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July 29, 2017. Hiking Day One: Southern Terminus to Mt. Isolation (Davis Path)

Hiking Day One: Davis Path from southern terminus to Mt. Isolation
9.8 miles with 4150 feet of elevation gain

The girls and I thought we'd thru-hike the Cohos Trail this year; we've done the Camino de Santiago, the John Muir Trail, and Iceland's Laugavegur Trek, and we've hiked along sections of the Great Wall of China....we started to feel silly that we hadn't yet done the thru-hike that's located within our own home state.  We hike the White Mountains of New Hampshire on an almost weekly basis year-round, so we have felt that the Cohos Trail would be basically more of the same of what we were already used to.  Still, it kind of bothered us that we hadn't given trail love to the Granite State's own long-distance trek.

We originally planned to begin on July 30, but we ended up having July 29 free so we started our hike a day early.  We have learned over the years to always give yourself more time than you think you need whenever doing a long hike in the Whites...the weather forecast can and often does change from hour to hour and one needs flexibility and bail-out options in the event of a sudden severe storm.  The Cohos Trail begins just south of the Presidential Range, and the Presidential Range sits under three converging storm tracks and, every year, people underestimate the weather's ferocity and end up dying in the woods or above treeline.

The forecast for both the 29th and the 30th looked good when we left.  Still, throughout the day (and all the days that followed), we kept an eye on the sky.

Hugh, the girls' father, dropped us off at the trailhead around 6:30 in the morning on Saturday, July 29 and took this photo.  

We said our goodbyes and crossed the bridge that leads into the forest.

Davis Path was originally built by Nathaniel T. P. Davis as the third, and longest, bridle path to Mt. Washington (see Steve Smith's White Mountain Guide).  It begins with a steep and rocky ascent of Mt. Crawford, and much of the trail is a jumble of rocks and roots with occasional stone steps thrown in to help hold off erosion.

NH hikers now call these types of stone staircases "Alabama steps," a reference to a letter published in the Union Leader from an out of state "hiker" who apparently can neither physically handle nor properly appreciate the rugged beauty of Granite State trails.
Our pace was decent, though not as fast as usual.  We carried full packs and my left leg, which currently hosts its second blood clot, cramped often on the steeper sections.  I slowed the girls down by having to stop every few minutes and allow the circulation to flow.  The compression stocking I now have to wear forever helps tremendously, and I am past the danger of pulmonary embolism (we wouldn't have been on this hike if I wasn't), but the circulation issues were there and I got frustrated at times.  Thankfully, this would be the only section during our entire trip where the damaged veins presented a serious challenge; as the days went by, my fat quickly decreased and my muscles increased, I dropped weight, and my entire body turned into an efficient machine.  In this very beginning section of trail though, I struggled.

We reached the first ledge heading up Mt. Crawford and the trail lost most of its steepness.  My leg immediately felt better and the views brought cheer and boosted my morale.

Sage immediately found blueberries.  They were all over the place, from here until the last half mile of trail up near Canada.  In fact, I gave Sage the trailname of Blueberry, since she never seemed to miss a patch, even in the thickest weeds and nastiest overgrown sections of trail, and she constantly picked and ate berries during our entire thru-hike.

Alex finds a few

We skipped the summit of Crawford itself, since we have been there before.  We would have plenty of views on this day so we didn't feel the need to hike spur paths we'd already visited.

We pushed on, past the trails and spurs to Mt. Parker, Resolution, and Stairs (we have been to those mountains before and, again, didn't feel the desire or need to revisit).

typical White Mountain rocky scramble section
After the intersection with the Stairs Spur Path, about 4.4 miles into our journey, we reached new territory for us -- none of us had previously hiked the Davis Path section between Stairs and Mt. Isolation.  It was time to turn over the navigating to Alex, who hikes solo more and more these days, so she could have a chance to keep her wilderness skills sharp.

Alex takes the lead

The next four miles seemed to take forever -- we kept thinking we were closer to Mt. Davis (just before Isolation) than we actually were.  We finally decided we had fallen into the Twilight Zone and that the Davis spur path would show up whenever it felt like showing up.  At least my leg no longer bothered me (and wouldn't really for the rest of our thru-hike).

After about a million years, Alex saw the sign.

We hadn't been on Mt. Davis before, so up we went.

We got to the top, looked around at the gorgeous views of the Presidential Range, and ate cheese.

When we were ready, we moved on to Isolation.  Technically, the spur path to the summit is not on the Cohos Trail, but all three of us needed Isolation for our July Grid, so up we went.

We got to the summit...and oh my goodness.  PEOPLE.  EVERYWHERE.  There were three times as many people on that summit than we saw on the entire rest of the Cohos Trail once we got north of Mt. Eisenhower the next day, no kidding.  Since the girls and I rarely hike 4Ks on weekends anymore, we are not used to seeing throngs of people.  We hike on weekdays to avoid crowds and therefore usually see one or two people, maybe four or five on a nice summer day.  As we hung out on the summit for hours (we got there around 1:30 and decided to pitch our tent nearby), at least 60 people (probably far more) and six dogs visited.  It struck me as funny and I remember laughing out loud every once in a while, which may have come off as strange to others.  Oh well.  I am becoming more and more of a hermit hiker as I age, and being suddenly confronted with tons and tons of people out in the middle of the wilderness was jarring.  I should have expected this, since it was a summer Saturday, but oh well.  It wasn't unpleasant either -- the girls and I enjoyed speaking to people, and we got to witness three different groups celebrate three different individual NH48 finishes.  I took pictures of lots of groups at the summit.  So it was fun, once I got over my "what the hell are all these people doing here" initial moments.  :)

A kind fellow took the following photos of the girls and me on Iso's summit.

That was the end of Day One.  It was COLD that night in our tent...close to freezing, I believe.  I remember snuggling deep into my bag and pulling on my hat at some point.  The next day, as soon as the sun came up, everything warmed to a solid 50-ish degrees (perfect hiking weather on the higher summits!).

I'll post Hiking Day Two tomorrow.


  1. Hi! I've been following this blog with a lot of interest since, as you know, I did the same hike a month earlier. I'm writing this Labor Day Weekend when you have most of your posts up.

    There are several general differences I've noticed between our hikes, even though they're only a month apart. For one, water was more plentiful when I did it. For another, so were ticks. (I don't know if you've mentioned ticks at all, but if they were as common in August as they were in July you would have.) For another, I had strawberries and you had blueberries.

    1. We had no ticks at any time during the Cohos Trail which, given the amount of vegetation we had to walk through, I felt was a miracle. OR...the tick repellent we applied to our legs, pants, and socks worked well.

      We never saw strawberries but had our fill of blueberries and raspberries.


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