Steve and I headed up to Lincoln early on Friday afternoon and snagged one of the good river sites at Hancock Campground. We grabbed sandwiches and beers at CJ's Penalty Box and shot some darts. Someone in town mentioned that Friday was the first day since early June that it didn't rain in Lincoln.
We got a later start (up around 7) and had to drive a long way from Lincoln to the trailhead in Pinkham Notch. With a stop for breakfast sandwiches and some North Conway traffic, we didn't get to the trail until 9:45. Our hike's book time was over 8.5 hours, so the late start was not ideal, but still very doable.
The best way to do Isolation is by a traverse. The peak sits at only 4,004 feet, but (as its name suggests) it is difficult to reach and requires a longer than normal hike for such a low elevation. We dropped one car at the Rocky Branch trailhead at the south end of the traverse and drove to the Glen Ellis trailhead to begin our hike. From Glen Ellis, the trail climbs very quickly above the treeline to about 5,100 feet. The views on the Glen Boulder trail were excellent. We picked up the Davis trail and experienced the weird feeling of climbing down about 1,000 feet to reach the summit of Isolation. The views near the Isolation summit were pretty limited and due to all of the rain, the trail was extremely muddy and wet. There is a substantial amount of trail damage left over from Hurricane Irene, and parts of several of the trails in the area remain closed even now. I included a few pictures showing all of the tree damage near the Isolation summit.
The way down from Isolation on the Rocky Branch trail was a pretty tedious ~7.5 miles. There was nothing particularly scenic or remarkable about the descent other than the swampy conditions. If we had not parked the second car, we would have gone up and down on Rocky Branch and missed out on all of the views. The extra elevation and mileage from doing the traverse were absolutely worth it. We got down at about 6:00.
21 down. 27 to go.
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