I awoke early Sunday morning to an uneven dripping sound on the roof, with the steady burble of Eliza Brook reminding me that we were spending this cool October night in a beautiful new AMC shelter high on the shoulder of the Kinsman Range. The peaks of North and South Kinsman, and Cannon Mountain, form the western wall of Franconia Notch, whose valley would later today be filled bumper-to-bumper with leaf-peeping visitors this Columbus Day weekend. It turns out they would see nothing, while we would spend the day facing spectacular views over their heads. Continue reading “Franconia undercast”
No sign of “my” bald eagle on this morning’s row upriver. Tonight I hopped in my kayak at sunset, armed with a tripod and my camera, and paddled downstream toward the site of last week’s amazing moonrise encounter with the eagle. Within a few moments I could tell I was in luck: the eagle was clearly visible on the same tree. The eagle watched me as I paddled around, seeking the best angle, shooting a hundred photos. Gosh, this bird is big. When I came close, apparently too close, he became nervous and took off for a different roost. In the photos (Smugmug gallery) I can tell that he (she?) is wearing a metal band on the right ankle. I’ll try again in a few days, before sunset, when there is more light.
I rowed upriver in the chilly morning air, the river calm and sprinkled with the first fallen leaves of autumn. As I neared the Grant Brook confluence, where I usually turn around, the Vermont shore began to glow. After my long sweeping turn to point myself homeward, the sun completed its climb over Smarts Mountain in New Hampshire, momentarily blinding me. As I began to row, a solitary figure flapped its way in from the sunrise, following those first sunbeams as they reached the river. My friendly neighborhood bald eagle was back, swooping low over the water, skimming the spot where I had been thirty seconds earlier. He landed powerfully but only momentarily on shore; perhaps he caught his breakfast, as he immediately climbed again, circling over the river and landing in a solitary tree, soaking up the morning sun.
See you again soon, I hope.
Some of my favorite photographs are those shots that I missed.
Earlier this week I walked down to the river just as the sun was setting over the Vermont hills. (In September, early mornings bring dense fog and chilly conditions to the river valley, so it’s better to row at sunset rather than sunrise.) Ahead of me the river was glassy calm, and behind me the last rays of sunlight were turning the New Hampshire hillside golden orange.
On a whim, I pointed my shell downriver, instead of my customary upriver trip. As I began rowing, I could hear the Canada Geese settling into the nearby wetlands for the evening. A large flock had settled in the silty delta of Hewes Brook, to my right. Their noisy efforts to congregate there drew my attention to the east, where the nearly-full moon was rising over the golden hills whence the brook flows. I paused to soak in this scene, while a few late-arriving geese honked their way past the moon and circled down to join their relatives in the marsh. Drifting slowly downriver, a tall snag came into view. Teetering on the leading edge of a tiny islet where the kids once hoped to find buried pirate treasure, this dead pine tree leaned over the geese and the marsh and the moon, hoping to hang on for another year until ice or floodwaters or beavers finally brings it down.
It was then I saw it, shortly after the rosy sunshine had left the snag to join the shadows of the evening. Perched high in the snag, clearly visible and recognizable against the golden backlight of the hills, was the bald eagle – probably the same eagle I had seen across the river a few weeks earlier. Here was an incredible photo, with the majestic eagle boldly visible in the snag that itself framed the rising moon, against a background of golden hills and a foreground of still water with geese and late-summer marsh grasses. If I had only been there 10 minutes earlier, with a camera and a tripod and the sun still on the eagle … but I was not. So my mental camera snapped this shot and I reluctantly rowed onward.
I returned 15 minutes later, heading home, and the eagle was still there, monitoring me and everything else in the growing darkness. I didn’t see my eagle friend during my row last night, where I paused again to watch the full moon rising over the same spot. I’ll hold tight to my mental photograph until I see him again.
Summer is a wonderful time on the river, in part because the lengthy days allow me ample time to get out rowing. I like to row well before breakfast, because the river is as still as glass and there are rarely any other boats. Today, three days after returning from our canoe trip on the upper reaches of the river, I was treated to an unusual abundance of bird life.
That Disney classic song, Just around the river bend, seemed to be stuck in my head as we paddled for four days on the meandering Connecticut River (check out the photos and videos). Continuing what I hope to be a new tradition, begun last year at the spot where the river springs out of the ridgeline forming the New Hampshire–Canada border, Pam and the kids and I put our boats into the river at the very spot we ended our trip last year, and pushed off into the current. Continue reading “Just around the river bend…”
Last summer had a wonderful opportunity to complete 6 hikes in 4 days. I was fortunate again this week to have the same opportunity, completing 6 hikes in 6 days (Sunday through Saturday with a day off on Monday). It was the same time of the summer – the waning days of July and the first of August. The kick-off hike was once again with my friend Lelia, tackling a long hike that I had long desired to try. Last year, it was Mount Ellen, allowing me to complete my 4000′ Vermont mountains. This year, it was Tunnel Brook Ravine, a legendary bushwhack on the backside of Mount Moosilauke. I wrote about that epic trip last week.
After a much-needed rest day on Monday, I headed for Crawford Notch in the White Mountains. As before, I was fortunate to be staying at the Mount Washington Hotel for a few days, which is an excellent base for beautiful hikes both short and long. I revisited two favorites from last year – Mount Willard and the two Sugarloafs – with another friend Jon. For the first time I climbed Mount Martha, which has an astoundingly beautiful view of the Presidential Range. After the meeting concluded on Friday I bopped up Crawford Cliff, dodging a thunderstorm, and on Saturday at home I revisited the local Lyme Pinnacle for a quick overview of the Upper Valley. I snapped a few photos along the way (SmugMug).
Good weather, beautiful mountains, and wonderful friends. A great week!