Twilight on the river

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.

Rowing the Connecticut

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.

Continue reading “Rowing the Connecticut”

Just around the river bend…

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…”

6 days, 6 hikes

Dave on Mount Willard
Summit of Mt. Willard, in Crawford Notch

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!

Tunnel Brook Ravine

For nearly thirty years I’ve wanted to climb Moosilauke via Tunnel Brook Ravine, a classic bushwhacking route through a deep ravine on the west side of the mountain. I have fond memories of a solo bushwhack up Gorge Brook, past Last Water and the Pleiades, following the brook until it petered out and I was crashing through krummholz. As I sat on the summit, surprisingly alone on a sunny summer weekend afternoon, I watched with curiosity as a single hiker strode up the west slope of the summit cone, crossing the fragile alpine vegetation as if he was unaware of any trail.  It turned out to be my Dartmouth classmate Alex, who had just bushwhacked up Tunnel Brook Ravine.

So last Sunday I set out with Lelia, another Dartmouth classmate, to try this legendary route.  Continue reading “Tunnel Brook Ravine”

Weekend in Montréal

Andy poses at Notre Dame Basilica

The kids were on spring break, and John was touring with the Footnotes in France, so we decided to take a long weekend.  Weeks earlier, we had selected the weekend and were planning to spend it in Boston, but on Friday morning the news of the manhunt in Boston made it clear this was not the weekend for a visit. [Indeed, we later heard that the city went into ‘lockdown’ all day Friday, at the request of the Governor.] So we drove the opposite direction, to Montréal, for our own little taste of France.

Wonderful decision. Montréal is a beautiful city, and despite the windy gray weather (and a few snow flurries) we had a nice time. We stayed in the neighborhood known as Vieux Montréal, with cobblestone streets and old buildings, part of the original city enclosed by fortress walls. We were two blocks from Notre Dame Basilica, and two blocks from the St Lawrence River. Because of the chilly weather, we sought out indoor activities.  We explored a series of simulated ecosystems at the Biodome, including a tropical forest then a series of temperate and arctic settings. We explored the underground city for a little shopping, and checked out some stunning pieces at the Museum of Contemporary Art. And, my favorite part, we took in some excellent French cuisine and Indian food.

I took just a few photos.

Cherry blossoms in Washington

I was fortunate enough to be in Washington DC last weekend, for a meeting at NSF.  I have always heard about the beautiful cherry-blossom season, those magical few days in April when all of the cherry trees blossom together in an incredible display. On Sunday, a beautiful afternoon, I drove downtown, thinking that it would be easy to park somewhere and walk around the National Mall.  Hah!  With over a million visitors each year, the Cherry Blossom Festival is very crowded.  I did manage to find parking near the Capitol and photographed some beautiful tulip trees.

I returned by metro on Monday afternoon, another day with beautiful spring weather.  I headed straight for the Tidal Basin, a lake anchored by the Jefferson Memorial on one side and the National Mall on the other.  The cherry blossoms were at their peak, with hundreds of families and office workers and tourists strolling underneath. Absolutely perfect weather, perfect trees. I’m so glad I finally got to see it.  Check out the photos.

photo of Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial
Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial

Moosilauke under a brilliant blue sky

When I was climbing Moosilauke on a steamy summer day last year, I tried to estimate how many times I’ve been up this mountain since my first climb in September 1982. I’m sure I’ve climbed it more than 50 times.  Certainly once a year and usually twice a year, once in winter and once in summer or fall. It never gets boring or old, because I see something new on every trip, enjoy conversation with friends old and new, and enjoy seeing how the mountain and the view will appear in today’s weather. Winter weather is often most exciting; I’ve been on the summit in 50mph horizontal snowstorms with rime ice building up on my balaclava and in which I wasn’t sure whether I could find my way back to the trail.  Today was not one of those days.

Approaching the main summit, from the ridge.

Continue reading “Moosilauke under a brilliant blue sky”

Jekyll Island, Georgia

I had the good fortune of attending a conference and meeting at the historic Jekyll Island Club on Jekyll Island, a barrier island on the coast of Georgia.  It is rich with history and wildlife, has a beautiful beach, and a wonderfully preserved set of historic mansions. Cool tidbit: this is the site of the first transcontinental phone call.

Jekyll Island Club, and croquet pitch

Osprey landing on its nestCheck out my favorite photos, all shot on Thursday, except for the first shot of the clubhouse itself.  Perhaps my favorite shot is of the osprey landing on its nest, at right.

Farewell, Costa Rica

Although our departure from Costa Rica was not until noon on Saturday, I decided it was risky to make the 3-hour drive from Monteverde to the airport on Saturday morning itself.  There are few roads from Monteverde, all dirt, and only one that is realistically passable. (On our trip in 2004 we took a back road down from Monteverde and it was an unbelievably hairy trip.) Any sort of snag or snafu could happen to the road or the vehicle. So we called up Sergio and scheduled a return taxi for Friday afternoon. That left just the morning to capture one last exploration of Monteverde.

Panorama of the riding trip
Black Guan, high in the canopy

Kathy had also won – at the Friends School fundraising auction – a horseback-riding tour for two. So Pam, Mara and John headed off with Jim and Laurie and their two girls for a horseback outing through the pastural hills on the west side of Santa Elena, while Andy and I walked back to Bajo del Tigre in hopes that we might visit those trails again, this time in the daylight. It was another beautiful sunny day, and we had kilometers of trail all to ourselves. We followed the numbered self-guided nature trail, with the guidebook explaining the plant and animal life, history, and ecology of this non-profit forest reserve originally founded by Swedish schoolchildren (really!).  Andy’s good eyes spotted a pair of black guan, huge turkey-sized birds up in the canopy.

Our final Monteverde meal (thanks Laurie!) was beans and rice and fresh salad, wonderful with the Costa Rican Lizano salsa that makes everything taste good – meant the end of a fantastic few days at Casa Hooke and with the our newfound friends, aka Jim & Laurie and their daughters. After a few fond farewells we were off again with Sergio, this time to be guided by his son Ricardo. There was a delay because the main road out this direction was being re-graded, and a couple of hours later another delay because the coastal highway was in use for a women’s bicycle race (circumnavigating Costa Rica). These are the kind of unexpected delays that triggered my instinct to move us close to the airport a day early.

Chapel on the central park in Alajuela

We arrived in Alajuela, a small city next to the San Jose airport, about an hour before sunset, and quickly headed out to explore. The central park was only two blocks from the hotel, and was bustling with people relaxing on this late Friday afternoon. Next to the square was a large Catholic church, preparing for Friday mass. Just down the road was the central market, a large indoor series of stalls selling everything from meat and fish to vegetables and herbal remedies to cell-phone accessories. I always feel these markets are a great place to get a sense of the local culture. This one was busy with customers on their way home from work, buying the necessities for a weekend with family. As the sun set, the market and most other shops started closing, rattling their heavy-duty gates into place. Even our hotel had such a gate across the entrance at all times, making me a bit uneasy about the nature of this town after dark. We found a friendly Tex-mex restaurant nearby and settled in for chimichanga and nachos.

Overall, it was a great week. Costa Rica is a beautiful place filled with friendly people. We learned a little about a tropical ecosystem, sustainable farming, chocolate production, and a different culture; we spent time with old friends and made new friends; we got sunburned and ate good food; and we had a lot of fun.

See all three photo galleries.