Davis Path and Isolation West

July 29, 2017.

Right back to it as a big loop scheduled for today to finish what I didn't do last weekend, Davis Path and Isolation Trail West. Over twenty two miles but should be doable as once reaching the ridge there is not much elevation gain. Then a drop down into the Wild River basin and a roadwalk to finish.

Knowing I need all the daylight I can get I arrive at the trailhead by 6 AM. Davis Path is located just off of Route 302 next to the Saco River. A walk down the dirt road to the suspension bridge that spans the Saco River.


Passing by a few residences located on the east side of the river and the trail enters the woods after a clear-cut swath crossing a very dry streambed. After that the trail begins the steep unrelenting climb up to the spur for Mt Crawford.


The trail varies greatly over this terrain as I slowly make my way up. A quick stop to adjust the clothing as it was in the 40's at the start. But this climbing has warmed me up so off with the long sleeve shirt and the zip off pants. I'm also trying something new after the leg cramps while sleeping of last week. I bought a product called Tailwind Nutrition. It is a powder additive to water that helps endurance and replaces minerals that one burns off with serious exercise. As I get ready to move along I hear the first people coming up behind me and step aside as they pass me by. Not long after I meet up with them again at the first view ledge of the day.


I stop for my pictures and it dawns on me who the woman is with her dog. It is Alton and Cole with a friend and turns out they are hiking the Cohos Trail which starts on the Davis Path and goes all the way to Canada ending at the Fourth Connecticut Lake. Across the way the views are expansive for only being an hour from the start where I can see from this vantage point. In the distance the Ridge I still need to get, Bond to South Twin.


Continuing up the ledges and reaching the junction for the spur to Mt Crawford I wish the two hikers and her dog good luck finishing the Cohos Trail. The spur trail leads up over more ledges with false promises that the summit is just after the next high point several times. Finally I reach the summit where the blueberries are ripe for an early morning snack.


The early morning sun is perfect for picture taking as the shadows add depth to the pictures. Plus with the cool morning temperatures the usual summer haze does not pose a problem. A look up towards Crawford Notch and Willey and Webster flank the gash that the glaciers created over 10,000 years ago. Ahead of me is my next destination the locomotive looking Stairs Mt.


Down below I can hear the voices of the two hikers I just left at the junction. I eventually spy them as they cross one of the open ledges making their way along Davis Path.


Further to the right is Mt Parker where I was this past winter and bummed a ride back saving me many miles that day. Washington is cloud free today as I can see where I came up out of Oakes Gulf last week. It is in the very left of the picture by the visible rock slide.


A few more blueberries before I leave and I don't have a lot of time to dwaddle today. A lot of miles need to be covered so I beat it back down to Davis Path and turn left onto it. With the majority of the climb being done the rest of the trip to Stairs Col is a breeze. Across ledge popping in and out of the woods making it to an open spot with a clear view back to Mt Crawford. Flanking Mt Resolution and the easy grades continue.


It takes less than an hour since leaving Crawford and I reach the junction I was at back in early December. The Mt Parker trail leaves from this junction. Funny thing is I don't remember there being all three signs attached to this one post. A quick look back at my pictures from December confirm that they have taken the three separate signs and put them all together. Continuing along Davis Path and as I get closer to the col I can hear voices ahead of me. I find it strange that I would have caught up to the hikers I saw earlier unless they took a long break. I push past Stairs Col and from here to the Isolation Spur this is all new mileage for me.


I reach the steep and rough section of the trail and meet up with the voices I heard earlier. It is Trish Herr and her two girls who are out backpacking. The girls are two of the youngest to have completed the 48 4000 thousand footers. A quick little chat and I was impressed by their humbleness as they are kind of "famous" in the hiking community. Letting me pass by them and a few minutes later I reach the spur trail for Stairs Mt. A quick five minute trip to the ledge where camping is actually allowed.


Hiking for a little over three hours and this is the perfect spot for a morning break as I sit down on the ledge and soak in the warming sun. While enjoying the views I notice a gash in the forest out to the west in the basin to the left of Frankenstein Cliffs. A zoom in confirms it is a waterfall and it is Arethusa Falls.


It's a short break as I get up to get back on course, there is still a long way to go. My next destination is Mt Davis where another spur off the main trail is. Davis Path is a fairly mild trail with pretty good footing. It leads down off of Stairs Mt into a small col where the trail takes a right hand turn following the col where it is pretty moist.


It's a really short section as it quickly makes a left hand turn to climb steeply out of the col. A half hour more along the trail and I find a decent water source to refill on. This is one of the main reasons I have been apprehensive about this trail as I have read that water can be scarce through here. I drink a bottle and refill it and continue on trying to keep a good pace for the day. I haven't done a twenty miler since October of 2015 so it will be interesting how the legs and body hold up as the day goes on.


I come across the first blowdowns of the day and luckily they fell parallel to the trail so no issues going by. Another half hour and the worst section of the trail that needs some major brushing as the treadway disappears beneath the encroaching hemlocks.


Popping out into the open where I almost got a shot over the trees of Washington. Back into the woods for a bit then out through a grassy wetland that sits around 3600 feet.


A few more minutes along the trail and I reach the spur for Mt Davis. This little spur is a steep and interesting one. Thankfully everything was dry and scrambling up it was a piece of cake.


Just as I break out over the last climb I run into Trish and the girls again as they are heading down. The spur path leads through the scrub which is quite thick and hides the path scraping the legs as I push through. It ends at the summit of the south peak of Mt Davis.


To the north is the recognized high point of Mt Davis, the north summit. It is that bald spot directly in the middle of the picture. A zoom reveals there are a couple of cairns but a look around and there is no obvious path to it. I had looked up online beforehand for info on how to get to it and came up empty handed. Just another reason to come back to this sweet little spot some day.


A few pictures before I sit down to take a break as this is the last spot for any views since the rest of the trip will be in the trees and valley down below. Carter Dome and Rainbow Ridge are to the northeast. The Wildcats are in there also but blend into Carter Dome's shape. Just below Washington is Oakes Gulf and the headwall I went up last week. The Dry River Trail came up out of Oakes Gulf on the left hand side of the picture.


Across the Dry River basin are the southern Presi's Monroe and Eisenhower.


Looking ahead and Mt Isolation is a mere 1.2 miles away via the trail. Isolation is the second bump on the ridge and to the left is North Isolation where I turn left to head down Isolation Trail West. Sitting down for my second break of the day leaning against the cairn and my lunch view is the Southern Presidential Range.


Refueled I head back down to Davis Path and push onward. The terrain gets a little rougher as I climb up towards Isolation. Where the trail crosses from the west side of the ridge to the east this area is very susceptible to blowdowns.


I pass by the spur for Isolation as I can hear a pretty good crowd up above me. There is no need for me to head up there even though it is a short spur. I need every minute I can get in order to finish before dark. Pressing on I reach the last view shot of Washington which is visible through a small regrowth section just north of Isolation.


Finally after eight hours of hiking I make it to the last trail I need for the Washington tab of my redlining, the 2.4 mile section of Isolation Trail West. This will lead back down to where I camped last week and then it is a slog along the Dry River Trail to the road for the second week in a row. The upper section of the trail is pretty nice as the treadway is in great shape. Easy walking up here which is a welcome relief.


Just after I start I meet a couple coming towards me and am shocked to see anyone on this trail. They ask me which way to go to Isolation. Confused I ask why they are on this trail and they tell me they took a wrong turn and are coming back up. I tell them to take a right at the junction and go about a mile to the spur and we part ways. Further down in between these two pictures I run into another group of one woman and two guys. Shocked again I make the comment of why are they on this trail as I thought only a very few people use it. Their comeback was I am the first person they have seen since Pierce! Even more shocked I ask where are they going and they said Glen Boulder after Isolation. Where did they come from is my next question as they tell me they started at Crawford Notch, the Highland Center I finally get out of them. The woman reaches into her pocket and I am expecting a map but instead it is just a list of trails they are taking for the day. Shocked again I ask how are they going to get back to where they started and they reply they'll just thumb back! The chances of someone coming from Pinkham Notch and driving over thirty miles back to the Highland Center is pretty slim which I tell them about. Plus the climb up to the Glen Boulder Trail after doing Isolation is a tough climb with rocky terrain with the Glen Boulder Trail being even rougher. They ask what they should do and I tell them where I came from and where I am heading and offer them to walk out with me and I'll give them a ride back. It's almost three in the afternoon and I have gone twelve miles up to this point with about ten to go. They are set on going to Isolation and I advised them the best bet is to see if anyone on Isolation is parked at Rocky Branch and try to get a ride back from them. I wished them good luck and continued down the trail. I guess carrying maps are becoming a rarity these days!


Just before reaching Isolation Brook I run into a third group heading up but they are planning on going to Isolation and then spending the night out. For a trail that I thought did not see much action it sure is busy at least for today. Crossing the brook and the trail becomes much rougher as it is a series of washouts which I can only assume happened during Irene back in 2011. I make it down to the end of the trail without incident having only one spot where the trail was hard to figure out where it was. Turns out I just needed to follow downstream a bit where it was washed out. This picture is just above where I camped out last week and a hundred feet after that is the junction with the Dry River Trail. Another trail and tab done! I am down to four tabs; Franconia, the Northern Presi's, Mahoosucs and one trail in the Carter's.


While I was here and had the time, it's 4:00 so plenty of time to get out by dark, a short side trip to the designated campsite across from where I slept.


After that it was a push to get out of the woods along the same path for the second week in a row. Oddly the last group I saw on Isolation West would be the last people I would see along the trail. I make it out in good time as I reach the road at 6:40 and then it's a three mile roadwalk back to the Davis Path parking lot. A pretty good day and looks like the Tailwind Nutrition worked as I felt pretty good all day and never really hit a wall considering the mileage. Less than 70 miles to go to finish this redlining adventure!

Final numbers: 22.6 miles, 13 hours 30 minutes.

Redline Miles: 12.5, Total to Date: 1371.7