Mount Washington from the Isolation Trail (West)
Mount Isolation 4003'
Dry River Trail/Isolation Trail (West)/Davis Path/Isolation Spur
17 Miles 2450' Elevation gain
Sabrina, Terra, Kevin, Judy and Emma
After some discussion we agreed to this variation of the hike to Isolation. The original plan had been to go up Ammo and across Bigelow Lawn to Boott Spur taking Davis Path down to Isolation with an Iso/Dry River retreat. Mother Nature once again intervened with less than ideal hiking conditions above treeline. Winds hummed above our heads all day but had little effect on us below along the sheltered trails up through the Dry River Valley. Winds subsided enough to spend about fifteen minutes on the summit in the sun which we could see above the canopy of trees for most of the day, but never enjoyed its warmth until we were on the summit.
As we hiked along and gradually gained elevation we naturally experienced more and more winter like conditions. The trail was wet from freezes and thaws and there were muddy puddles with thin coatings of ice that wouldn't support much weight so that each attempt would result in an icy plunge into cold, wet nastiness. Several brook crossings were complicated by icy stones needed for rock-hopping across and I took a nice spill in the brook on one such crossing. The western section of the Isolation Trail was rough and wild, occasionally difficult to follow through dozens of blowdowns and not blazed in a wilderness area. The trail basically follows Isolation Brook which helped in navigation.
As we hiked along we began to get glimpses of the Southern Presidentials to our north and west. From southern most peaks of Webster and Jackson all the way to Boott Spur the mountains were reflecting brilliant white. At this higher elevation the woods were dusted in a thick, beautiful sugar-coating. From the summit the views towards Mount Washington were just breath-taking. On occasion the summit towers were visible, but most of the time it was wrapped in a shroud of fog and blowing snow. The sun was warm while we took in the views, but the wind was relentless and eventually drove us back down into the trees, although it had subsided by the time the hike was over.
Judy Has Steak in Her Pocket
Jude, Emma and I had been this route before, but it was red-lining for Sabrina and Terra who enjoyed it very much and helped some members of the party through it who maybe weren't enjoying it as much. This, our 5th trip to Isolation completed our 4-season trips. A good bushwhacker could leave the Isolation Trail in a southeast direction and gain the summit and return to the trail by the same route thereby cutting several unnecessary miles off this hike. Oh well, we're not bushwhackers and we chose to stay on trail, although much of the western half of the Isolation Trail closely resembles a bushwhack through all the blowdowns and overgrowth along the way.
Of course the return trip seemed like it would never end and when we finally reached the suspension bridge it was time to break out the headlamps. From the bridge to our cars seemed to fly by on trails that were no longer icy and much smoother in general. As we got out of wet boots and socks the full moon rose behind the ridge we had left hours before. We parted ways in Crawford Notch after a long, cold, wet, difficult, fantastic day on the trail!
Last Look (Zoom)
Complete set of pics HERE: