There I was standing on the side of the road watching the forest burn, hundreds of us amazed by the sight in front of us. No I was not in California, I was in the Lost River Gorge area of New Hampshire's White Mountains, a place I've called home in a past life years ago. It was a spectacular and frightening display of power that a wildfire has. I stood there taking a few photos but what was so mesmerizing was the dancing flames due to the high winds the night's darkness. These are the times that make adventures so irresistible to me, you just never know what you'll experience or where you will end up. However I'm getting way ahead of myself... lets start back at the beginning.
The Excitement of the Unknown
Our daily lives can get in the way of all the things on our bucket lists or personal desires we want to try. Be it work stresses, relationships, family life, etc but at some point we all need a way to relax and decompress. Nowadays work has become a 24/7 stress without the opportunity of shutting it off; some professions you knew that going into it, others are now expecting that of their staff. While on vacation... check that; while you are on an ADVENTURE it is key to disconnect yourself from work, social media, and/or any stresses that will not allow you to recharge yourself. The excitement of not knowing where the next 8 days will take me and allowing me to just enjoy the present is one of my most cherished feelings.
I started my adventure in Stratton, VT at Grout Pond for a night of camping. During my research I read that it was a very heavily used camping spot due to being one of the few campgrounds in Vermont with no fees (FYI- that will be changing in 2018) When I arrived I luckily found a campsite with ease. I did find out later that was due to the heavy rain the night before forcing people to head home early soaked. I made sure to set up my tent before heading off for a hike around Grout Pond.
The hike around the pond was pleasant and not demanding at all. A nice leisurely stroll through the woods, with a few views of the pond towards the southern end and around the west side of the pond. Grout Pond Campground has numerous car camping sites and a handful of waterfront sites that require walking or a canoe to access. It is a beautiful place and great starting point for anyone looking to get into camping.
After a phenomenal night sleep I woke up to make coffee and have breakfast while enjoy the view of fog rolling around the pond. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning to start of my first full day of my 8 day adventure. After making breakfast I broke down my tent, cleaned up my site and packed the car. I was heading towards Pittsfield, VT where my two good friends Josh and Ann Eckler own The Trailside Inn. I would be doing some astrophotography for them throughout the overnight.
On my way to Pittsfield I stopped at Dorset Quarry in Dorset, VT to check it out. This the location of the Dorset Quarry, which was the country's first commercial marble quarry was opened in South Dorset by Isaac Underhill in 1785 on the land of Reuben Bloomer. Over the next 130 years, two dozen or more quarries located on the slopes of Dorset Mountain and Mt. Aeolus provided marble for headstones, lintels, hearths and the like in the early years, followed by monumental uses and later building stone used in many notable buildings, such as the New York Public Library, the library of Brown University, and Memorial Continental Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C. Wow... who knew!
After arriving at The Trailside Inn I was able to unpack, relax, upload photos and enjoy a few beers I got from Madison Brewing in Bennington, VT. Once the sun went down I was able to take some test shots for the following nights photoshoot of the inn and stars.
Waking up in Pittsfield, and more specifically at The Trailside Inn is always a pleasure. Most mornings start with coffee, well lets say it better, and a map. I've been up in this area of Vermont many times on my motorcycle but having my car with me this time allowed me to take the dirt road options as they came up. I've always found some of the best and favorite locations via dirt roads. That is my biggest piece of advice for any adventure, take the dirt road!
Throughout Vermont there are many amazing views of the Green Mountains; vistas to see Lake Champlain from, and waterfalls to hunt. I took this trip looking for foliage to photograph, however due to the unseasonably warm fall peak foliage was a week behind. Not to be discouraged I pulled out my map and copy of New England Waterfall book to put together some rough plans for the day. Today's exploits would be circled around waterfalls due to the lack of colors in the leaves. Starting with Texas Falls; Hancock, VT just off Route 125, very accessible waterfall with no need to hike through the woods as it is just across the road from the parking lot. Once you walk onto the bridge you'll see the main falls, however I highly recommend continuing on to explore the area. There are some great views of upper and lower falls if you wander from the beaten path to the, well lets be honest, the slightly less beaten path that requires you to jump a railing. (Disclaimer: you do this at your own risk, and if you do so be aware of the impact you are making to the area. Tread lightly and do not ruin it for everyone.)
After Texas Falls I headed on to Moss Glen Falls located directly on Route 100 in Granville, VT. I have passed these falls numerous times due to low water, direct sunlight, or to many people to photograph it properly. Today I would not pass it up as the water level was not the greatest but was still enough to show the flowing curves of this beautiful waterfall. With a few leaves falling along the rocks it was a great day to be there and have it all to myself.
After a short visit at the falls I decided to take a leisurely drive over Lincoln Gap taking in all the scenery and dirt road driving. I was able to find an amazing little shop called Almost Home Market in Bristol, VT. I spoke to the owner for a bit about the area, their food, bakery, etc. It had a great small town feel, but most importantly it was DELICIOUS! If you are in the area, be sure to check it out!!!
My drive continued with a destination of Mt. Philo within the Philo State Park located in the Champlain Valley town of Charlotte. Although just 968 feet in elevation the views of Lake Champlain are by far the best you'll get outside of an airplane ride. From all the google images searches it seems like the place to be during sunset, althoughI was not able to stay for that today. However I did have a chance to shoot a 9 image panoramic from the look out. It was a beautiful location to enjoy my lunch and view the lake from, I highly recommend making the trip up.
Lake Champlain from Mt. Philo
Night time photography can be fun and exciting, from shooting the Milky Way, the moon, and star trails. It takes a bit of technical knowledge to make the camera work the way you need it to at night; between knowing aperture, exposure and ISO settings to create the image you are trying to capture. After years of testing I have come to enjoy shooting star trails and did so last year for my friends Josh and Ann of The Trailside Inn. I was honored they wanted to share that image with their guest by hanging a print of it in their lodge. Fast forward to them offering their inn as a wedding venue and having a large white tent on the side of their inn, well time for a re-shoot of the property and below you can see the outcome.
:For all you photographers and technical types, the image below was shot on a Sony A6000 at 10mm (equivalent 16mm): Almost 3.5 hours of shooting with 204 images used and each at a 45 second shutter speed. Aperture was f/4 and ISO was 800:
Traveling allows you to enjoy the moment in time you are in, you get to shut down from the "real world" to really be in the experiences you are having. One of those was while driving through Vermont to my next location, a beautiful cabin in the woods I found on AirBNB. However before I got there I saw an opportunity on the road side and went for a glider ride. It was a random driving by decision but so worth it! (especially seeing my Groupon app had a 60% off ticket) I can't tell you how much fun it was to fly without an engine and the noises of "normal" air flight. It was the closest I've ever felt like a bird. I highly recommend trying it if you have the opportunity.
After my glider ride, I made it over to Elmore Lake to see if the foliage was as good as some Instagram photos I had seen. Disappointingly it is not nearly what other photographers have made it to look like so I decided to move onto the cabin in the woods to relax for the rest of the afternoon before sunset. The online photos showed a cabin in the woods with a sauna and fire pit, basically a dream come true. However on arrival to the cabin it was even better than one could imagine. Selené, the owner of cabin named The Hyggelig Hytte, was amazing host and provided all the amenities anyone could desire while enjoying their time at her property. If you have a chance to visit please do and let Selené know I sent you!
Click below for the AirBNB listing:
Hyggelig Hytte (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2422793?s=51)
As beautiful as Vermont is it was the time for my trip to move into New Hampshire with my first stop is Franconia Ridge in Franconia, NH. I had planned to hike Mt. Lafayette but due to the weather changing it would have been a risky hike solo at this time of year. I wandered Echo Lake and checked out the Basin enjoying the smaller falls throughout the area. I also planned to photography Sabbaday Falls, however as I flicked my blinker on to pull I found out the entire area was closed for repair of the structure for erosion control.
After exploring Franconia area for the day I had planned to have my dinner before sunset on the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112). It was awesome people watching for a few hours before sunset, with many people asking me about my camera and GoPro that was shooting a time lapse of sunset. Nature has a way to show us it's beauty, just don't miss it when she does.
I met a couple from Canada traveling the east coast of the United States with their RV. They had told me about a forest fire that was going on in the Lost River Gorge area, the same area I was planning on camping in that night. I made quick arrangements to stay at Lafayette Campground to make sure I had a place to camp for the night. However I was intrigued by the forest fire and wanted to check it out so I drove over along Route 112. As it was getting darker and darker I could start to see the flames over the mountain top, but never expected what I saw when I came around the bend. The entire mountain side was on fire, bigger spots of dancing flames and smaller embers still glowing throughout. Words can not describe it... just look below.
The next morning I woke up and made some hard boiled eggs and coffee for breakfast. I headed out towards Omni Mt. Washington Resort to try and get a photo of Mt. Washington with snow on it but it was too cloudy. I continued driving along Route 302 for a while when I finally found my first hints of fall foliage of my entire trip. Then it just got better as I traveled through Gorham to Pinkham Notch Visitor center and Glen Ellis Falls along Route 16. Again, words can not describe the colors and places I visited, just take a look at them all below.
After spending six days traveling throughout Vermont and New Hampshire my last stop would be along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee at my neice Katie's lake house. (Okay her parents, my cousin Kevin and wife Tasha own it, but we really know who rules it!)
During the next three days I was able to relax with some reading, writing, good beers, great conversation and beating my cousin Kevin in some Ping Pong (he won't like I said that here) It was great spending time with the three of them, thank you for the great hospitality!
Throughout my trip, from social media postings to text messages to even after I have returned people have said how amazing a trip looked and how they wished they could do that. Well I want to let you in on a secret... you can and SHOULD! Life is too short to not be exploring the world around us. It does not have to be a epic expedition to Africa to be an explorer, just get out there and I promise you will never regret it.
Until my next adventure...