Baxter the little terrier seemed more interested in hiking with me than with his master. I could hardly blame him. For the last 3/4 mile I had been huffing and puffing and sweating my way up what the trail guide called a “moderate” hike up Mt. Israel. When Baxter’s owner blew past me on her jog to the summit, Baxter was close on her heels. Maybe it was the sight of me plodding along or the temptation of a nearby stream in which to cool his little 6-inch legs, but suddenly Baxter’s urge to keep up disappeared. All the calling and cajoling from his master could not dissuade Baxter from leaving my side. Finally, after a quarter mile or so of stops and starts, she just waited for Baxter (and me) to catch up.
“Baxter can walk with me the the top”, I offered. “No”, she said, “he’ll keep right up with me when we get to the steep part.” And off they went, Baxter scampering right behind.
The steep part? Ugh! Yes, it is a warm Saturday in May and I am overdressed and out of shape, but it feels to me like I am already on the steep part.
Originally I hadn’t planned on blogging this one. I was hiking an obscure corner of the White Mountain National Forest starting from an ex-Boy Scout camp called Mead Base, up a not-particularly-high peak of the Sandwich Range called Mt. Israel, and making it a loop hike by continuing on along the Mead Trail to the Guinea Pond Trail and back home on the “historic” Sandwich Notch Road. 9 miles in all. These were trails well-maintained by the Squam Lakes Association, whose trail map and guide I had picked up on a previous expedition. A fun hike, and not one to be feeling out-of-breath on…especially as I hadn’t even made it to “the steep part” yet.
Carol, my artist wife, says that you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something and I suppose the same here is true in a sense. I can’t expect to be hiking with the same energy and stamina in May when I’ve barely put in 100 hours so far all year. But I’ve got to start somewhere so it might as well be right here and right now. So I keep plodding along at my pace, bugs, heat, and all, bracing myself to face the steep part…And before you know it, 30 minutes later, with the trail flattening out as it approaches the summit, I meet Baxter and owner coming back down. The steep part? Well, it must have been there but I didn’t really notice it at all. I think it was the act of getting started that was the hard part and not the steep part at all. Which is of course the life metaphor that today’s hike was all about.
And naturally we’re rewarded for that effort, right? I was, because for the rest of the hike I was treated to a delightful array of New Hampshire’s best wildflowers. Unlike last week’s adventure, today the trout lilies were out in force, especially along the Mead Trail on the north face of Mt. Israel. I’ve tried to identify them correctly but this isn’t really a blog about flowers. Instead, I’d suggest New Hampshire Garden Solutions or NH Wildflowers. I especially like Garden Solutions because I can reliably see the flowers a week or two after he writes, thanks to him being on the southern edge of the state and me being further north.
The Guinea Pond Trail follows an old railroad bed so it’s nice and flat. The trail to Guinea Pond is no longer posted but I found it nonetheless and was rewarded for my perseverance. And what would a perfect hike be without a cellar hole and a waterfall? This beauty of a cellar hole was found just off the Sandwich Notch Road and it’s still in great shape. By its L-shape and the large stone hearth-base you can see that it was built before 1820, presumably just a few years after the road was laid out in 1801. The surrounding land didn’t look very promising to me so I can’t imagine this home lasted more than a single generation. I drove the Notch Road (very carefully) when I was done hiking which is a story all in itself. Check out the history or other blogs about the road.And I did say waterfall, this being the beautiful Upper Beede Falls just a half mile from where I started and just off the Notch Road. I had it all to myself, too, a reward presumably for pushing on through the steep part.