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Hiking Trail Conditions Report
Peaks
Peaks Mt. Isolation, NH
Trails
Trails: Rocky Branch Trail, Isolation Trail, Davis Path, Isolation Spur
Date of Hike
Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Parking/Access Road Notes
Parking/Access Road Notes: Plenty of parking off NH16. Only car upon arrival, but two other hikers passed me on descent, and one other car upon return. Should be room for 15-20 if properly parked. (Noted 19MB trailhead was 3/4 full when passing by BEFORE 6AM.) 
Surface Conditions
Surface Conditions: Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant 
Recommended Equipment
Recommended Equipment:  
Water Crossing Notes
Water Crossing Notes: Several runoff and side streams all but a few easy stepovers, and those few exceptions require several rock hops. 5 major crossings of Rocky Branch. First crossing is on Rocky Branch Trail, just before junction with Isolation Trail. Best crossing is upstream a bit rather than straight across where trail meets the stream. Upstream crossing can be done with rock hops, some on wet or partially submerged rocks. The crossing at the trail junction requires taking one or two steps in ankle to calf deep water that is moving at a decent, but not dangerous, speed. On the return, there is a side trail about 30 feet before the junction signs that takes you down to the river almost directly across from a cairn on the east side of the river. Rest of the crossings are on the Isolation Trail. (numbers refer to crossings on this trail and do not include the Rocky Branch Trail crossing.) First crossing is marked with a cairn on the west bank (didn't see one on the east side. Crossing at the cairn requires a jump between two partially submerged rounded rocks that were too far apart (with running water between) for my jumping abilities. I found a path downstream near a fallen tree where I could get halfway across on rocks, some of which are partially submerged and others were wet and/or rounded. I then followed a section of the river that was level with shallow standing water upstream for about 30 feet and then completed the cross hopping on larger rocks. 2nd crossing is marked with cairns on both sides of the river and there was one or two paths of rocks that could be hopped without much difficulty. 3rd crossing is just a short ways upstream and is marked with one (possibly two - I don't recall) cairn. Again there was a readily identifiable rock path across the river. 4th crossing is a ways up the trail and the trail goes directly into the river with an obvious trail directly across. I saw no markings at this crossing. There was just one tricky rock step on the closest path across. The rock had only about a fist sized rounded wet top above the running water requiring a quick step to reach the next rock in the chain (and a prayer to the river crossing gods that the foot would not slip on this maneuver.) Note: You can skip the 2nd and 3rd crossings by staying on the east side of the river and following one of the numerous herd paths the short distance between the crossings. I recommend you try to stay as close to the river as practical so it will be easier to pick up the trail. However, these are the two easiest of all the crossings.  
Trail Maintenance Notes
Trail Maintenance Notes: Rocky Branch Trail is blazed in fresh and bright yellow blazes up until the wilderness sign, then no blazes on any trails thereafter. However, on Isolation Trail near the campsite area just before the junction with Davis Path, there are some trees that have had bark stripped showing trunk underneath in the shape of blazes. I understand no trace, but is exposing the tree to elements and insects better for it than paint on the bark? All trails have many wet sections, some of which have badly deteriorated bog planks, some supplemented with tree trunks or branches. The worn and damaged planks should be replaced and there are several areas without them that would benefit greatly. There are many areas where small trees and other vegetation is encroaching on the trail. Some of the worst offenders are near the wet sections where while rock or plank hopping I was whacked in the face, arms and legs with various branches, etc. Oddly, there are many clipped trees along Isolation near the river and I do not see the logic between having these trimmed while others more encroaching remain untouched. Most blowdowns are easy walkovers. There are a few larger ones that require relatively easy stepovers. There are a few leaners that are low enough to catch your beanie and a few that have been severed, but still extend far enough into the footpath to be a hazard. The most problematic ones are in the wet areas where concentration is focused on foot placement, resulting in several love taps on the noggin. Otherwise the trails (after the first half mile to mile of Rocky Branch Trail) are the typical rocky, rough, wet wildnerness trails common to the WMNF. There are MANY wet boggy, running and standing water and muddy sections on all trails. I thing I spent half the hiking time rock hopping on the trail or across streams and rivers. Not sure much can be done about this other than replacing or adding more rocks and planks. (OMG, did I actually say ADD more rocks?) All junction signs seemed to be in place. 
Dog-Related Notes
Dog-Related Notes: Saw one dog belonging to a couple doing the entire Davis Path and camping along the way. He or she was doing the summit scramble at the time. With all the rocks and water and crossings, I am not sure this would be a good trail for your pup, but you would know the abilities and could make your own judgement.  
Bugs
Bugs: None at the beginning due to windy conditions and early start. None on summit as 15-20mph wind. As the wind subsided and in the protected areas, saw many flying about with only a few landings. Fortunately, none biting today. Also saw many playing on the surface of the standing water on trail. 
Lost and Found
Lost and Found: None 
 
Comments
Comments: Due to the amount of water, mud, etc. on the trails and the almost constant rock hopping, pace was reduced considerably. I would highly recommend waterproof hiking boots for these trails, provided they have good grip on rocks, unless you like hiking in wet shoes and socks.

Most of the grades are easy to moderate, with just a few exceptions - The last .1-.2 on Davis path is a steeper pitch, the summit "scramble" (I used my hands to help get over 3-4 slabs and boulders where I didn't see footholds in the right places for me to avoid it, but nothing was very difficult), some of the drops down to streams.

About half of the total elevation gain on the ascent is in the first 2 miles of Rocky Branch Trail, but it is not difficult due to numerous switchbacks. The rest of the elevation gain is spread over 5+ miles of trail.

There were several segments on the ascent that lost elevation, meaning you have climbs on the return trip. This section of Davis Path had several ups and downs, so you have elevation gain in both directions. Isolation Trail had a few minor climbs, mostly near the river and stream crossings. Rocky Branch had a .6 mile or more steady climb up Engine Hill from the river crossing, but most of this was easy to moderate grade and one or two other short gradual climbs. Probably a total of 500-700 feet total gain on the return trip.  
Name
Name: SpartyHikerfromME 
E-Mail
E-Mail:  
Date Submitted
Date Submitted: 2021-07-07 
Link
Link: http:// 
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