Slide Brook

Fall foliage at its peak.

Fall foliage has hit its peak color in many parts of the Upper Valley. I had limited time to get out into the woods this weekend, but had the opportunity to join some friends on a walk up the first mile of the Tunnel Brook Trail on the southwest side of Mount Moosilauke. Despite their hundreds of visits to Moosilauke over nearly four decades, they had never been on this trail – and I’d been here only once. Today, its trees were at the peak colors of leaf season… with beeches, birches, and maples reaching prime color and dusting the forest floor with colorful leaves. The trail follows Slide Brook as it cascades over the ancient, moss-covered rocks of Mount Moosilauke, so I stopped often to set up my tripod for long-exposure photographs. I’ve selected four for the gallery.

Autumn colors on Slide Brook, Mount Moosilauke.

I am pleased – but in retrospect, have ideas about how I could have done better with exposure, composition, and editing. I’ll just need to go back!

Hunter’s moon

Full moon and fall foliage.

I was out at sunset tonight, driving some of the back roads of Hanover and Lyme, New Hampshire… just to see what I might encounter. Many of the trees are at their peak fall color, and I thought I might find some interesting scenes during the late-afternoon glow. I headed out too late, though, and the sun had set on the interesting locations… but as I rolled along a dirt road I suddenly pulled to a stop when a huge yellow moon appeared over a grassy meadow.

I waded into the grass and attempted to capture the incredible beauty of this moment… but my photos can’t even come close. The chill of the fall evening was settling in fast, the fall foliage retained a bit of post-sunshine glow, the moon seemed extra-large, and the sky had that deep blue only possible at twilight. I had no tripod along, but managed some hand-held photos.

As a photographer the challenge was clear: my eyes have much greater dynamic range than the camera can capture. I was able to see and enjoy the colors of the fall foliage and the detail in the moon – but the camera could only expose properly for the foliage or the moon. I bracketed the exposure in hopes of an HDR merge later, at home… but I’m still learning the Canon R5 and bracketed via ISO and, duh, that was pointless. (The HDR photos were full of noise.)

I hopped back in the car and headed further along the dirt road, deeper into the forest, deeper into the night. Again I encountered something worthy of a sudden stop … a beautiful barred owl, perched perfectly on a branch beside the road. I could not wish for a better photographic pose… except that it was now so dark (even with my high beams focused on it) that every photo I took was more noise than owl. Someday… some day I will capture good photos of an owl!

Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the full moon. Technically, the full moon occurs tomorrow afternoon (around 4pm EDT on 9 October)… so we’ll have two nights of a moon that appears full.

Holts Ledge – fall colors

Leaf season is here.

I’ve been meaning to get out hiking, in the high mountains to the north – knowing that the fall colors will arrive several weeks sooner there than here. But somehow the colors snuck up faster than I expected. I went today for one of my favorite nearby hikes – to the top of Holts Ledge, the cliff-faced ridgeline on which the Dartmouth Skiway sits. The Applachian Trail rambles over this hilltop, brushing the tops of the cliffs and providing fantastic views to the south and east.

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Curious beaver

I first spotted the beaver by his wake – gliding smoothly out from shore, just downstream of the dock. I placed my rowing shell gently into the water, keeping one eye on my busy downstream neighbor. He arched his back, slapped his tail loudly, and dove… only to emerge a few seconds later, a few meters away. I sat still, and watched. He looked at me. I looked at him. He paddled along, zig-zagging upstream ever closer to me, clearly curious to see who (or what) I was, and what I might be up to. My fingers itched for my smartphone – only 10 meters away, on shore where I’d left it – but to stand up and fetch it, I knew, would spoil the moment. The beaver swam ever closer, his eyes on me every moment.

Eventually – for the moment seemed to last, though it was surely only one or two minutes – he pulled alongside the dock, keeping a safe distance of five meters, watching me from the side as he paddled strongly upstream.

Then a sudden SLAP and he dove again. The moment was gone; I readied my shell to row, and he resumed his course across the river.

Beaver near his den, near our home (2017).

It’s moments like these when I wish I had a camera, or even a smartphone. No such luck today! The photo above is from a sequence I shot in 2017.

Today’s beaver may have been the same fellow whose photo I shared in April:

A beaver swims at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

Forty years ago today

I became a member of the Dartmouth family.

Forty years ago today I started classes as a first-year undergraduate student at Dartmouth College. As I headed off to find my Physics, Math, and Geography classes, I surely did not anticipate that I would return, less than a decade later, to join the faculty … or how the years would turn into decades and I would take on increasing responsibilities. It has been truly an honor and a privilege to serve this institution on behalf of current and future students. Read on!

My 1982 Dartmouth ID, which received a new validation sticker each term.
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Moose Mountain

Spontaneous hiking at its best.

I set off for a quick afternoon hike, eager to get outdoors and stretch my legs, but with limited time available. I was driving the back roads through the forested lands on the east side of Hanover, NH, and was surprised to see a trailhead icon appearing on my car’s navigation map. I decided to change plans and investigate this trailhead – one that is relatively new, and certainly new to me. I learned, on arriving at the cheery trailhead kiosk, that it feeds two short trail loops on the western slopes of Moose Mountain – allowing one to enjoy the conservation lands of Mayor-Niles Forest and Britton Forest.

Steep slopes and boulders on the west slope of Moose Mountain
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Laguna Beach

The pounding waves never ceased.

After leaving Anchorage I stopped in San Francisco for a few days of business and alumni events, then hopped down to Laguna Beach, south of Los Angeles, for a retreat with about 50 other provosts. They have a longstanding tradition of hosting this retreat at the Surf & Sand Resort, right on the beach.

Sunset view from Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach.

It’s quite a nice place to visit – when the weather is good. Unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy for most of my visit. And the waves were pounding the shore, and indeed the base of the hotel itself, so hard the building would shake. All day. All night. It was quite impressive – check out the video clips in the gallery, most of them taken from my balcony a few floors above the spot where the waves crashed under the bottom balcony. On the other hand, the surfing community was out in great numbers (video).

The moon was full, which always leads to higher tides. Furthermore, I heard others mention a storm out at sea, which I later learned to be Typhoon Merbok. It was west of Hawaii at the time and then slammed western Alaska a few days later. The satellite imagery is quite impressive – as were the reports of waves exceeding 50 ft.! (I hope the good ship Dreamcatcher and its crew rode out the storm in a safe harbor.)

This post was written a few weeks later and thus benefits from some hindsight reporting, but is backdated to the final date of my visit to Laguna Beach.

Bush pilot’s haircut

I’ve been traveling in Alaska for nearly two weeks and have another week of travel ahead, in California, before I return home. Long overdue for a haircut, I noticed a tiny shop beside the TSA entrance here at Anchorage airport: the Bush Pilots Barbershop. Two older men were seated inside, shooting the breeze, while Fox News blared loudly on the overhead television. Decades of memorabilia were pinned to the walls – photos of a younger barber holding a massive fish (95 pounds), well-fingered maps of Alaska, postcards from bush pilots, stuff animal heads, antlers, and more. What the heck. I’ll go all-in for the Alaska experience. I stepped inside, waited for a break in the conversation, and asked for a haircut.

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Chugach State Park

Many thanks to Steve – a fellow Dartmouth alum and long-time Anchorage resident – who took me along for a hike in Chugach State Park, on the east side of Anchorage.  We climbed up the slopes of O’Malley Peak and into an alpine plain called the “ballfield”, to an overlook of the Williwaw valley.  It was a beautiful day with plentiful sunshine and some clouds passing through the peaks.  Great views, near and far.   More photos in the gallery!

David at the overlook into the Williwaw valley, Chugach State Park, outside Anchorage.
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