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07 December 2012

A Trek to Mt. Israel with a True Mountain Wanderer

Over a year has gone by since I last hiked with my friend Steve.  And even more years have passed since adding Mt. Israel to my informal list of places to visit.  Each time I've thought about trekking to this mountain, I've always ended up by choosing an alternative hiking option.  And so, when Steve suggested doing a joint hike to Mt. Israel, it provided me with the nudge that was needed to finally explore this 2,630 ft peak located between the Sandwich Range and Squam Range.

There are likely many readers who know Steve.  He has decades of hiking experience from his many and varied wanderings throughout the mountains.  He has authored many books about hiking in the NH White Mountain region.  Steve willing shares his knowledge by providing folks with expert advice when they drop by his Mountain Wanderer Map & Book Store in Lincoln, NH.  His website (click HERE) allows you to do an online order of a full range of hiking books and maps.  However, many hikers prefer to visit his store to make their purchases since this provides an opportunity to swap stories and experiences about hiking adventures.

My Blog report about our hike to Mt. Israel will mostly consist of a few photos.   Facts about this mountain's history, geography plus a plethora of other interesting information about Mt. Israel can be found at the "Paths & Peaks" tab of Steve's website. (Click HERE to link to Steve's article about Mt. Israel).  Also, Steve has his own Blog where he will post a narrative and photos about our hike (Click HERE for a link to Steve's Blog).  

On my way to the trailhead for the hike to Mt. Israel, I made a short side trip.  Frequent readers of my Blog might recall that in mid October, I hiked in the Squam Lakes Region.  And, from the Eagle Cliff viewpoint, I photographed a distant church steeple protruding above the autumn canopy.  In my Blog about this hike (click HERE), I asked if anyone knew the location of this steeple.  The overwhelming opinion was that the steeple belonged to a church located in Center Sandwich, NH.  Therefore, since this small village was on my route of travel, I stopped to take a snapshot of the little church with the tall steeple.

Below is a composite photo showing what I saw from Eagle Cliff in October, and what I saw in Center Sandwich in December while en route to the trailhead for my hike to Mt. Israel.
Distant church steeple seen on October hike, and the church associated with that steeple 

Israel Gilman was a settler who lived in this area in the 1760s.  I find it interesting that his given-name of Israel was used to name this mountain, rather than his surname of Gilman.  It was also of interest to learn from Steve that Moses Sweetser’s guidebook of 1876 describes a trailless route to Mt. Israel which traversed pastures for first two-thirds of the ascent.  The present-day Wentworth Trail that we used for our trek doesn't traverse pastureland.  However, there are cows grazing in a pasture just a few feet from the trailhead parking lot.
Cows grazing in pasture just a few feet from trailhead parking lot for Wentworth Trail 

And even though the present-day route to Mt. Israel doesn't traverse any pastures (as noted in Sweetser's old guidebook), some pasture walls made of stone are still visible as you hike along the lower end of the Wentworth Trail.
Old pasture walls made of stone, as seen while hiking lower end of Wentworth Trail 

With the oblique sunlight of early December, and the drabness of a leafless and snowless landscape, it's can sometimes be challenging to take any dazzling photos.  Nonetheless, shown below are a few snapshots.  These are merely some of my favorites from this hike.  There are far more (and far better) views from this mountain than those shown in these photos.
Southeasterly view of the Ossipee Mountain Range

View of Sandwich Dome mountain

View of Squam Lake (location for "On Golden Pond" film of 1980s)

Northwesterly view of Mt. Moosilauke on distant horizon

Highly zoomed photo showing Mt. Paugus on left and Mt. Chocorua on right

Steve taking one last look at Squam Lake before our descent to the trailhead

Mt. Israel (far right) as viewed at sunset from the roadside on the way back home

Mt. Israel provides a magnificent panoramic view of peaks  in the Sandwich Range.  Steve kindly provided me with a photo which shows this vista, and he even names the peaks.
 Steve's photo showing panorama of peaks in the Sandwich Range as viewed from Mt. Israel

To sum it up,  this hike provided a double treat!  Not only was it a delight to hike again with Steve, but it was also a treat to finally make a first-time visit to Mt. Israel after many years of merely thinking about doing it.


Steve Smith said...

Great report and photos, John! I especially liked the church steeple "near and far," the long stone wall, and the shot across the bog. It was great hiking with you again! And thank you for your kind words.


Peppersass said...

Have you done this one in winter yet?

1HappyHiker said...

You’re welcome for the “kind words”. It’s only fitting that achievements and performance be given some recognition from time to time.

Glad you liked the composite photo with the steeple comparison. Some might feel it's a bit corny, but I was hopeful that there would be at least a few other folks like me who “appreciate” a comparison such as this.

It was indeed super to hike together again, and I thank you for posting your comments, and for the compliment about my blog.


Summerset said...

Mt. Israel is a nice hike and you had a good day to hike it! My husband and I hiked it back in Oct. 2009, via the Wentworth Trail. I remember the leaves were down so the views were similar to yours. We had to take out the map and sort of guess at which mountains we were looking at; between you and Steve the pair of you probably had an easier time identifying them!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Dolores,

Actually, this was the first time that I've ever visited Mt. Israel! And so, although I've not done this as a winter hike, I know that Steve has. He says it can be a wonderful snowshoe trek.


1HappyHiker said...

Summerset, it’s terrific to read that you and Ethan have also hiked to Mt. Israel! As you indicate, it is indeed a nice hike.

Regarding the mountain identification, Steve has such a talent for this. He can accurately identify peaks in the blink of an eye. But for me, it’s a struggle. Given enough time, and enough maps, plus some post-hike time spent on Google Earth, I can usually identify most of the peaks I’ve seen during a hike. :)

Thanks for posting your comments!


One Day in America said...

Hi John,

How nice that you were able to do this hike with a friend and fellow knowledgeable mountain trekker. I agree with Steve, the church far and near is a great shot!

And those New England stone walls! I saw them all over the place during my 2011 visit to Rhode Island; can you imagine the effort that went into building all those walls?

Sounds like you had a day of fun and fellowship in the mountains!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

It's great to read that you also liked the "far and near" shot of the church. It was just one of those unexplained fascinations of mine to go to the spot where the little church with the big steeple is located.

And yes, the stone walls found throughout New England are something else that I find fascinating. If you're ever interested in reading more about these stone structures, there are a number of books written about this topic, one of which is "Stone by Stone" by Robert Thorson. In his book he indicates that you can find ornamental stone walls elsewhere, but only in New England are they a part of the landscape. Only here would you have to explain the absence of stone walls.

As always Rita, thank you for your comments.


Charles said...

Hello, my wife and I just climbed Mt. Israel (though only to the "false summit" 10/31/15 on a beautiful Halloween afternoon. I was delighted to find your blog's description and photos, John, as well as those of our favorite "map guy" Steve Smith. However, I keep wonder if the steeple you so nicely showed is actually the one in Wonalancet, not Sandwich. We drove past it a few days earlier so it was fresh in mind. I took about the same photo as you from up high on the ledges, and the distance view of the steeple as well as the direction make me wonder about this. But, it's our first time up that mountain, so I could easily be mistaken. In any case, what a great hike and views! -Charles

1HappyHiker said...

Charles, thanks for taking time to post a comment to my blog report about Mt. Israel. And it’s terrific to read that you and your wife had a beautiful day for hiking at this location.

Regarding the church steeple, admittedly it is a bit confusing the way that I interjected that into my blog about Mt. Israel. As I indicated in my report, the photo of the steeple was taken on a separate hike from a place called Eagle Cliff (about 5 miles south of Mt. Israel). On my way to meet Steve for the hike to Mt. Israel, I stopped by Center Sandwich to snap a photo of the church steeple that had been spotted from Eagle Cliff.

If you were looking northeast from Mt. Israel when you took your photo of a church steeple, it could well have been the one in Wonalancet. But, if you were looking southeast, then it could have been the one in Center Sandwich that I photographed.


Charles said...

Thanks for the feedback, John. Your blog was clear about the view being from Eagle Cliffs, which I mistook for being the first good ledges along the Wentworth Trail. I foolishly didn't check a compass bearing toward the steeple we saw, but intuitively it seemed easterly enough to be toward Wonalancet; I should check this on a detailed topo map to see if such a view is even possible. I just assembled a twin close-up and distance view of the steeple as did you, but I don't think this blog will permit me to post it. -Charles

1HappyHiker said...

Charles, your are correct about the limitations of the blog template that I use. There are no provisions for readers to post anything other than text. However, if your photo is available somewhere on the Internet, your comments could include a link. The link wouldn’t be “clickable”, but I (and others) could cut and paste the link into a web browser. If you are merely interested in having the photo available to me, then you could attach it to an e-mail directed to address: