As Cameron’s four thousand footer list is getting smaller, the choice of peaks is getting smaller, too. The weather looked good for the end of the week, so he had his choice of either Isolation or the Carters. Both hikes are tough, but he had a plan for Isolation and with nice weather, so with the proper reservations made we were off for another two-day adventure.
Our adventure started at Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center with a shuttle ride all the way around to the Ammoonoosuc Ravine trail head. The plan was to hike up to Lakes of the Clouds hut via the Ammo, stay the night and hike the next day down to Isolation via the Camel Trail and Davis Path, then back up the Davis Path to descend the Glen Boulder and Direttissma Trails back to the car at the visitor’s center. Simple plan, with a lot of above treeline time, perfect for a nice day or two.
We have hiked up the Ammo together twice before, but always from Marshfield station, so the first section of the trail was new to us. It was a quick little bit of trail with a few rolling ups and downs. The other section from Marshfield station joined in and we were on familiar trail. At least pretty much familiar, as Irene had done a little rearranging on her way through the area. We arrived at Gem Pool in good time, enjoyed a long break, complete with rock skipping on the pool and then started the last section of the hike. Up the rock steps we went, which seemed to go pretty quickly this time, then through the ledgy section, which really seemed quick, and then through the scrub. The scrub part seemed to be longer on this trip for some reason, but then the hut appeared and we were at our first destination.
After a nice dinner, good night’s sleep, and breakfast, we were off for day two of our adventure. Day one was pretty easy, but I knew from prior experience on this route, that day two would be a bit more difficult. The distance wasn’t so bad, but we’d be above treeline for quite some time, plus we’d have a reasonable climb in the middle of the day and a long descent at the end. We enjoyed the pretty sunshine and the nice breeze, plus the fantastic views of Washington and the surrounding peaks on our way across the Camel Trail, past Boott Spur and on to the Glen Boulder Trail junction.
Down the Davis Path we went and into the scrub and eventually back into the forest. We immediately noted how much warmer the forest was. Since we were descending, this wasn’t so bad, so we kept on going, past the West Isolation Trail junction (now closed, due to Irene damage), and down to the East Isolation Trail junction. Now it was less than a mile to the summit! Off we went, through the bogs and rotting bog bridges, which actually weren’t too bad since it had been dry this week. Sooner than Cameron expected we reached the spur trail. He thought I was joking when I said I saw the sign. Actually, there are several signs, and he was excited that we were there so soon. Up the spur path and out to the farthest ledge and we were there! He was happy to see the marker and the cairn, plus the spectacular views the southern Presidentials and Washington.
We enjoyed a nice lunch on the summit, and then decided we needed to start the walk out. We were a bit reluctant to start because we knew we had a 1500 foot climb in front of us, but we got going and before we knew it, we were at the East Isolation junction. Then the climb really began and it was hot. The sun was beating down on the trail. We took a lot of breaks in what shade we could find, but kept going. After the first ascent there is an easier, flatter section, and then rest of the climb starts. This was the hardest part – it was very hot in the trees and scrub, and although we were making progress, it just didn’t seem fast enough. Soon we could see the trees shrinking in size, then we saw the first cairn and finally we were out in the open again and thankfully in the wind! The wind felt so good and refreshing, so after a breather, we start the last bit of climb up to the Glen Boulder Trail.
We came up over the rise and we could see the junction in the distance and one person at the junction. Up until this point, we had see a total of seven people and one dog. While climbing up, the person didn’t leave the junction, so we guessed as to why he was there and why he was there so long. We finally arrived at the junction and the gentleman was still there. He was a US Forest Service volunteer doing a survey regarding the usage of the Dry River Wilderness. He asked a few questions such as when where did we enter/exit the wilderness area. We asked how many people he had seen that day and found out we were the only ones. Surprising for a such a nice Friday in July, but that’s the kind of information the USFS wanted to know.
We took a nice long break, and the started the descent. The USFS volunteer went ahead since he’d hike out faster than us, and we were again left alone on the trail. We had never been up or down this trail, or to Glen Boulder, so it was a new adventure. The views were nice and it was cool to look back at where we had been earlier in the day and out across to the Wildcats where we hiked last week.
The trail is pretty gentle, going through several patches of scrub and forest before popping out again a few ridges above the Glen Boulder. We were getting tired, and by this point, more than ready to see the Glen Boulder and know that our trip was coming to an end. The trail got rockier and steeper and we had to slow down, which made the afternoon seem very long. We finally got to the boulder and Cameron was not impressed, having already seen some impressive terrain earlier in the day. We took a break in the shade, and a pair of guys we had seen earlier back at the East Isolation junction caught up to us. We all agreed the climb out was tough and that the breeze above treeline felt much better.
From the boulder, it was 2.2 miles back to the car, which seemed to go on forever. Finally the Direttissma Trail, another new-to-us trail came into view and we took the left down it. This actually was an interesting trail, and at only one mile long, a good finisher for the hike. It does have some rolling terrain, but also has really cool cliffs and rock formations. Cameron thought those were much more impressive than the Glen Boulder. We didn’t take any pictures because we just wanted to get to the car, but the cliffs were jagged, with moss, lichen and trees growing out of the top. We even found a little trail to the top of ledge overlooking Rt. 16 and we took a break to watch the cars go by and guess the make and model. Eventually, we hiked down until we were level with and could see Rt. 16 through the trees and then we were in the parking lot. With a quick trip over the Cutler River pedestrian bridge, we could see our car.
We were so thankful to be back at our car! It had been a long day and we were tired. Later on, we talked about the hike – which we always do to analyze the good and bad on the trail and what we can do for a better next hike. We both agreed that while the mileage and terrain weren’t so bad, the heat and bright sunlight certainly drained us more than we’d expected and explained why it took us almost 10 hours to hike not quite 12 miles. Despite that, we did have a good, safe and successful trip to bag another peak. He’s looking forward the Carters in a few weeks after summer camp.