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May 10 2012

Waterfall Season in New Hampshire

If waterfalls are a source of joy for you, New Hampshire isn’t a bad place to be during the months of May through October. While some would argue that the most dramatic and commanding waterfalls are found in other parts of the country, New Hampshire offers a unique collection all its own. They also offer unique challenges in the way of getting to and properly capturing the falls. Waterfall season is practically here upon us in the Granite State, and for the next few weeks I’ll be providing you with a small helping of what you might want, or need, to know.

It is estimated that there are over seventy significant waterfalls in New Hampshire, each bringing their own unique orientation, character, style, and voice. What makes New Hampshire’s collection special is that they tend to be tucked into the mountains and require a bit of hiking in order to reach. They’re also characterized by their juxtaposition of green foliage against rocky granite. Some falls in the collection appear quite wild, if you will, since they’re subject to brutal winters and other occasions of harsh weather. This can present a challenge to the photographer who wishes to show tranquility and calm through her waterfall photographs.

I remember my first waterfall season as a serious photographer. Looking at my list of New Hampshire waterfalls I recall thinking to myself, I could capture all of them this year if I just put some time and effort in. But each one has its own challenges, and by and large not every day is a perfect day for shooting waterfalls. Each artist will find that it takes work to get their own preferred angle, light, and conditions in order to best interpret each set of waterfalls.

Fall of Song - Moultonborough New Hampshire

Fall of Song - Moultonborough New Hampshire

A playbook of tips and methods are out there in print and on the web which cover “how” to shoot a waterfall. In the upcoming weeks, my New Hampshire landscape photography blog will cover some of my techniques, as well as timing, equipment, locations, stories, and more. Subscribing through your favorite feed reader will make it easy to keep up, but don’t forget that I’m active on Facebook and Twitter as well. As prime waterfall shooting season settles in, I hope to help you hone your technique and find a few waterfalls that really speak to you.

Swing by again soon for more on New Hampshire’s incredible waterfalls and this exciting season. Until then, happy trails and be well!


Aug 24 2011

Evans Notch Possibilities

The abundant and unique natural features found within Evans Notch are part of a somewhat hidden, or a least less-frequented side of New Hampshire. The Notch has a look and feel to it, both from the road and on the trail, which speaks of wild scenery and a rich backcountry. Yet, not all visitors realize that many locations like this were once the battlegrounds for some very shortsighted and massive human disturbances (timbering, namely). While the large-scale devastation has been contained and the land revitalized thanks to the Weeks Act, regular small scale disturbances still exist; and can quickly add up. Places that lie within a short walking distance from the road tend to get the brunt of misuse, which can occur even in places that seem isolated and out of reach, like Evans Notch. An incredible amount of stewardship goes into maintaining the overall beauty and quality of this and other scenic areas. Yet, there is still work to be done; there is a story to tell and imagery to share about hundreds of areas in New Hampshire, and about the possibilities within places like Evans.

Rolling Green Waters at Emerald Pool

Rolling Green Waters at Emerald Pool

New Hampshire’s share of Evans Notch contains miles upon miles of hiking trails, surrounded by lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and several distinctive alpine mountain peaks. Not to mention a spectacular notch-corridor for pleasant and scenic driving. I recently had a day to explore and enjoy the Notch, and I had hopes of experiencing a little bit of everything in terms of the landscape. I plotted a hike along a pleasant loop that would take me to the Emerald Pool, up to Bicknell Ridge for a view of the Baldfaces, and down for a visit to the impressive and graceful Eagle Cascade (a total of roughly five and a half miles).

I began my hike at 8:30 am, which is a bit of a late start in my opinion but the best I could do. Ultimately, I wanted to enjoy the Emerald Pool before the crowds arrived, because at only .7 miles from the road it tends to be a popular swimming spot. And although I got there well ahead of any influx, I could have come away with some significantly better photographs of the pool if I’d only arrived about an hour and a half sooner (there was intense sunlight washing out the right side of the falls’ ledges, so I had to isolate my focus a lot more than what is normal for me and my style of photography). I spent about an hour photographing the intense green of the pool and listening to the rush of the water. I hiked onward as planned and spent another hour or so upon the ledges of Bicknell Ridge photographing the Baldfaces. From there, I walked to Eagle Cascade where I spent more time photographing, and then enjoying a tasty lunch of peanut butter and home-made blueberry-ginger jam on whole grain bread.

South Baldface View

Bicknell Ridge: South Baldface View

On my way back down, I paid a second visit to the Emerald Pool but it was well occupied with boisterously loud visitors so I did not dare try and shoot it a second time. I did unfortunately happen upon some evidence of environmental disturbances such as trash and a couple of ill-placed fire pits alongside the river, complete with melted beer bottles and all.

Unfortunate Usage Near Emerald Pool

Unfortunate Usage Mere Feet from the Emerald Pool

Evans Notch is a place worthy of a visit, and if you make your way here I offer this first bit of advice: Bring a camera. If you want to properly remember a place like Evans Notch and truly appreciate this lesser known side of New Hampshire, you need to capture it. While photographs are a great tool for aiding your own memories and storytelling, photos can also serve in the passionate individual promotion of conservation and stewardship. It is through our senses that we connect with the nature of a place, and it is my firm belief that photos, as both art and records, can truly galvanize that connection. It does no good to promote places like the Emerald Pool as “a great place to camp out and jump naked into a swimming hole”; this kind of description fails to convey any appreciation for the beautifully wild and diverse biome, and instead invites visitors to throw their cares aside and desecrate the area a little bit at a time. The damage caused by trash, riverside campfire rings, and parasitic hikers is no small deal if these types of locations are to ever be kept beautiful. Besides not trashing them in the first place, representing the Emerald Pool and other places properly and lovingly can go a long way.

If you’re serious about your photography like I am, be sure to bring a tripod and a polarizer. You may also consider bringing a range of lenses, as the variation in the size and shape of the subject matter in Evans Notch provides photographic opportunities and challenges alike. Take the water features for instance; some falls are tall and long, others are short and wide. In addition, this year’s rainfall patterns have been sparser than years past, which means that the waterfall landscape has a slightly different look. Some folks may have presumed an early end to “waterfall season” as a result, but not to me. I happen to like the change in volumes and flow, and I enjoy seeing New Hampshire just a bit differently this year over last.

Eagle Cascade

Eagle Cascade

Eagle Cascade

Eagle Cascade: A Classic View

Indeed, the summer is winding down, and some of us have thought of how to have that last hurrah for the season. Some local photographers may have begun shelving their camera gear for a few weeks while they wait it out for fall foliage to arrive. But trust me; there are still things to do, places to shoot, and all kinds of natural areas to discover and appreciate. Don’t be afraid to pay Evans Notch a visit…you might just fall in love with it the way I have.

Still Green

Still Green

Thank you for stopping by and spending some time with me. We’ll see you again real soon!


Aug 21 2011

Shannon Brook Trail & Brookwalk Trail

Difficulty: 3/10 Scenery: 6/10

The Shannon Brook has been hard at work for several thousand years, artfully carving away at a unique landscape created during the last glacial period. Located within a 5,245 acre wilderness escape in Moultonborough known as “Lucknow”, or Castle in the Clouds, the Shannon Brook leads the way for casual hikers along a visually rewarding pathway.

Parking (no fee) on Route 171 about 2 miles south of Ossipee Park Road on the right, visitors will find ample space for cars and an informative kiosk alongside the road. To begin hiking, cross Rt. 171 and step over the short chain-gate and onto an old carriage grade. This is the Shannon Brook Trail.

The Shannon Brook Trail climbs quite gently for .7 miles before reaching the Bald Knob Cutoff, marked conspicuously and on the right. All of the signs on this parcel are easily spotted, composed of green with white lettering, and more reminiscent of common street signs. Continuing for another .2 miles, hikers will arrive the first “entrance” of the Brookwalk Trail loop on the left. Here, the trail descends sharply for .2 miles over footing that would easily turn into a muddy slide of a walk during wet weather. At the bottom is the first of the Brookwalk’s seven distinct waterfalls, and it certainly is quite a nice reward. Called The Fall of Song, this first feature is by far the most dominant and artistically impressive of the seven falls, plunging more than 50 feet from its upper reaches. The Fall of Song is lined on the left by a wooden boardwalk.

Close up view: Fall of Song

Close up view: Fall of Song

Fall of Song: Wider view, and quite dry.

Fall of Song: Wider view, and quite dry.

To continue on the Brookwalk trail, backtrack off the boardwalk and turn uphill at the sign along a gentle ascent to the next falls. Called Bridal Veil Falls, this is yet another impressive feature although a different style of falls entirely from the Fall of Song (a “veil”).

Continuing up and down gentle grades, the trail eventually intersects a more distinct carriage trail and then turns back to the right and into the woods. Hikers will pass by a collection of other smaller falls, such as Emerald Pool Falls, Whittier Falls, Twin Falls, and Roaring Falls; each unique in their own way, and nothing short of moving, inspiring, and downright enjoyable.

At the end of the Brookwalk Trail, turn right to get back onto the Shannon Brook Trail and head back down to the parking area, being careful to keep right at the Lower Bridle Path junction, and then again keeping right at the Turtleback Mountain junction.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Emerald Pool Falls

Emerald Pool Falls

Twin Falls

Twin Falls

The Ultralight Summary:

No parking fee at Rt. 171 Shannon Brook Trail parking lot. The Shannon Brook Trail and Brookwalk Trail loop presents a dog-friendly hike. Special care should be taken in bringing children along because of the danger of falling on wet surfaces and down the outcroppings and cliffs near the larger waterfalls. Land is maintained by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust. The trail is carry in-carry out. Appropriate for all four seasons with normal equipment considerations. Total time from to the cliffs complete the Brookwalk loop should not exceed 2.5 hours. Features of interest include seven waterfalls, and a mid-mountain restaurant / gift shop.

Other Useful Links:

Map
LRCT
Castle in the Clouds

This new blog category is a result of the many questions I get regularly about hiking in New Hampshire. These periodic blogs will chronicle travels along New Hampshire’s roads less traveled while reviewing the difficulty, scenery, and useful information pertaining to each adventure. As with any hike, your safety is your responsibility; please take it seriously! Happy trails!


Aug 20 2011

Blueberry Mountain: Blueberry Mountain Trail

Difficulty: 2/10 Scenery: 5/10

Note: There has been a change since this blog’s original composition; this trail is now currently closed.

Mountains gain their names in all sorts of ways. Some have been named (or renamed) after historically significant luminaries, and others have held on firmly to their Native American names. Others are simply named after a feature, a shape, or an essence. Blueberry Mountain gained its name in an obvious way; it’s like a natural farmer’s market that deals in only blueberries. It is also a lesser-traveled peak that offers a pleasing view of Mount Moosilauke’s western side. Thus with its easy grades and its relatively nice payoff, it’s a bit of a wonder that this place doesn’t see a least a bit more traffic. But then again…

Over the last two decades, New Hampshire has endured frequent 911 updates that have caused road names to change. Typically, roads that sound too similar to other roads in town, roads that have duplicated names, and roads that were just never named at all, are the ones that end up on the docket for amendment. Areas like Benton and Warner have not escaped these sorts of changes. If traveling with a map that is more than a few years old, you’re likely to see quite a few differences, and perhaps even get frustrated. For that reason alone, navigation to the trailhead can be a task. In Benton for instance, Sanatorium Road is no longer called Sanatorium Road; its new name is High Street on more recent maps. In addition to the changes, frequent road sign thefts in this area add yet another dimension to the process of simply finding the trailheads. With that said, be sure to give a bit of extra time for way-finding on your way to the Blueberry Mountain Trailhead.

According to some maps, the southern end of the Blueberry Mountain Trail is located about four-tenths of a mile on North to South Road, which is located about eight-tenths of a mile from Rt. 25 on High Street in Benton. However, North to South Road, according to the Oliverian Stewardship Project Enviromental Assesment published in March of 2010, is actually called Long Pond Road. Neither road currently has a street sign, so use your reference clues to navigate (High Street, for instance, is the only left hand turn heading east on 25 past the town line with Warner, and before Stinson Road on the left). The trailhead is currently host to bulldozers, excavators, and tree cutters as extensive work has begun on the Oliverian Stewardship Project. The trailhead sign at the parking lot has also been moved by someone, so it currently shows its “arrow” pointing to the south (left) and into the woods, indicating that the summit of Blueberry Mountain is 1.7 miles away, but clearly in the wrong direction. Ignore the sign, and follow the intensely disturbed logging road for two-tenths of a mile. Look for a sharp uphill turn to the right, marked by a lone yellow blaze on a younger maple tree, which marks the trail’s departure from the logging road.

The easy grades pass quickly, but there is certainly no reason to rush through this hike; take time to enjoy the massive number of wild blueberry bushes that line both sides of the trail (after about three-quarters of a mile of hiking). The trail offers a somewhat wild feel as the ascent continues, perhaps due to its narrow passage or its varying vegetation and granite. Perhaps it is simply the lack of other hikers. Even on the nicest of days, this gem rarely sees summer’s usual glut of travelers.

Lush Green Among the Trail

Lush Green Among the Trail

The summit itself offers little in the way of views, and is marked by a cairn that is larger than the other few along the way. However, just before the summit, there are several bare ledges that afford decent views toward Moosilauke. In these areas, caution should be taken to walk only on the durable surfaces as there are many emerging plant communities enduring and persevering in their development on the rocks.

Hazy View of Moosilauke

Hazy View of Moosilauke

The Blueberry Mountain Trail continues over the summit, and terminates on Fire Road 107 (FR 107), which is off of Page Road and reached by Lyme Kiln Road several miles away.

The Ultralight Summary:

The Blueberry Mountain Trail is a dog-friendly and kid-friendly hike. The .025 mile of the hike is in a FPA (Forest Protection Area); please adhere to the restrictions. The trail is carry in-carry out. Appropriate for all four seasons with normal equipment considerations. Total time from bottom to top should not exceed 1.5 hours. Features of interest include plentiful wild blueberry patches, and a view near the summit of nearby four thousand footer, Mount Moosilauke (10th highest in NH). This hike may be done as a circuit hike by spotting one car on Long Pond Road, and another on FR 107.

This new blog category is a result of the many questions I get regularly about hiking in New Hampshire. These periodic blogs will chronicle travels along New Hampshire’s roads less traveled while reviewing the difficulty, scenery, and useful information pertaining to each adventure. As with any hike, your safety is your responsibility; please take it seriously! Happy trails!