On the first day of my leave of absence from work, I climbed Mt. Isolation (4,003 ft). This is my 48th White Mountain 4000 footer and it seemed fitting that I would finish this peak bagging list on my first day off.
I climbed Isolation the hard way, hiking up the famous Davis Path, over Mts Crawford (3,110 ft), Resolution (3,415 ft), Stairs (3,463 ft), and Davis (3,819 ft), before ascending to the top of Isolation. From there, I hiked down the Isolation Trail to the Dry River, camped for the night, and walked out to Rt 302 the next morning. The total distance of this hike was about 21 miles in 14 hours of hiking.
The Davis Trail is famous because it was one of the first to be hewn out of the White Mountain National Forest in 1845, back when it took 2 days to travel to New Hampshire from Boston by train and carriage. The original trail was a 14.4 mile bridle path, though I can't imagine how they got horses up it. It is very steep and rough.
The weather on the first day of my hike was spectacular and so were the views of Mt. Washington (6,288 ft), Mt Monroe (5,372 ft), and Boot Spur (5,500 ft) from the tops of Mt. Crawford and Davis, which are known for their 360 degree views. The peak on the left is Monroe and the one on the right is called Boot Spur, which overlooks famous Tuckerman Ravine. Mt Washington is in the middle, its summit marred by weather forecasting and radio masts.
The only way you get this kind of view is to hike in.
It's been a dry summer so I carried extra water for the first half of my hike. It's a good thing too, because the trail was bone dry for the first 6 miles. I was also carrying 3 days of food in case the weather held and I got the opportunity to take a shot at Mt Monroe, hiking up from Oakes Gulf. The heavier load necessitated a shift in pack back to my Mariposa Plus, which still feels great! I think I'm going to be using it in Maine in a few weeks on a long section of the Appalachian Trail.
From Mt Isolation it is possible to continue up the Davis Path another 1.9 miles to the east of Bootspur, but it's well above treeline and there's no good shelter close by at that elevation. Instead, I hiked east, down the Isolation Trail to the Dry River Trail, making it down by 5:30 pm with 2 hours of light left.
Lucky for me, I found a new campsite next to the junction of the Dry River Trail and the Isolation Trail where I made camp for the night. There are a bunch of these scattered along the east side of the river all the way to the suspension bridge that aren't on my map. I think the forest service has built them to retard the illegal camping along the river.
Honestly, I was frightened by the description of the Dry River Trail that's in the White Mountain Guide, and seriously considered backtracking or hiking out on other trails. You have to understand that this river valley is directly under Mt Washington and surrounded by steep 4,000 and 5,000 foot peaks. Unpredictable forces of nature are at work down here.
In the end I decided to see what it looked like anyway, and found that my fears were baseless. For some reason, I had thought that 4 fords were required, but none were, to my relief.
I pitched camp, testing out the Zpacks Hexamid I had bought in the spring, ate dinner, and crashed. I woke up later to see lightning flashing through the side of the tarp, but oddly, I couldn't hear any thunder at all. When I woke again near dawn, it had started to rain from the west, so I set my alarm for a later in the morning, and went back to sleep.
The next morning, I had a quick breakfast and walked 5 miles down the Dry River Trail to Rt 302 and Crawford Notch. This was an easy hike and none of the river fords that I had feared, materialized. Once I made it back to the road, I had to hike another 2.5 miles back to my car at the base of the Davis Trail, and that was that. I guess I'm a official peakbagger now.
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