Dry River Wilderness (Most Trails, See Post for Specifics) - 10/7-10/10


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NH Tramper

Apr 10, 2012
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North Conway, NH Avatar: Cannon Mtn.
Date of Hike: Oct 7-10, 2014

Trails: Dry River Trail, Crawford Path, Monroe Summit Loop, Mt Eisenhower Summit Loop, Mt Eisenhower Trail, Dry River Connector, Dry River Cuttoff, Mt Clinton Trail, and Mizpah Cuttoff.

Trail Conditions: We hiked in in some pretty wet conditions, heavy rains at times, but having seen these same trails again a few days later, we see that much of the wetness comes with the routes. The Dry River Trail and others in the river valley were wet, rough, sometimes tricky to follow with the now-signficant leaf cover. There were numerous blowdowns. Some easy-over, some easy-under, some not easy. That said, it wasn't too hard to follow, or too rough, or too slick and muddy (well, maybe it was too slick and muddy in many places) and while "primitive" was completely satisfactory for us. The re-routes are easy to follow but we do fear they will get more difficult to actually climb over time. Huge thanks goes to the folks who did the heavy lifting. The blowdown swath near the floor of Oakes Gulf alone... well, that would have been a big job with hand tools. Kudos to you. The above also describes Mt Eisenhower Trail, which was really quite nice albeit brushed in in places. The above treeline trails and loops were as expected. We had rime but no real surface ice. More on the Rock Pile. Dry River Cuttoff was also nice until we got up onto the high wetlands on the shoulders of the ridge. Really muddy and tricky walking on slick bog bridge remnants and deadwood. The Mizpah Cutoff was fine and normal, no surprises, I needed it for redline. The horror show of the trip was Mt Clinton Trail: what a mess. So hard to follow down low (well below the junction). Mud, blowdowns, driftwood, deadfalls, vegetation. It was the worst trail I've ever been on in the Whites. We lost it, re-gained it, lost it again. A real pain. Brushed-in is putting it very lightly. My advice, unless you're great at route-finding and have plenty of time, skip this trail. It's more bushwhack than trail. All crossings -- all 8 million of them -- were easy, though can be very challenging in high water so plan accordingly if venturing into the area. The one we had Tuesday night was wicked, but that was thanks to rain flooding. It was the crux of our journey.

Special Equipment Used: Trekking poles. Brought microspikes but didn't need them. Warm layers, hat, gloves, and rain gear.

Comments: Did this backpack with Bill Robichaud and what a great experience it was. Very primal and devoid of people. Hiking in in the rain was nuts and proved far more than forecast, but we dealt with it. Despite our best efforts, however, some stuff got wet. It would be cold in less than 24 hours so on day two, instead of doing Isolation West and other stuff as planned we stayed at the Dry River Shelter (which had two tiny leaks but was in otherwise great shape). That was our base camp though we grew restless on day two. Finally the rain stopped so we completed prep for the next day. On day three we went up the Oakes Gulf headwall, banged out Monroe, then hit Eisenhower before doubling back on Crawford Path to hook up with the Mt Eisenhower Trail and eventually back to the shelter. On day four, under full load, we ascended the Dry River Cutoff to the hut then down the Mt Clinton Trail (see above for description) to the Dry River Trail and out. We learned one important thing: The Dry River Wilderness is anything but dry. We have to go back for Iso West, but that's a good thing!

ETA: A friend reported that Isolation West was easy to follow.

Mike "Tramper" Cherim
North Conway NH
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