monorail. Further up they were pretty long sections and in places looked almost knee deep still. Nearing the Davis Path, the snow started to get back to only a few inches deep with occasional monorail that was hard ice a few inches thick.
Brief clear section of trail thanks to the sun
The Davis Path was pretty easy and went by quick. It isn't overly steep, but it was pretty windy through here. There was plenty of sections of monorail here to be careful on. You could tell some of them were actually on bog bridges though. Shortly after a brief viewpoint to the west, you come to the path to the summit of Isolation. I stopped here to put on dry socks, shirts, and an extra layer or two. I knew it would be windy up on the summit. The first step on the spur path was the only spot I was concerned I might slip on without traction (the spikes stayed in my pack all day). After this, it is just a quick steep climb (the only one) to the open summit.
Once up on the summit, the view was amazing. The open summits of the presidentials were still covered in snow and there were almost no clouds at all. I can see why this is one of the most popular peaks to finish your 4000 footers on. I set my pack down and got out a little more wind gear for my head and face before getting out my weather meter. It was 27 degrees and the wind was averaging 17 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Stil much lower than the summit of Mt. Washington was getting today though. You could see the snow being blown off the higher peaks. After having a bit to eat, seeing a couple birds, and taking in the great views it was time to head back. The hike back went well and the rocks at the river crossings had cleared off making them easier.
Davis Path nearing the summit
What a view
I saw this bird at the summit. It might be a Pine Grosbeak
Snow blowing off the summit
One of only a few flowers that have blossomed. Yellow Trout Lilly
Driving up this morning, you could tell it was going to be a great day
All in all this was a great hike. The view at the top makes up for the lack of views getting there. Even though it was windy, it wasn't bad since I was ready for it. It was interesting seeing how much wind you got on different parts of the trail though.
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE
Really nice photos Adam. It looks like winter is about to give way to spring very soon. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Adam for the great TR and beautiful photos!
Wonderful photos!! Thank for sharing.
As you indicated from your report and photos, it is understandible why you wouldn't want to hike the Rocky Branch Trail with all the crossings after a lot of rain. Outstanding views from the top. Now we know what to expect when we hike Isolation.