“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” — Greg Child
Although I spend copious amounts of time and energy hiking, creating New Hampshire landscape photographs and writing reflectively about the mountains, I fully admit that there is a conversation of an entirely different magnitude going on around the world. The media refuses to let us ignore the plight of the economy, of wars, and of disease. But by and large, I submit that something dramatic happens to our perspective when we make our way into the woods and when we plod upward onto mountaintops. Something that is a part of us, let’s call it the minutia for lack of a better word, gets stripped away clean, allowing something far more essential from within to eventually surface. There is no clear transition, or verifiable “point” at which this happens, but more or less it is gradually brought on; by fresh air, by the labor of an uphill climb, and perhaps by the very nature of simple surroundings.
The mind wanders, though this drifting is not at all aimless, and an internal dialogue manifests that at times leads to profound benchmarks in our lives. In the company of others, these conversations might unfold aloud and you may find yourself talking about politics, love, or even about God(s). These are exchanges that could never happen in quite the same way under fluorescent lights, within the cubicle cages, or at a summertime barbecue.
Furthermore, when you find occasion to pause, perhaps at a peaceful rivulet or on top of a ragged precipice, and really take a good look around once the mind has been stripped of the minutia, a true sense of our smallness and our insignificance sets in; or perhaps it’s that the universe is simply incredible, and immense beyond comprehension. Whichever way you look at it, you come to realize that although you may be but only a brushstroke in the fresco, life is at once incredible, and incredibly complex. In large part the complexities arise because of the meaning that we add to the existing physical world. It is at this point that the hiker’s dialogue proves to be important; just as much so as other, more ubiquitous conversations. I know that it seems tough to resolve worldly matters and the discourse of a couple of sweaty hikers as being similarly important; but it’s easy if you try. By and large, this reflection, this reflexivity, this resolution…is part of what makes us human.
While hiking and camping out near Ethan Pond with a good friend this weekend, I was again privy to the treasure of this hiking dialogue. As is always the case, it seems that I’ve come out of the woods knowing a little something more about myself, my friend, and life. Furthermore, I have concluded that if this aspect of hiking is ever lost on me, I will have reached a truly unfavorable point in my life.
As always, thank you for joining me; do take care, and as colder weather begins to set in we’ll be sure to see you again soon.
Last Saturday, in the final moments of ordinary weather leading up to Irene’s arrival, I took some time to enjoy the Falling Waters Trail in Franconia Notch. On Sunday, I hunkered down all day during the storm, and after seeing what Irene unleashed in my own front yard I simply could not resist a return trip to Falling Waters. I tried imagining what 13 inches of rain in one day’s time would do to the falls, and I was nothing short of astounded at what I found upon my return.
I made my way onto the trail bright and early today, arriving just as the White Mountain National Forest reopened after closing at 6pm on Saturday. I have been on this trail many times, and I know it well. As I walked along the familiar grounds dodging the usual roots and rocks, I enjoyed big breaths of cool morning air and the aroma of fresh spruce. After about one tenth of a mile, however, any semblance of familiarity disappeared and water was the obvious culprit. The landscape had been transformed, or rather, demolished, with uncompromising force. The Walker and Dry Brooks had clearly joined forces in their race from Irene, and they had surged through a space that was simply too small for their amalgamation. In places, an excess of two feet had been carved out of the existing trail. Roots were emergent from both sides of the trail, and boulders the size of dormitory refrigerators were strewn about.
I lumbered through the new landscape trying to conceptualize the force that caused this damage. There was no doubt in my mind that if anyone had been here during Irene, they would have met an ultimate sort of fate. A juggernaut was here.
Below are four pictures, taken of the same falls from my August 27th blogpost (link will open in new window for side-by-side comparision). The differences in the look and feel of the photos, when compared to their pre-Irene counterparts, is incredible. Keep in mind that these are not carbon-copy photos, but are instead similar compositions that lend themselves to an exhibition of the changes.
Additionally, a short video composition is available on my YouTube Channel. Stop over and have a look if you wish to see this incredible amount of water in motion; in High-Def!
I’ll end with a tip of the hat to the US Forestry Services for announcing the day-and-a-half long closure of the White Mountain National Forest. After seeing the destruction on the trail, there is no doubt in my mind that lives were saved as a result of this precaution.
Until next time, happy trails and do take care!
The Falling Waters Trail in Franconia Notch State Park is home to a delightful collection of New Hampshire-Blend Water and Falls. The incredible variety of water features along this trail simply adds to its popularity. Waterfall enthusiasts and landscape photographers have quite a bit of incentive to discover this area, as the Dry Brook and the results of her labor are nothing short of spectacular. All of the significant water features along this trail are reached within a moderate 1-1.5 hour hike.
Take care to not forgo normal preparations; bring your water, food, first aid, and all the essentials. Along the way there are several rocky areas, two river crossings, and other challenges to be met. Do tread carefully, for your own safety and for the overall good of this incredible trail.
If you happen to be hiking off the Franconia Ridge on a hot summer day, descending along this trail offers an ultimate reprieve (almost better than a cold beverage)!
Here are five photos of the landscape and the waterfalls. But don’t just take my word for it. Get out there and check it out, because you are guaranteed to love discovering them yourself.
Some of these photos may reappear in my blog very soon, as Tropical Storm Irene’s deluge is bound to tempt me to make a return trip….
…until then, be well, hunker down, and do take care!