Simple joy of moving on Mount Israel | Hiking news
Mount Israel (2,630 feet) at Sandwich has been climbed by many hikers in the past, is climbed by many in the present, and will be climbed by many in the future. As I approached the summit in the late afternoon of last Tuesday and gazed at the tree roots on the trail in the evergreen shady forest, I was aware of the longevity of the mountain compared to those who roamed it.
It was not a sad feeling, but just the recognition of a natural process. Joy is also an integral part of the natural process and was part of my hike that day – the simple joy of climbing a mountain.
I had started the 2.1 mile Wentworth Trail from Mead Base by mid afternoon, and the October light was ripening as I approached the partially open summit. I had stopped earlier at the first viewing ledge 1.5 miles from the trailhead.
The view of Squam Lake was great and I bathed in direct sunlight after walking through the cool, shady woods of the lower trail. It charged me up for the last half mile on smoother terrain all the way to the top.
Mount Israel was named in honor of Israel Gilman, one of the first settlers of the fertile interval below. At the foot of the trail is the historic Smith Farm, maintained today by the Friends of Mead Base Conservation Center. Parking is limited below the farm.
Mount Israel is the original mountain of the Sandwich trek group called “Over the Hill Hikers”. The group members moved away into the mountains of New Hampshire, and a former leader of the group compiled the list of mountains called “52 with a view” which is so popular today.
But on this beautiful day, I climbed their native mountain. The first 1.5 miles of the Wentworth Trail is constantly uphill. Above that, as I continued past the first lookout, I enjoyed the softer soil along the top of the ridge through the moist coniferous forest.
In the winter I saw many snowshoe hare tracks on this section. During the warmer months it is humid cool and there are plenty of roots to negotiate.
This week the mushrooms reigned supreme and I came across many clusters of what looked like honey mushrooms.
I climbed onto a ledge and took in the great views north of the valley towards the long ridge of Sandwich Dome. Its volume is still impressive and on Tuesday the foliage on its sides was not quite at its peak.
The trail to the top of the ridge fell over a saddle and crossed some pleasant open ledges. Then I passed the junction with the Mead trail, which descends from the north side of the mountain to the Guinea Pond trail.
Just beyond, I climbed the ledges to the summit cairn and sat down to take in the view to the north, which stretched west to east.
The sky was interesting that day. The weather had been mostly cloudy, but there was a lot of sun as well as a lot of clouds.
Looking northeast towards Mount Passaconaway and Mount Paugus in the Sandwich Range, the slopes were dappled with sun and shade. But looking west, there was a large patch of overcast sky, with the sun shining on its edges.
After a long session, I came back down the path I had taken.