Yesterday, I ‘punched out’ from work at 5:15, but instead of heading south on the turnpike I, …I went the other way!
It’s the second week in June, and you know what that means…Fields of Lupines! Sweet Sugar Hill, the Lupine capitol of New Hampshire, becomes an attraction each year for about three weeks. As the lupines abound in fields all thoughout this quaint New Hampshire village, sightseers and photographers make their way into town to capture the unique wildflower among various backdrops. Indeed, last night, I was one of them! First stop…the Sampler Field to scope out this year’s bounty…
This is actually only my second time going to Lupinefest, as I affectionately call it. Life has been busy, and I’ve found it hard to get out and shoot…in fact, when faced with a day of ‘free time’, I often don’t know what to do…do I hike? Do I drive somewhere for magic hour photos? I never quite know how to handle myself. But this day off was fully planned. As far as lupines go, I still have yet to fully discover how to capture this incredible flower, but I got several hours of experimentation in. I also have yet to really get any significant practice using my new Lee Grad ND filters and glass polarizer. So, this was going to be quite a bit of fun, and quite a bit of experimentation…
I hit a bit of rain in the last 10 miles or so of my trip…I’d come all the way over 302, through Twin Mountain, down 93 and into town and a virtual deluge began essentially as soon as I got off of the highway. Go figure, you might say…but not me. I gingerly made my way to the field off Sunset Hill Road regardless of the rain, knowing that magical things might happen as this shower passed. Wouldn’t you know it…the rain stopped as soon as I parked my trusty wagon!
Walking into the Sampler field, I noticed three things: 1.) I was the only one here (woot!) 2.) Jim Salge was right…this year, the bloom was way down, and 3.) The storms were indeed leaving some fun stuff in their wake up in the sky over the Franconia Ridge. As I hunted for the right spot to start shooting, a cap cloud formed over Lafayette, which was very neat. One of the coolest things about shooting this flower, the lupine, in Sugar Hill is that the mountains add a rugged backdrop to this delecate looking plant…the cap cloud was a nice ‘add’, and it was glowing by the time the sun finally made it beyond the horizon behind me. I shot well past 8:30 pm, hopped in the car, and headed for my next destination…Jefferson, New Hampshire. Yes…Jefferson.
On a tip from Jim about some nice bloom along the banks of the Israel River, I headed to Jefferson to find a place to car camp. Car camping usually isn’t my style, but I couldn’t resist a Sugar Hill sunset nor could I resist a Jefferson Meadows sunrise. Besides, I had my solo tent with me as well in case I felt the need. So, I traversed 116 up to the Great North Woods and back into the Whites and did a little in-the-dark scouting for lupines. I went to the intersection of 115 and Meadows and found some flowers, but it was really hard to see by headlamp. I drove down as far as I could without risking getting stuck in the mud, and hunted a bit more, but still I couldn’t see much. I thought of parking there and camping for the night, but I opted to drive back into town and blend in. I found a non-descript piece of ground to park my car, grabbed my sleeping back, put the seat down and dozed off from ohhhh, say 11:30ish until about 3:45ish. Up and at ‘em, and off toward Isreal River I went…
…after following the river up one road and finding no good places to set up, I headed back and went down another road and found a great spot. Isreal River Road, if I recall correctly, on the way to the campground. Very accessible, and a field chalk-full of lupines was right beside the river, whose banks were also peppered with the little suckers! The view of Washington from the field was a bit obscured by telephone poles, wires, and a couple of other ‘issues’, so I worked on the river a bit and came up with some images that I liked. Then I headed over the cross roads to the Meadows to see what I might find. There were certainly more lupines, and as a matter of fact, I sort of wish I’d checked there first because the views from the Meadows are just awesome! Flat farm-like land, and then BANG, there’s the Presidentials…the two intersect unexpectedly! And right in the middle of it all, there is the Israel River with more beautiful lupines! A few more shots, and I was off, headed back into Sugar Hill to scout around more.
I wanted to be sure to do two things while on this trip; scout for next time’s shot opportunities, and visit Polly’s Pancake Parlor. I did both of those things, and it was well worth it! I found the fields by St. Matthews on 117 to be very lush…quite nice compared to the Sampler Field. The dumprake was not very well surrounded, though. Not to mention, the bugs were getting active since it was getting quite warm outside. And not just black flies…I found 3 mutant-sized ticks at different points following my time at St. Matthew’s… luckily just crawling…not feeding! Oh, and Polly’s…well, I had the waffle special, which today was Granola….mmmmmmmmmm. Highly recommend it. I must say, not only does Polly’s have one incredible view of the mountains (Canon to Washington!), but it smells sooooooo good over there…even just in their parking lot!
After Polly’s, I headed back over Twin Mountain and planned on hitting Clinton Mountain Road for a jaunt, but it was closed (not sure why…seems late?). Finally, a quick run up to Pinkham Notch for a quick walk, a WMNF parking pass, and a book I’ve really wanted to get – Wildflowers of the White Mountains (which is a full color photo book of the wildflowers that grow in NH…I’ve been inspired to learn more about them after becoming interested in lupines).
Many miles and many intersections later, I’m home! Next stop I’m hoping to make is one of my favorite intersections of photography and hiking….the Alpine Garden. Weather permitting, that’s next Monday!