Fall in the White Mountains
The goal of this project was to explore the White Mountain National Forest in a wide variety of ways during the Fall Season. I wanted to try to capture the beauty of these mountains during this season in hopes of inspiring others to seek out these places that are so moving for me, and to inspire them to protect it for generations to come. I was able to explore many different areas and sections of these mountains, including well known areas like Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch State Parks, as well as some of the more remote sections in and around the Pliny Range. A film was made, documenting the special places and moments that can be found in these mountains, as well as a collection of images and words.
As the month of September began, I started to think about the places, people, and things that are important to me. I knew that one of the most beautiful times of year in the place that I love and call home, was about to begin and I wanted to do something about it. I decided that I would embark on a project that involved exploring as much of this National Forest as I possibly could, during the Fall season. I wanted to explore the busy, most popular locations such as the Notches, Mount Washington, and Lincoln, NH. I also wanted to explore spots that don't get as much attention, but are every bit as beautiful. It was also important to me to explore these places at different times, in different lights, and in different conditions. I think it does these wild places an injustice when we explore them once, in one way, and move on as if we know and have experienced everything there is to know and experience with that place.
First, I joined together with one of my closest friends and a new friend to me. We hiked Mount Carrigain, a location that we've both been to before but have wanted to see again because of how amazing it is. These mountains bring people together in ways we can't even imagine, and it was amazing to experience this place with new and old friends alike.
Crawford Notch was beginning to explode with color. Crawford Notch is known for it's birch forests during peak foliage season, leaving the valley blanketed with beautiful golden yellows that turn to red late in the season. I was able to explore the Ammunoosuc River early in the season, and then jump into the heart of Crawford Notch State Park at the beginning of peak foliage season. One of the more memorable parts of this season was the conditions I got at Saco Lake, with calm waters giving a beautiful foliage reflection on the lake.
When people visit the White Mountains, they don't often travel to the northern parts of these mountains or the towns north of the mountains themselves. I was able to catch a quick sunrise in Lancaster, NH one morning during early season foliage and it was a spectacular moment. There are a lot of beautiful spots in these northern NH towns and they are often overlooked by visitors.
During the first weekend of peak foliage, I was joined with a good friend for an entire weekend of White Mountain exploration. One thing I had been planning for awhile was to hike up Middle Sugarloaf Mountain for sunrise during peak foliage. This is a unique summit, which is less than 4000 feet up, and consists of a large set of ledges overlooking on forests and forests of birch and maple trees. It was incredibly magical to be looking down on such beautiful forests. It was quite a cold, crisp morning but sometimes those mornings are the best! We then descended that mountain, drove straight to the Ammunoosuc Ravine Trailhead, and started ascending the tallest mountain in New Hamphsire, Mount Washington. It was truly an incredible day on the summit. A once in a few times a year kind of day on Mount Washington and you could feel it. You could feel the excitement and gratitude in all those that chose to hike up to the summit on that day. Sunday was a rainy day, but I've learned that the White Mountains are worth it even in the rain. I was able to witness the Notch Train making its way north and then back down south to North Conway on the Conway Scenic Railroad.
I spent some time on the north end of Crawford Notch shooting a timelapse of the faint stars and was able to catch a near full moon night and do some much needed thinking out in the wild.
Then the next two weeks I transitioned to Franconia Notch, where the foliage was going crazy. It was all kinds of beautiful. Looking at these places, I could see why Fall in these mountains is one of the most beautiful things in the world. I spent an eveing exploring echo lake. The following day, I hiked the popular Franconia Ridge Loop early in the morning with two good friends. It was a socked in morning on the ridge but we were treated to all kinds of foliage views as we made our way down Greenleaf Trail and Old Bridle Path. To our surprise, the Greenleaf hut was still open for the season! The following day, I woke early and climbed up the Hi-Cannon Trail in Franconia Notch to shoot a timelapse on a ledge that looks out over Lonesome Lake, a spot I have been to so many times but never saw from above. It was an incredible morning to say the least. I couldn't believe how beautiful this spot was, as the lake went in and out of the fog that was blowing off of Mount Moosilauke and the Kinsmans. I also loved seeing the golden Eastern Larches that painted the water's edge from above.
As fall was seemingly coming to an end, the summits started to get snow for the first time! I connected with a friend and we made one last push to seek out a grand adventure late in the season. We drove on Mill Brook Road to the Unknown Pond Trailhead. Instantly, I became aware of how remote and beautiful this spot was. We hiked up and into Unknown Pond, before continuing on to tag the summit of Mount Cabot. We saw an incredible early winter sunrise on the Horn, before descending back down to the pond. We cooked dinner there, while zipping ourselves into our sleeping bags. As I shot a timelapse on the water's edge, we talked and shared stories for the better part of two hours. You can explore and witness as many beautiful things as you desire in these mountains, but sometimes there is nothing better than spending quality time enjoying those moments with others. The next day I woke early and did a classic White Mountain hike of Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower, and was able to capture some contrasting foliage and snow images on the way to and from the mountains. I was also able to capture one of many chimneys that have now been turned on, as a foreshadow of what's to come!
These mountains aren't often talked about as some of the most incredible wild places in the country and in the world, but the folks out in the Northeast know that it is special. We know the beauty that lies here, and we spend our lives exploring it and protecting it for generations to come.