|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Mt. Jackson, Mt. Pierce, Mt. Eisenhower, North Isolation, Mt. Isolation, NH|
||Webster-Jackson Trail, Webster Cliff Trail, Crawford Path, Eisenhower Loop, Mt. Eisenhower Trail, Dry River Trail, Isolation Trail, Davis Path, herd path, bushwhack, Isolation Spur, herd path, bushwhack, Isolation Trail, bushwhack, Rocky Branch Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Monday, September 20, 2021|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Met at Rocky Branch Trail lot on Route 16 just past 7am in the morning. Hardly any cars there in the morning and afternoon. Room for maybe two dozen cars before it would begin to overflow. There was room in the gravel lot across from the Webster-Jackson trailhead at 7:45am in the morning. It’s not a large lot (maybe a dozen cars would fit) and it fills up very quickly on weekends though. Room in both lots when we finished at 7pm though and arrived back in Crawford Notch at 7:45pm too. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||We didn’t get our feet wet but and water on the whole is very low right now but a beginner may struggle a bit with the crossing near the bottom of Mt Eisenhower Trail. It would be safe to wade too but we went all of 10yds upstream to the left (if you’re descending) to some larger boulders. As they’re large, they’re rarely underwater which is the advantage; the disadvantage is that they’re also a bit far apart and cumbersome being large. You’ve either got to make a little jump between two or sit or scramble down onto a lower rock. That said, every time this crossing has been rock hopable when I’ve been there I always seek out these rocks as they seem to provide the only dry (if just slightly unnerving) route to the other side. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||The top, scrubby section of Mt Eisenhower Trail is overgrown and could be trimmed back. The trail is evident for at least a few dozen yards but quickly comes to the krumholtz and this section is so overgrown that unless you’ve been there before you may wonder if it’s just a herd path or if it’s the actual trail. Nothing too bad but your shins will wack up against the brush a bit. Not too many blowdowns on Mt Eisenhower Trail. Those that there were seemed to largely be widow-makers/leaners over the trail that you just had to duck under. Nothing major that impedes travel. Isolation West we thought had a few more but still not bad. Again, nothing major just easy step overs that have mostly been trimmed and leaners. Mt Jackson Trail is blazed regularly in blue. Very easy to follow; just follow the path of the greatest erosion ;) Same with the Jackson Branch half of it. Webster Cliff Trail is blazed in white as it coincides with the AT. The section of Crawford Path we were on is also blazed in white as it coincided with the AT here but probably not as frequently as its partly above tree line between Pierce and Ike and thus is largely marked by cairns. Maybe a few obscure turns for a beginner but not too hard to follow. Mt Eisenhower Trail I think has a very old yellow blaze of two down low but is primarily unblazed as its entirely within the Presidential Range- Dry River Wilderness. The trail is narrow (more so due to its being overgrown in the krumhokts and leaner blowdowns below treeline) but the footpath is quite followable. Just an obscure turn or two perhaps down low. Isolation West isn’t blazed as far as I remember. Could be a little tricky to follow where it practically coincides with the river but just don’t cross the river and you should be good. Only one section of real bad washout you’ve got to negotiate on it. Both this trail and Mt Eisenhower Trail are two of the probably most pleasant, easier, and more followable trails in the Dry River Wilderness. Good for a beginner new to hiking on lesser travelled trails. Davis Path is in fine shape. Not hard to follow but don’t recall it’s being blazed. The short unblazed section of Isolation East we were on was fine. Rocky Branch Trail is always a pain but I don’t recall any blowdowns and it’s easy to follow. It’s blazed regularly in yellow once below the wilderness boundary. |
||Too long a hike for some dogs. The scrambles on Jackson may be too much for some too. Not much scrambling otherwise on the hike other than little bits headed up Isolation spur and Eisenhower Loop. Numerous places to get water but also would need to make sure that water is low as many of these crossings could get dangerous for a dog quite easily particularly on Mt Eisenhower Trail. |
||Hardly even walked into any spider webs on these lesser travelled trails! My friend did note a tick on him at the end of the day though. Probably got it on the Engine Hill whack; some tick territory in there. |
|Lost and Found:
||My friend picked up a nice fleece set on the trail sign on Webster-Jackson Trail where it diverges into the branch going to Webster and the branch going to Jackson. I was supposed to remind him to leave it at the trailhead at the end of the day when we got back to Webster Jackson Trail but I may have forgot to remind him so not sure if it’s there or not. ||
||My 18th-21st 4000 footers this month that count toward my September grid out of 26 needed. A quintessential September day that we were both ecstatic to be out for. Being above tree line for a bit was an extra treat :) The foliage isn’t peak yet but is definitely popping already so I imagine it will be at peak soon! |
Although the temps started out in the mid 40s It was nice to hike after a day of sun as the trails were mostly dry and the rocks weren’t as slick. That said, there are still many horrendous mud pits on this hike. The first appalling one was on the Jackson side of the little bog/alpine meadow between Mizpah Hut and Jackson. Right before the bog bridge there is a VERY deep mud pit and not a lot of great places to step. Even with boots, don’t just go stepping in the middle of it. I poked my pole in and it appears to be at least 2ft deep. The bog bridges between Jackson and Pierce are very slick after it rains; today they were drier than usual as it hadn’t rained the night before but some of them were still slick. Davis Path between its jct with Isolation East and the col where the Iso Express starts also has very large swaths of mud. Not always terribly deep but it definitely slowed us down trying to negotiate all of it. This spot is notorious for being muddy but this is the worst I’ve seen it all year. Only some minor pools/running water here and on Rocky Branch Trail shortly after we came out on the Engine Hill whack.
Didn’t see many people heading up Jackson that early. The trail is rocky and very eroded. The first half of the trail alternates between steep and flat where the second half, after the branch diverges toward Webster, starts off gradual, then becomes a steady grade before scrambling steeply up to the summit. Took us 1.5hrs to get there. Made it steeply down off the summit then made quick work to the hut. The hut is still open and will be for awhile longer but they informed us that Lakes of the Clouds is already closed for the year and Madison Springs is closing soon (a week or two) as well. Carter Notch Hut is already on self-serve. We made our way steeply up the southwest shoulder of Pierce before the trail levels out; some stealth campsites around here.
Nice to run into Ralph and Tina near the summit of Pierce. To Eisenhower we started to run into more people and ran into a great group from Holderness School on the way down Ike. We made our way up to where Mt Eisenhower Trail starts then plunged down into the wilderness. The trail isn’t steep for long and it offers better footing than most although not quite as nice as I remember. Surprisingly we ran into people seeming to do a day hike this way. We almost considered whacking between the end of it to Isolation West to cut off some distance on Dry River Trail. We also ran into some people heading up Isolation West that were hiking the Cohos Trail. A pleasure to take a break and speak with them. Isolation West is generally pretty gradual like Mt Eisenhower Trail although it goes over a sub peak of North Isolation and seemingly continues along the ridge, totally flat for an absurdly long time.
From there, I dropped my pack and did a quick out-and-back to North Isolation. I hiked to the HOL, then found some cut trees and potentially a herd path. I entered the woods, finding a faint path right to the high point. I was afraid the woods would be very tight and it would be difficult to find the high point but this is actually a very easy summit to get. A path is basically cut to the summit and it’s very, very short. I think I did this as an out-and-back from the jct in under 20min.
From the jct on we didn’t see anyone. Lots and lots of mud from there to Isolation. Found a spur to a campsite behind the summit of Isolation. We made our way back to the col and began the Iso Express whack. I’d noted, for the first time, that there appeared to be other paths further north along Davis Path that were likely other starting points to this whack. Although this whack has turned into a herd path at times, you’re likely going to lose it down low at least a few times so I don’t recommend this without having genuine navigation skills. Did a better job following this than last time; we did lose it maybe halfway down though although we did find a path or two a couple times more. There are multiple different versions of this whack though so you’re likely to cross onto different paths. We ended up further south than where this whack usually comes out. There were still paths this fr south though. The advantage to this was we found some old logging relics which was very cool though :) The woods are not bad along this whack.
We made it back to the trail where the “low” version of the Engine Hill whack comes out. We walked north a short ways up the trail as we wanted to find the middle and most popular start to the engine Hill whack closer to the 3200ft contour (I believe we came out closer to 3100ft). We started our whack and very generally followed the middle route but 1) didn’t cut left uphill as much as it usually does and then ended up coming out a little further down the Rocky Branch Trail than we should have. This last bit was rather unfortunate as we had to fight through very tight woods at the very end to get back on trail. Not sure this saved much, if any time to continuing on the trail, but it saves some elevation and is certainly more scenic. We hit at least three birch glades; more than you usually hit in winter. Absolutely beautiful. We skirted around some wet stuff but were surprised that we didn’t have to really go through anything wet. Our feet stayed pretty dry. Took us roughly 45min to do. Took us 1-1.25hrs from where we came out to get back to the trail; long, boring, PITA trip down. Made it out just before we would’ve needed to put on our headlamps.
||Liam Cooney |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.