October 18, 2016.
Today a trip to Mizpah Spring Hut via the Dry River Basin located off of Route 302. This area was closed for quite some time due to Tropical Storm Irene that rolled through the area back in 2011. It took four years before the Forest Service would reopen the area to hiking due to some of the devastation in this area. I'll be heading up to the hut using the Mt Clinton Trail which I have read is a very hard trail to follow due to its lack of use and maintenance. For that reason I have put off this section of trail for quite some time but today is the day.
Not one of my earlier starts but I should have enough daylight to do this hike. I'm at the trailhead just after 7:30 and on the trail just before 8:00. Not the most perfect of days in regards to the sun but at least it is dry and the winds aren't whipping. The temps are in the 40's and I'll be in the woods all day never breaking treeline today so actually it is a pretty good day for hiking. Quite a difference from ten days ago when the trees were in full bloom. Today they are starting to litter the path with their color.
Soon enough I reach the boundary for the Wilderness Area and then up ahead the first re-route for the day. This area has been susceptible to washouts ever since the logging railroads made their way up through this valley. What Irene did is just one more in the history of the Dry River Basin. Heading to the riverbank where the trail used to go and some of the recent damage is quite evident.
One of the reroutes treads high above the river as can be seen in the photo below. Not far up is the only bridge across the Dry River which was damaged during the 2011 storm. Being in the Wilderness Area it is surprising to see that it was repaired as the Forest Service has been in a habit of tearing down most bridges rather than repair them.
The trail on the other side is the same. Sometimes riding along the old logging railroad bed and other times climbing up and away where the river tore the trail away.
A pretty good pace as I make the junction for the Mt Clinton Trail in an hour and a half. The trail crosses the river here and normally would cause a lot of trepidation but today it is a fairly easy rock hop across. Once on the other side the "trail" follows the river for a hundred yards or so before climbing up the banking. Not sure what one would do if the river where at its normal level or running high.
I have read reports that this trail has been a big challenge to follow no matter which way one is heading. So I have purposely put it off being kind of gun shy about its condition. I find the spot where it climbs from the river bed fairly easy. Then the trail turns to follow the river and across a small tributary. I'm in no hurry today as I carefully keep an eye out for the trail proper and so far so good. As I turn up the trail I guess I am going to get lucky as there has been some recent trail work in regards to clearing blowdowns.
The gradual ascent along Mt Clinton Trail is interrupted by the first of many brook crossings. Again due to the lack of rain this summer they are all easy and the trail recognizable on the other side. I begin to wonder what all the hubbub was about with this trail because I find it fairly easy going. A few somewhat obscure parts along the way but nothing that causes me to stop and look around for the trail.
The brook crossings seem never ending as I cross and recross the dang thing. The climbing is pretty easy and before I know it I am at the junction with the Dry River Cutoff, my return trail.
Above the Cutoff the trail heads through some nice spruce woods. Getting higher there is evidence of what the winds can do as toppled trees once blocked the trail.
A short twenty minutes from the junction and there ahead of me in the fog is Mizpah Siring Hut. The crew is closing up the hut for the season as I ask if it is alright to go inside to sit down for some snacks. As it would turn out these would be the only people I would see all day. A good twenty minute break then it is time to descend down the trail back to the junction with Dry River Cutoff.
This trail is also quite gentle and the footing great. Gotta love these less traveled trails!
Through a wet spongy area and then right back into some spruce woods.
A quick crossing of a small stream and then what didn't seem like a long time I reach the junction with Mt Eisenhower Trail. I have to come back another day for that one as there is not enough daylight at this time of the year to tackle it. Somehow I won't mind coming back into this area as it is so peaceful and secluded. Just down the trail a bit is another crossing of the Dry River. This time it is a bit more sketchy. For some reason the water is higher and faster than down below as I ponder a way across. I spend a good twenty minutes trying different spots before I just resign to pulling out my waders and just walking across.
A few minutes later and I am back on the Dry River Trail and to my left is the continuation up into Oakes Gulf. Again this is for another day as I turn right to head back down. Another couple of minutes and the junction for Isolation Trail leads off to my left. One more reason to come back because I need the section between here and the ridge. I could possibly see an overnighter in this area as there is a shelter not far up the Dry River Trail still standing. But not for long as the Forest Service is going to tear it down as soon as it needs any major repairs.
Surprisingly the railroad grade continued all the way up here as the hiking back down is made easier. Along the river signs of Irene can be seen as piles of trees from five years ago still line the banks.
A few sections are obscure but not difficult to navigate. On the other side of a feeder stream one of many campsites I have seen today leads off to my left. These sites are not on any map I have seen and the next time I am in the area I'll have to check them out.
The trail continues down and at one spot skirts a huge sheared off granite outcropping right next to the river. Just before making it back to the junction with the Mt Clinton Trail there is another campsite and I wish I had more to time to check out each one I have seen today.
From here it is an easy three mile walk out of the woods. A fantastic day that I'll enjoy in my memories for quite a long time. A special area with a lot of things to return to not just for the trails. There use to be two other shelters along this trail and there has to be some remnants of the railroad in there somewhere. Yes, I'll definitely be returning to this trail many times.
Final numbers: 13.6 miles, 9 hours and 15 minutes.
Redline Miles: 9.7, Total to Date: 1234.3