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Aug 31 2011

Falling Waters Follow Up: Post Irene

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.

Cloudland Falls

Immense Water at Cloudland Falls After Tropical Storm Irene

Not So Gentle Feature

What Was Once a Gentle Feature...

Swiftwater Post-Irene

Swiftwater: Post-Irene

A New Look for Stairs Falls

Stairs Falls: Post Irene

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!

Aug 27 2011

Falling Waters

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.



Gentle Feature in the Woods

Gentle Feature in the Woods



Stairs Falls

Stairs Falls

Humble Beginings of Autumn

Humble Beginings of Autumn

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!

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 14 2011

Holding a Gaze at Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge is the kind of place that creates a powerful feeling; a feeling that great forces beyond all comprehension are at work everywhere around us. At the height of the rugged landscape along the Ridgeline, there is an energy that makes me feel full of life, which is useful after the taxing hike up. It is at once utterly daunting, and purely captivating. Each time I go (and I’ve been known to go dozens of times per year), I feel a bit speechless, and there isn’t a single aspect of this area that I am able to take my eyes off of. I have some rather ambitious plans for this area come autumn, but something about this place draws me in at all times of the year; even during the summer when it is guaranteed to be busy, hot and humid. I set out late Saturday afternoon to enjoy a pack-lunch dinner on the ridge, and to stare into the colors of the sunset from this, my very favorite spot on Earth.

Since the weather looked like it would be in a cooperative mood until early Sunday morning, I seized the opportunity to hit the trail in the late hours of the afternoon. Hitting the trail at 3 o’clock pm is highly unusual for me, as I tend to enjoy the solitude and the sounds of more unusual hours, like 3 o’clock am. In any event, I longed for some time upon the Ridge and a summer sunset seemed a fitting way to get that time in.

My choice was, and usually is, to ascend the Ridge via the Falling Waters Trail. At three miles long with a gain of 3000 feet in elevation, this is no simple walk in the woods; and it’s just as tough of a descent. However, there is a lot to see and stay busy with along the way. The Dry Brook has carved is mark into the mountainside for thousands of years creating more than seven notable water features within the first two miles of the hike. Stairs Falls, Swiftwater Falls, and Cloudland Falls, are the most dramatic places to pause for cool mountain water and classic Pemigewasset scenery. I normally do pause at each of these features to take them in, but in an effort to find my hiker’s-rhythm (difficult given the number of other hikers on the trail), I just passed them by this time with a glance and a contented smile.

Little Haystack Late Day

Final Hours of Light on Little Haystack

Surprisingly, I noted a great number of people still descending the Falling Waters Trail (surprising given the time of day). My hike lasted just over two hours from bottom to top, and although I lost count, I would estimate that I saw over sixty people of varying ages, abilities, and levels of preparedness. Nevertheless, once I was on top of the Ridge, I had the place nearly to myself. I made my way to my favorite spot, which is an alcove just below the summit of Mount Lincoln. Facing southward, the ridgeline to Little Haystack bends through the land in an enchanting way. I have spent entire days at this one spot simply observing and enjoying life above timberline. But for tonight’s sunset photos, I had to choose between it and another stunning view I found that faces the opposite direction about a quarter mile north. I ended up choosing the latter, which was a wonderful view of Mount Lincoln.

Lincoln Summertime Sunset

Mount Lincoln Summer Sunset

With the summer sun setting behind Canon and the Kinsmans, and an almost-full moon rising over Signal Ridge, the light in the sky was fairly superb. I shot until 8:30pm, packed my gear up, and headed back down. Interestingly enough, the humidity was on the uptick as the night grew darker. On my way down I heard cicada, which would never happen during a late night hike. I also got to change my headlamp batteries in the dark (the joys of solo night-hiking), and I passed two groups of gentlemen who were toiling along down the trail, each group with at least one member only carrying a small flashlight (not exactly sufficient, by my estimation). I checked in with each group to make sure they were okay and feeling good about their descent, and they said they were. I made excellent time down and was back to my car in exactly an hour and a half, which was well ahead of schedule. I guess I found that rhythm after all.

Persied Nightfall at Cannon Mountain

Nightfall at Cannon Mountain

On my way out of Franconia Notch State Park, I stopped to get a glimpse of Cannon Mountain as the bright moon finally made its way over the Franconia Ridge to illuminate the cliffs. As always, my trip to the Ridge was very rewarding…and a great way to whet my appetite for the fall season! There’s always something to gaze at and get lost in at Franconia Ridge!

Thank you for taking some time to read my landscape photography blog; I’m surely glad to have you along!