Isolation - Iso Express - good to see its back in use

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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
A really long time ago on VFTT before the site crash and long before GPS tracks, I had posted the directions to the winter bushwhacks routes to Mt Isolation including the second bushwhack from the approximate location of where the Engine Hill Bushwhack broke back out on Rocky Branch to the col just north of Isolation. It had more than a few typos, but Mohammed Ellozy asked me to post it on his white mountain site (it used to be a very popular site and still is quite useful for planning). Someone kept the site on the web and it still pops up down low on search results. I did not claim to invent it, AMC had been using in my opinion a slight less desirable (denser)variation previously. For many years it appeared to have fallen out of favor and forgotten about with many doing a far shorter bushwhack up the drainage after the last crossing of the Rocky Branch. It saved a bit of elevation but nowhere near the mileage of the one I had described. The Davis Path was and still is infamous for the number of blowdowns that appear every winter so any way of avoiding more of it is definitely a plus.

I was looking at a recent trails report and saw a report referring to the "Iso Express" bushwhack. I did a search and up popped All Trails with GPS track of the route I described possibly 35 years ago. There were also a few trail reports going back to 2001 so it looks like its gotten popular again. Looking at the contours, my guess is that the new route is slightly downslope from the 2nd and 3rd winter hikes. The first time we did it we had cut of Rocky Branch a bit lower and got in the wide area of the drainage and it was thick with small stuff and as one of the reports I saw confirmed was wet with various small drainages not shown on the map. The woods definitely could have changed over the years and the average snowpack is lower so maybe the new route is "better". What I liked about the later routes is that the trail initially went through some open hardwoods and even some open ledges with a bit more sun. There was also a narrow band of more mature fir if we threaded the needle that eventually met the drainage brook right where the thick stuff started.

The one thing I would be interested in hearing (or seeing) is if the thick spruce fir band a couple of hundred yards wide prior to popping out on Davis Path has gotten any friendlier? In all three winter hikes it was thick and hard to go through with rotten trees interlaced through the new growth. My guess is with a GPS track out there, folks are slowly breaking a track through it by shear repetition, although the other possibility is someone with a misunderstanding of bushwhacking may have done some pruning :(.

I have never regarded the summer time Isolation hike as a particularly memorable one, basically a long slog through the woods with PUDs, on the other hand in the winter route with the Engine Hill and the Iso Express (or variation thereof) its a far sunnier route and surprising sheltered route with less mileage. Now that it seems to be used with more chance of a track it may be worth a revisit.
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It's the journey and not the destination. That is why I went Glen Boulder to tag Isolation. Was so much more interesting than RB, which seems like a slog. But the whacking routes add a challenge that can make them more interesting routes as well.
In 1972, two friends and I climbed Isolation, breaking out the entire hike and using the Iso Express slope, starting and finishing in the dark. We encountered the spruce band you reference and it cost us a couple of hours (RT) to get through it in the deep snow.
Fast forward 50 years and our climb of Isolation, using the Engine Hill and Iso Express "bushwhacks" took less than six hours at a leisurely pace. The current Iso Express route seeks out a swath of mixed woods at the top, never encountering any thick stuff. Bravo!
... My guess is with a GPS track out there, folks are slowly breaking a track through it by shear repetition, although the other possibility is someone with a misunderstanding of bushwhacking may have done some pruning :(.
Hiked Isolation two weeks ago, taking both bushwhacks. For sure, noticed some pruning cuts here and there, though not that many. On my way down, right where the Engine Hill ends at the RB Trail at a T-intersection, there were two small sapling trees that were plainly cut off right through their trunks (not branches cut, but the trunks). Likely function would be to mark the start of EH 'whack as each season's snow builds.