we decided to take the advise of many wise travelers and head up Glen Boulder and back down Rocky Branch. We left the truck at the RB trail head and bummed a ride up to the Glen Boulder Trailhead. We got picked up pretty quickly by a couple guys that had done the AT before and understood the hospitality! Turning out to be a great day already (as I didn't really want to walk 3.something miles uphill to the other trailhead). The sky was blue and the temp a little chilly, but great for a hike!
We started out around 7:30am and found that the Glen Boulder trail should be called Glen Boulder and all the little 'boulders' he left behind. Pretty rocky, but par for the course. We came across a garbage bag full of canned goods hanging in a tree on the trail. I had never seen this before and couldnt' figure out why it was there. It had a piece of duct tape on it that said "Free Food". Strange. We got above tree line and the sky was blue, views amazing, and you could hear the crowds on Mt W cheering for what I can only guess was the bike race on Saturday, as we got passed by a bunch of cars full of people and bikes on our short trip up Rt 16 earlier. It was a great hike up to Slide Peak and I was surprised to realize that I was standing on the end of the Gulf of Slides! I had heard it and seen it mentioned many times but had been so focused on my goal of Isolation that I almost forgot that Slide Peak was almost 5000' and named so for the Gulf of Slides. I felt kinda stupid but amazed by it anyway. We continued up to 5100' and the trail junction for Davis Path. My leg muscles were twitching and didn't want to do this climbing thing anymore. I was surprised that I was so tired from just a short 3 miles, till I realized how much elevation gain we'd had and that we did essentially just hike a 5000 footer.
We headed back down toward Isolation, a strange feeling- going down to your goal peak! But the trail over was great and we made good time (for us). We summited Isolation by 1:30 and tried not to think about the fact that we weren't even half way done yet! We got some great views and a homemade brownie from a fellow hiker! Such generosity today! Took a break and headed back down Isolation Trail and Rocky Branch Trail.
I was super glad that we didn't come up Rocky Branch or Isolation and wasn't too happy about going down. It was muddy and rocky and boring (or maybe I was just exhausted and sick of rocks??) and I couldn't imagine what it was like during a wet season! The river crossings were simple, and by the time we reached the junc for Rocky Branch we were wiped out. We still had 4 miles left to go and had to try hard not to think about it! We made it down with tired feet but no worse for the wear. Very glad we hitched in the a.m. and didn't save it for the end! GReat day, phenomenal hike, really glad we did the loop we did!