4000 Footer Club

Mt Isolation
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Elevation:   4,004 Feet
Summited: July 17, 2009
Distance:    17.0 miles
Difficulty:    Strenuous
Views:        Excellent (Summit Only)
Route:        Davis Path → Isolation Trail → Rocky Branch Trail

  We decided to summit Mt Isolation via the Davis Path North. The trail starts on Rte 302 at a parking area near Notchland Inn adjacent to the Saco River. It was my first overnight hike ever. It was a beautiful morning and after a quick drink and a smoke we headed for the start of a long and strenuous journey. It started out by crossing over an old worn down suspension bridge. Not long after that, the trail entered the forest. It took me a little while to adjust the straps and belts on my pack before I got it snug… and it wasn’t a minute to soon. About 30 minutes into the hike we started climbing and it was constant and steep. The next three hours were spent mostly in silence as I used all of my energy to climb and breathe. We passed Mt Crawford and finally reached a clearing about 3.7 miles in, a beautiful clearing with views west back to Rte 302. There we rested and had lunch. An hour or so after resuming a somewhat less steep section we came upon Resolution Shelter and Stairs Col Trail. After a quick break we began another steep and long section, over 4 miles of nonstop hiking at which point Mother Nature decided to cool us down with a shower. It rained for an hour or so. We finally reached the summit trail for Mt Davis and body parts were starting to really ache and feet were getting sore. Thinking we might not be able to summit Isolation today we started looking for a place to set up camp. As soon as we did we found a tent site, but everyone agreed that it was a little too early to stop, so we ventured on.
  Over an hour later we came across a fallen down tree in front of us that looked like it had been there a while and realized we had gotten off the path. So we backtracked for 20 minutes or so over a semi-dry riverbed. We check the map and could not see what turn we had missed. So we dropped our packs and someone went north and someone went south and two of us stayed put, and decide to meet back in thirty minutes. Now, before we noticed that we were off the trail, we saw that someone had lost a plastic liter bottle of water and it was stuck in the mud. We didn’t think anything of it then, but it was a marker that we were supposed to turn there. I guess that someone had made the same mistake we did and left that there as a marker. So we regrouped and hiked on. Our group at this point had split in two. Two of the quicker hikers had moved along and left the other two hikers behind. We did not see each other for an hour or so, and I was getting nervous that we would not find a tent site any time soon, and my feet were about to fall off. It must be stated at this point that Davis Path is just that, a path. It is barely one person wide for a good portion of its length and it was very mountainous. There wasn’t level ground to speak of through most of the journey. We finally met up with one of the other hikers in the group. He was resting with the fourth members pack, who had ran ahead to find a clearing. Ten minutes later he came back and said there was a clearing .5 mile ahead, we had finally found a tent site. We settled in, got a fire going, ate dinner, had a few drinks and crashed.
  The next morning we were off early, after a good breakfast. It wasn’t more than a very steep half a mile or so until we got to the summit trail to Mt Isolation. Two of us passed right by it and if it wasn’t for the fact I was not using my mp3 player, I would not have heard my other buddies screaming for us. I got my friend who was hiking with me; we dropped our packs and backtracked for ten minutes or so, found the summit trail and met up with our group at the summit. Took the sights in for a while, rested and continued on. At this point, I realized how nice it was hiking without a pack on. It was a whole different experience. It was also nice to start hiking downhill. Thirty minutes or so went by and we reached Isolation Trail. The day was looking better and better as I could start to hear water flowing. During the next mile or two we had a few river crossings where we got to fill up on fresh mountain water. We reached the Rocky Branch Trail and started heading east. This was a crazy trail where you rock hopped over water for almost a mile or so. I would not want to see what that trail looks like during the spring or after a major rain. It was a different type of hiking. You really had to pay attention or you would be at least knee deep in water/mud. It was cool. After having a quick lunch, we started on our last two and a half miles of trail. Once we passed the Avalanche Brook Ski Trail you could start to hear traffic coming from Rte 16. It was a beautiful sound to hear. Thirty minutes later we walked out of those woods different people, at least I did. Since we had a while to wait until our ride was to pick us up, I stripped down and pulled out my sleeping pad and soaked it all in. A slight rain started, cooled us down and before we knew it, our ride was here. After all was said and done, two days, seventeen miles of trails and more granola bars than I have ever eaten before. It was great!