MichaelJSeptember 16, 2008 at 1:26 amPost count: 839
When we got the word that the peak coordinators for Isolation had to back out of Flags On The 48, it only took about five minutes to convince Una_dogger that since she needed the peak for the 4K list, we should step in to ensure coverage. We quickly threw a team together: Adventurous and Silverfox would start out with us, while DaveBear, Sunshine Chris, and their friend Dan would backpack in to Rocky Branch #2 for the night and meet us on the trail. The plan was set, I successfully found my flagpole and its hardware, got the flag ready (West Bond ’03, Garfield ’04), and with Terra in her crate we slipped out of Massachusetts early on Friday.
After a great night of sleep at the Mt. Madison Motel and a greasy, tasty breakfast at McDonalds, we made it to the trailhead right on time, where we met Beth, one of the original peak coordinators who along with her sister and their dog Spanky ended up able to come. They would hike up separately from us on their own schedule, while Adventurous, Silverfox, Una_dogger, Terra, and I started up the trail promptly at 7:00.
We were in the fog and clouds; while the temperature was fairly cool, the humidity was oppressive and the trees soaked with water, which the flag pole segments sticking out of my pack were continually knocking off the leaves and onto my head. This did not make for an enjoyable time up the first several miles of the Rocky Branch Trail.
It wasn’t to last, though. By the time we had entered the Dry River Wilderness and started descending to the Rocky Branch, the low clouds had lifted and the sun was intermittently poking through the leaves. The trail here was all rock stepping through what was almost a deep stream, and it started to get a little frustrating. Fortunately we didn’t have far to go before we came across the backpackers cooking up their breakfast at the first crossing of the Rocky Branch near the old shelter. We took a few social minutes there; I also checked out the shelter, which is still in good shape except for a hole near the front of the roof which is causing the surroundings and floor below to deteriorate faster.
We gave our best to the backpackers and continued up the Isolation Trail, past the next several crossings, all of which remained easy to navigate with dry feet. Where the trail turns west is one of my favorite areas, passing through a wonderfully stylistic wet area that always reminds me of Dagobah, then rising through amazingly green moss and open pines to the Davis Path, another joy to walk along for the final twenty minutes to the short spur to the summit of Mt. Isolation.
I quickly set about putting the pole together, then with assistance on the ropes, we all together raised Old Glory about 12′ above the summit cairn into a light, steady breeze. Silverfox pulled out a journal for people to sign and leave their thoughts, I took a bunch of pictures, then relaxed to enjoy the beautiful views, including naked-eye views of the flags on Eisenhower and Monroe. We were visited by friends and strangers alike. MEB and Little Sister passed through on their grid quest, Ed & Lauky made an appearance, DaveBear’s crew arrived, as did Beth, who completed her NH48! Tomahawk also passed through with several friends, and there were several small groups of hikers we didn’t know, some peakbagging, some there to witness the flag.
I laid down to rest for a bit, and when I got back up, we held a small ceremony, remembering the victims of 9/11 and also taking a moment for Ray Loring. Dan led us in the National Anthem, and we lowered the flag. It was a solemn moment, one whose emotions I always dread a little bit. Of the death toll of 2,974, I knew one of them: she was in Windows on the World that morning. My parents were on a plane at Logan waiting to take off, with suspected hijackers on board.
The hike down was uneventful, though much sunnier and dryer than the way up. Again, the upper sections of the trail were awesome to trek through, the lower sections not nearly as interesting. I found a rhythm in my legs and made quick work of the way out, though I did stop occasionally to let the rest of the group catch up. It’s pretty rare for me to be able to lead the way like that!
Altogether we hiked about 8-1/4 hours, 14.6 miles and 3,400′ of vertical gain. To close out the day, we went over to Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing, where piles of meat and a terrific hefeweizen made me smile uncontrollably. Once we were full to bursting, we wished a goodnight to Silverfox and made our way with Adventurous over to the Broken Branch KOA where we had a great time hanging out with friends, both campers and visitors, before collapsing into an exhausted stupor.
It was a good day on Mt. Isolation, good friends, a good hike, and a good remembrance. I didn’t take many pictures, but what I did are here.
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