I missed the first snowfall of the season. I left town on Tuesday night for a business trip to Chicago, and missed the 2″ snowfall that arrived on Wednesday morning. So today, back at home and waking to a brilliant blue-sky day, I was eager to get outdoors. Most of the snow had melted close to home, but we chose a short hike along the Appalachian Trail to the top of Holts Ledge – home of the Dartmouth Skiway. (Things looked very different when I visited seven weeks ago!) We didn’t have to climb far before reaching an elevation with consistent snowcover. It was shallow, and crunchy from several melt-freeze cycles, but it was a wonderful taste of the winter hikes to come!
We paused at the top to enjoy the southward views across the Upper Valley and toward Mounts Cardigan and Ascutney. We then strolled over to view the activity at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway, chatting with two fellows who were tinkering with the snowmaking equipment. Only three weeks to opening day!
Halfway down the Appalachian Trail we encountered one of those wondrous effects to be seen this time of year: needle ice, where some mud froze, causing the expanding ice to crystallize and push the mud upward into the air.
A gorgeous late-autumn hike to my favorite mountain.
There are days when it becomes essential to set aside the to-do list and head outside, and today was one of them: an unusually warm and sunny day for the end of October, an opportunity to climb (again) my favorite mountain, Mount Moosilauke, via an atypical route.
When I first moved to this region it was generally understood that gardeners should put their garden to bed for the winter around Labor Day, because one could expect a frost to kill off any remaining vegetables soon afterward. As four decades have passed, I’ve noticed the frost arriving later and later. This year, we didn’t even have a hint of frost until mid-October. Today was the first true frost, with the leaf-covered lawns thoroughly tinged with gray, and where one’s fingernail could scratch patterns in frost-covered railings or other wooden surfaces. The good news, at least, is that clear skies bring us warm sunny afternoons as well as frosty mornings!
This time of year, my head turns south… as the peak of fall foliage passes southward past our home, I look to the south for opportunities to hike. Today, I headed to Mount Sunapee state park. Although I’ve climbed Mount Sunapee before – sometimes in winter, when its summit is busy with skiers enjoying Sunapee ski area – today I decided to try a different trail, following the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway trail from the western side. Although this route offers no views until the summit, the trail passes through hardwood forests that were at their absolute peak of color today. Enjoy the photo gallery! Here’s one teaser below – and a video that may give you a sense of what it was like.
I set out to do landscape photographs, but put it aside when I saw these two beauties.
Autumn is advancing quickly here in New Hampshire. Last weekend, I shared photos from a trail walk on the west side of Mount Moosilauke, where the fall foliage was accenting the beautiful cascades of Slide Brook. This weekend I had another occasion to head toward Moosilauke, so I brought my camera and stopped wherever the roadside foliage seemed photo-worthy. More trees were bare this week, but many colors were just as vibrant.
I pulled into the boat ramp at Lake Tarleton, thinking I might catch some nice views across the lake to the colorful hillside on the opposite side. As I stood on shore and surveyed the scene, my eyes popped when I spotted this lovely pair of mature bald eagles perched high on a snag overlooking the entire lake.
I spent nearly an hour here, exploring the shoreline for a better angle. The eagles sat quietly – except for one or two brief calls.
I experimented with some landscape photographs, went back to the eagles… then some more landscape, and back to the eagles. They were content on their perch, and remained there after I left. Beautiful scene!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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: