February 20, 2012. President's Day, what better way to spend it then to admire them. Just did Owls' Head Saturday so why not do the other peak that is in the middle of nowhere, Isolation. Been reading a lot about this one lately. People have been flying up this trail with the conditions and making use of the bushwhack. Plus I got an email the other day from my brother saying he was thinking about doing this one on Monday. Thought it would be kind of cool to meet him on the trail unannounced. The trailhead is located off of Route 16 about 5 miles north of Jackson, NH. It is probably one of my longest drives to a mountain to date. This peak also includes a bushwhack called the Engine Hill Bushwhack which cuts out a good portion of the established trails.
The wake up time was my usual 3:30 and on the road by 4:40. Th ride up consisted of I-93 to Route 3, down 302 and then north on 16. I arrive at the trailhead at 7:10 and ten minutes later I am hiking Rocky Branch Trail. Immediately I put on my microspikes and would leave them on for the entire hike. In about fifteen minutes I stop to take off my fleece jacket as the trail is a steady uphill climb right from the start and I need to cool down. A few minutes later and I pass two ladies hiking up to Isolation also. At one spot when I stop to catch a breather I look up and marvel at the very blue sky and what a great day this is going to for the views.
Up in the flat section before the turn onto the Engine Hill Bushwhack a young guy and girl catch up to me and I side step off the trail to let them pass. Just five minutes later I catch up to them as they have stopped for something and I pass them. I reach the carving on the tree that marks the right turn onto the bushwhack. Within fifteen minutes I again step aside for the same two people to let them pass. And then the unthinkable happens, yup, they stop again after just passing me and I have to make my way around them. Some people just do not have a clue. If you are going to stop then do so before you play this leap frog game. I would do this two more times with these two and wanted so badly to say something but bit my tongue.
Anyway this section of the hike is awesome as it is nothing steep but hugs the contour and is through this amazing birch glades. The sun is shining and the temp is just right and the walk is refreshing.
Just under two hours from starting and I make it off the bushwhack and turn onto Isolation Trail. The trail starts a gentle climb along the trail with the Rocky Branch stream to the left. It is another peaceful part of the trail and a short thirty minutes later I am turning onto Davis Path after taking another short bushwhack that bypasses the normal junction. As I start the climb up the ridge the Presidentials start to come into view on my right. I can also feel the winds up here that were non-existent down below. They are strong and I stop to put the fleece back on so I am all set when I get to the summit.
I reach the spur path and at the bottom of it are my two leap frogging friends from earlier. Thankfully they have already been to the summit so I should have it to myself. I climb the steep spur path and the last section is difficult with the footing. Grabbing some small trees for support I pull myself up over the last section and it is a wow factor for the view. I have never heard of this mountain before setting out on this journey but boy what a mountain. Washington and the southern presi's are right there smack dab in front of you. Not sure why some people do not like this peak but this is one of my favorites after today. One can see all the way across the White Mountains to Mount Moosilauke.
The stay on top is quick and short lived as the winds are strong and cold. I wish I had more time and the conditions were better. As I look at the pictures now I notice I just caught the right shoulder of Lafayette and somehow missed Lincoln also. Another day as the mountains are going nowhere. Quickly off the peak and back down the way I came. About fifteen minutes later and I meet up with the two women who I met at the beginning of the hike. They were just coming up the ridge. The hike down is quick and once back on the Engine Hill Bushwhack I get a good shot of Mt Carrigain.
Another hour later and I am back at the car in an unbelievable 5 hours and 25 minutes for the round trip of 12.5 miles. Unbelievable how quick this trail is for the mileage. Will definitely be back again next winter for a repeat. Oh and where in the hell was my brother? Never saw him and found out later that he got "abused" by some hiking cohorts doing the Sleepers and the Tripyramids on Saturday and he was all worn out.
This hike marks another milestone on the quest for the 48. I am now two thirds of the way there to my personal goal, 32 down and 16 to go.
Final numbers: 12.5 miles, 5 hours and 25 minutes, 1 peak, # of peaks to date - 32.