Trip report

Mt. Isolation Backpack

Backpacking DATE: 09/05/2015 - 09/07/2015

Trip/Event Location: Jackson, NH

Trip Leader(s): Gandalf , JDNnh

Max # People: 6

Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous

Join us for 2-night backpack to one of the farthest four-thousand footers, Mt. Isolation [4003’], and then Giant Stairs, both with magnificent views! It’s a 16.4 mile, two day backpacking

Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:

We will be meeting at the Mt. Crawford trailhead where we will finish, which is the Davis Path and then carpool to Rocky Branch Trail. To make this memorable and rewarding backpack, drive about 6 miles west from Bartlett on US 302. Watch for a stone house known as Notchland Inn on the left above a railroad crossing for old US 302, now bypassed. You are at Notchland, which was once a station named Bemis, for the builder of the stone house. A short distance beyond this, you'll see a Davis Path sign on the right. Turn right into the large parking area. We will be driving a blue FJ Cruiser.

Trip Report/Photos
Featured Photo

Rocky Branch Trail, Isolation Trail, Davis Path.

Total Distance: 16.4 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 3,553 feet

Well we certainly earned this peak! There was no water on the Davis Path so we had to skip our planned night on Stairs Mountain and continued hiking back 4 more miles to our vehicles in the dark...oh my!

Jon and I decided to hike Isolation, but since it would be 14.6 miles as a day hike we decided to make it into a backpacking trip and add Stairs Mountain to make a 2-night trip. We had an excellent crew of Rick, Rich, Luciano, Dave and Dan!

Forecast called for hot weather with temperatures in the 70s during the day and 40s at night. The first day we would hike along Rocky Branch for a couple of miles so we planned on finding a spot to swim so we could cool off.

The morning arrived, and after spotting cars, we proceeded on the Rocky Branch Trail.

Within the first hundred yards, I started to sweat. My pack weighed more than I would normally carry, but since we had a 6.1 mile day on Saturday, 6.3 mile on Sunday and 4 miles on Monday, I decided to pack in a Nalgene bottle full of wine along with some extra goodies. The first mile was not all the difficult. We took a water break after one mile and took a comfortable pace.

A bit later the trail started to head up a bit more steeply.

The first part of the Rocky Branch trail was typical. We’ve had so little rain lately that there was hardly any mud on the trail.

...we ambled along, basically taking it at Rick’s pace. I give a lot of credit to some members of the group who are used to hiking MUCH faster. They were patient and we traded gay banter during the hike.  OK...we made a pledge...all stories told were to kept to the confines of the group! Thanks everyone for being such good troopers and survivors!

We made it to the Dry River Wilderness sign...

We reached the first water crossing...and before crossing decided to have lunch here and four of us took a dip into a swimming hole.

We crossed the river and onward we went. We felt much better after taking a dip in the swimming hole.

With the water levels so low, none of us had a problem with the four subsequent river crossings. We met quite a few people including one shirtless hottie that passed us by with his…damn…girlfriend! We got a better look on his return and I think everyone had sweet dreams thinking about him. :-)

After the last crossing, we decided we should stay by the water and look for a campsite. Jon with the help of some others found a flat area above the river that was perfectly legal! We pitched our tents, got some wood for a campfire, everyone grabbed a couple of river rocks to create a fire ring, and cooked our meals. Drinking wine, whiskey and bourbon we had the usual gay banter around the campfire...although I think we never heard Rich's story of his first gay encounter in Junior High!

The next morning we broke down our tents, filled up our water bottles and took off. We found the campsite we were thinking of originally camping to and were happy we made a decision to stay by the river. This campsite was about one mile away from the river.  

We got to the Davis Path and took a left making our way to Mount Isolation.

Up the Davis Path we went with occasional views.

We came to the spur path for the summit.

Up we went, over a very steep tenth of a mile or so. Got to a ledge, turned around, and saw...

A striking panorama of Mt. Washington and the southern Presidentials!

After lounging on the summit our next stop was Mt. Davis. Reaching the spur path, we worked out way up the short steep portion to the summit for lunch. The views were tremendous in all directions!

After Mt. Davis, the hike seemed to drag, as we worked our way to Stairs Mountain. We crossed what I thought was the brook that should have water but I was in denial. Well we reached the spur path to Stairs Mountain and I then had to share the bad news. We had no water to camp and most likely there was not going to be any the next 4 miles until we reached our vehicles. It was 5pm and it starts getting dark by 7pm.

We thought about drinking urine like Bear Grylls does and decided only if it was his urine…LOL. We had to suck it up and get into Survivorman mode! This was becoming a matter of life and death...oh my! Just kidding… Good humor was shared around to make the matter a bit less dire and everyone seemed up for the challenge! Everyone was beat and tired but we didn’t have much choice. We were disappointed we could not camp on top of Stairs Mountain for star gazing and views…it will have to wait for another time. We took stock of how much water everyone had and for those almost out, we shared.

We decided to break into a fast and slow group with the fast group going ahead to get the cars we left at the starting point since that would take over an hour to do. Rick’s car was at the starting point so we had to wait until he arrived to catch up with us to break the news to him. When he caught up and we told him about our situation, he was smiling thinking it was a joke…LOL. It took some convincing for him to start believing us. It think once he realized this was real, he started to cry deep, deep, deep inside. OK...I don't want to go there...LOL.

Dave stayed with Rick while the rest of us moved on at a faster pace. We arrived at our vehicles around 7:30pm just before it got dark. We got the cars, dropped off Luciano at Pinkham Notch and arrived back where we ended around 9pm where Rick and Dave were waiting.

We grabbed a well deserved dinner and beer at Fabyan’s and then got back to our house around 11:00pm. Dave and Rick decided to drive directly to their house in Manchester. After we took showers, we drank beer and wine on the deck at our house to gaze at all the stars. It was not exactly according to plan, but we delivered!

This ended up being an epic journey. Many thanks to everyone who did not panic and gave their all to finish! We could not have done this without being a team.

Many thanks for your enjoyable company.

One to remember, that's for sure...

Mike and Jon

What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event

  • An epic tri-fecta event with fantastic weather, beautiful back-country scenery and adventurous dudes. Yahoo!! - JDNnh

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