Glen Boulder Trail, Davis Path, Isolation Trail, Rocky Branch Trail. About 13 miles, 3500ish elevation gain.
Wow, this one was tough.
It started out quite well; the Glen Boulder Trail is a lovely way to ascend. In spite of the recent snowstorm, the exposed rocks were fairly bare and therefore ice was never an issue. The snow in the woods wasn't deep enough for snowshoes; we barebooted easily.
This one spot gave me a bit of trouble. My large pack kept throwing me off balance. Try as I might, I could not climb this thing while strapped into my ginormous backpack. Thanks to MadRiver, I did not fall off the mountain during my attempts...I ended up taking the pack off, climbing up without it, and then taking it from MadRiver, who handed it up to me.
We broke above treeline (gorgeous!)...
...and saw the famous Glen Boulder.
Boott Spur and Washington...
We reached the giant rock...
...did our best to push it down the mountain...
...and ate a snack.
After a bit of rest, we continued to Slide Peak...
...where the views were outstanding.
We hiked toward the intersection with Davis Path, near Boott Spur...
...then took another break on Davis Path.
We were now over a thousand feet higher than the summit of Isolation. It was odd to look down upon our destination...
The summit of Mount Washington lay behind us...
The southern Presidentials...
We swigged our hot chocolate, bid adieu to the views, and headed south along Davis Path.
Back into the trees we went...
It was easy going toward Isolation. At some point Alex and I tagged the north peak for Trailwrights, though we weren't sure of the summit's exact location. We examined our map and stood/sat on all the appropriate high bits we could find.
One more break...
...and then onward to the main peak.
Finding the spur path to Isolation was easy, since all the footprints led to it.
Sage's 46th 4K!
At this point, we all felt fine. The girls were in great spirits and we felt confident about hiking out instead of spending the night at the shelter. We began the descent as happy campers.
A few tenths of a mile into our descent, things began to go awry. The trail was filled with mud, water, and melting snow; Isolation and Rocky Branch Trails resembled narrow rivers. We had to rock hop much of the way down, and Sage kept slipping and stepping into deep and ice-cold water. I carried a few extra pairs of socks, but it was impossible to keep her feet consistently dry. Night fell and we donned headlamps just before the crossing by the shelter. As we were preparing to cross, I realized that Sage had grown quiet and was shivering. We went through the water as fast as possible, then MadRiver and I sat the girls down and went to work.
I took care of Sage, who was in need of all layers plus balaclava and hat pronto, while MadRiver took care of Alex, who was doing very well but felt a bit uncomfortable in her wet boots. Sage warmed quickly after I bundled her up. MadRiver wrapped the girls' feet in plastic so their changes of dry socks wouldn't immediately become soaked with water from the insides of their boots.
After some food and liquid, we got the girls up and moving. I never worried about Alex for, although tired, she was acting like her usual self. Sage, on the other hand, soon lost all her vim and vigor. We had successfully warmed her up and she was fed and hydrated, but she became completely deflated and ready for bed about two miles from the car. I had the bivy and enough gear to keep the girls warm overnight if we ended up sleeping out, but since we were now relatively close to the parking lot, I figured the best move was to encourage Sage to keep walking until we were out of the woods. I held her hand whenever the trail was wide enough to do so, I stopped and fed her often, and I told her over and over how proud I was of her and how I wished we had stopped back at the shelter.
We did make it out, but this was, by far, the toughest hike the girls and I have ever endured. That river-trail did us in. In retrospect, we should have stopped and spent the night at the shelter. I don't want either of my girls to be unhappy on a hike. Normal fatigue is fine and expected, but exhaustion should be avoided at all costs. I made a mistake on this one -- the girls had happily hiked the 18-mile Owl's Head in one day, and Sage had handled Carrigain's 14 miles like it was a walk in the park, so I figured both could handle a 13 mile daytrip to Isolation. Unfortunately, this peak beat the crap out of us and I very much regret not stopping at the shelter. Sage was not happy during those last two miles, and I don't want my kids to be miserable on a hike -- it defeats the purpose of hiking. (Alex was fine -- tired, but fine...I was never worried about her in the slightest, for she is now my equal in terms of stamina and ability).
We finally made it to the trailhead. It was dark outside and I have yet to learn proper nighttime photography technique, so forgive the following image.
Once in the car, Sage brightened up considerably. Much of this had to do with the M&Ms HappyHiker of RocksonTop had left on my windshield. Many thanks, HappyHiker! The extra chocolate did wonders to improve Sage's countenance.
I called Hugh on the way home and the girls cheerfully took turns telling him how much the descent "really sucked" (Sage's words). They were proud of themselves...but, again, in retrospect, we should have spent the night at the shelter and hiked out in the morning.
Onward -- the final 4K hike is Sunday, November 6. Sage is excited to do the slides, and I look forward to seeing her finish. She's worked hard for this, and I'm proud of her. She deserves a patch for Isolation alone.
- UP: REVIEWS and PRESS
- GraniteGals PODCAST
- Speaking Engagements/Nonprofit Fundraisers
- Alex in the White Mountains (Alex's hiking blog)
- Sage's White Mountain Treks (Sage's hiking blog)
- California's Lost Coast Trail. June 8-9, 2019
- England's Coast to Coast Trail 2018
- Cohos Trail 2017
- Iceland's Laugavegur Trail 2016
- Great Wall of China Trek 2015
- John Muir Trail 2014
- El Camino de Santiago 2013
- NH Four Thousand Footers (Alex and Sage)
- NH Four Thousand Footers -- WINTER (Alex and Sage)
- Trailwrights 72 (Alex and Sage)
- 52 With a View (Sage)
- The White Mountain Grid