Partial Pemi Loop, NH

Here are some photographs from a partial Pemigewasset Loop that my wife and I hiked this 7-8 August.
We hiked the loop in a counter-clockwise direction from Lincoln Woods trailhead, over Bondcliff, Mt. Bond,
Mt. Guyot, South Twin Mtn, Garfield, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, and exiting
down Falling Waters Trail from Little Haystack Mountain.
25 miles, 17 Hours in two days.

The first (roughly) 10km is pretty flat, on an old rail bed, and after a long but easy vertical kilometer, you emerge onto Bondcliff, In my head, I think of them as the Bond Cliffs, as they are on the shoulder of Mt. Bond, and therefore, I anthropomorphically ascribe ownership
of the cliffs to the body of Mt. Bond…in any case, here’s my wife in the classic cliche Bondcliff shot, but it’s an amazing spot everytime I go to it.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

View from the Bondcliff "plank" ; from the hiker's perspective, it's not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there's a part of the brain that doesn't really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall...

View from the Bondcliff “plank” ; from the hiker’s perspective, it’s not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there’s a part of the brain that doesn’t really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall…

From Bondcliff, its uphill to Mt. Bond (elev 1,432 m), and then to Mt. Guyot (1,396 m), and then a 3 km walk through the woods to South Twin Mountain (1,494 m). From there, its a short but STEEP downhill to Galehead Hut, and then a slow but steady and then steep climb to Mt. Garfield (1,372 m). At the summit of Mt. Garfield there are panoramic views from an old fire tower’s foundation (from WhiteMountainHistory.org)

The 1938 Hurricane blew down thousands of acres of forest and many sections of the White Mountain National Forest were closed to public use because of the high fire hazard. Several new lookouts, guard stations, trails and roads were constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) at this time. The concrete foundation of the lookout on the summit of Mount Garfield is a stark reminder of that period. (Incidentally the outhouse for the Garfield Lookout is still standing and is a short distance north of the summit hidden by balsam fir trees. )

View of Owl's Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

View of Owl’s Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

From here, it was several kilometers unti the summit of Mt Lafayette (1,603.2 m) became visible.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

Stunning views from the summit:

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

And then, a down and up to Mt. Lincoln before a final descent/ascent to Little Haystack:

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

All in all, a great hike in perfect weather conditions over two days — a rarity in the White Mountains!

Iceland, Post #1

I just returned from my first ever visit to Iceland, a trip I’ve been wanting to take for many years. I had a mixed mission to photograph and run up as many mountains & volcanoes as possible. But, alas, the weather conspired to make real running problematic at best. A day or two prior to my arrival, a blizzard deposited a snow all over the mountains and backroads of southern Iceland, making travel to trailheads via ordinary 4wd not possible.

Of course, if you had one of these, you’d be all set:

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

As it was, I had to drive 25 km on supposed main roads to get to the cottage I rented, and the wind had already begun drifting over sections of the road. When I took the side “road” to the cottage, I got stuck off the road, and had to dig out the snow from under the truck with my mittened hands. Finally I made it to the “R50″ cottage (just a name, not an insulation value)—it had a nice view of Hekla:

This is the little cottage "R50" that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It's super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

This is the little cottage “R50″ that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It’s super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

The hill on the left looks to be the same height as Hekla, but it’s not; as you can see in the view from a different vantage point:

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)---it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn't even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)—it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn’t even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

My first day, I went for a nice 12km run to explore the first hill; it was obvious that running shoes would be iffy at best due to the ice, snow and steepness as one approached the summit, so I resolved to come back in a day or two with my crampons and ice axe. More about that in another post.

On my second day, I ended up having the good fortune to have picked up two hitchhikers from Reykjavik University—they were headed to Seljavallalaug — a small pool built into the mountainside of the mountains by Eyjafjallajökull (that’s the volcano that erupted in 2010), a fifteen-minute walk (over rocky streams and under basalt turrets) off the end of road 242. I’d have not found this pool if they had not been hitching a ride when I drove by. Here’s the pool:

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920's. I gave a couple of hitchhiking  students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920’s. I gave a couple of hitchhiking students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

and here’s a picture of steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside:

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

On the way back to the “ring road” (rt. 1), I came by this house, and made my favorite image of my trip (click any image to view it larger):

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

A few things I’ve learned about traveling to Iceland: (1) if you come in March or April, bring SkiMo gear (this is an awesome place to ski tour, and sometimes, the only way to cover the distances over snow needed to reach trailheads, (2) don’t even think about seeing the whole island in a week. You need time, and the weather may not always cooperate, (3) Iceland’s weather is like that in the mountains of New Hampshire or Maine, it can be very windy and significantly colder than at the lower elevations.

More in my next post.

Tunk Mountain Trail, Maine

Tunk Mountain Trail, T10 SD


It’s been an unusually warm fall and winter in Maine, as evidenced by above freezing temperatures on January 1, 2012 when I went on a short 7.5km hike (round trip) with my 6 and 10 year old daughters. We hiked up Tunk Mountain, which has a fabulous view of the surrounding terrain. Tunk Mountain is just outside Franklin, ME, but is in T10 SD (I think that’s Maine speak for Township 10 South Division). There are few enough people living here that it’s apparently not worth forming a proper town.

Click on the image for a full size view.

Black Mountain, Maine

Tunk Lake from Black Mountain

Tunk Lake, ME from slope of Black Mountain

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted due to having moved the family and set up a new house, but I’ve still managed to shoot a fair amount—however, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. I’m starting to get caught up with work and now that we’re all just about settled in, and I hope to post more regularly.

So, in the spirit of getting started again, here’s an image from my new favorite hike in downeast Maine—Black Mountain. Most people that hike in the area (just north of Ellsworth) go to Schoodic Mountain, and I’ve hiked it many times. But, it’s a little disappointing to have radio towers on the summit. Black Mountain doesn’t have this problem, and I rarely see many people hiking on in. It has an extended region with sweeping views extending from Mount Desert Island to the mountains of Western Maine. The photograph above is from an overlook toward Tunk Lake, and the photograph below, of the granite close to the summit of Black Mountain.

Granite and Lichens, Black Mountain, ME

Texture, Gesture, & Visual Thinking

Texture and Gesture, Wolf Neck Woods, Freeport, ME

J. S. Bach composed 6 little “praeludiums” (which I assume means “little preludes”) which I just love to play. The other day, I was playing one of my favorite ones in c minor (BWV 934) and had the wonderful experience of observing myself playing the piece (the same observer that watches one’s thoughts when sitting in meditation) and simultaneously (another observer?) experiencing the walking bass melody in visual terms. While playing, it was as if I was seeing the bass line bounce up and down harmonic hills. The odd and utterly amazing thing is experiencing all this while simultaneously playing the piece. Who is playing anyway?

More recently, Saturday evening I took a walk in Wolf Neck woods in Freeport, ME after a long week working on preparing for my fall semester. I then had a parallel experience of watching myself looking at things photographically. There is a definite visual dialog I have with myself. I have this running silent conversation as I frame and make an image.

I found that tonight,  my process was an initial visual attraction that would make me stop. Then I start framing an image. Why did I stop here? What’s the dominant theme here? How does this look? No, a little this way…look at the edges of the image..distracting element…reframe. And so on…sometimes this internal process would go on for quite some time. And it’s enjoyable to me. It’s fun to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings while making images.

Sometimes the dialog is short. See something, stop frame. Done. The above image is an example of this. I was immediately arrested by the gesture, and not until I opened up the image did I notice how important the texture of the image. If we’re good photographers, we’re thinking visually like this all the time. And this visual thinking is very much like the musical thinking I started off describing at the beginning of this post.

 

 

Isle Au Haut, Maine #1

Recently, my wife and I spent a day (sans children) hiking on Isle Au Haut, a 10 km ferry ride from Stonington, ME. Isle Au Haut has about 45 year-round residents, and much of the island is part of Acadia National Park. Due to it’s remoteness, it’s the least visited part of Acadia (actually, I don’t have any data on that, but I’d bet you a nickel it’s true). There are only two rangers on the island and part of their job (aside from being incredibly friendly and knowledgeable) is to make sure everyone that entered the park in the morning leaves at the end of the day on the last ferry.

This will be the first of several posts on the trip, and I’ll include a photo or two with each post.

Today’s photos, the ferns (A) and the beach rocks (B), are taken at Duck Harbor (southwestern part of the island), and Squeaker Cove, respectively.

Duck harbor was where I first noticed that Isle Au Haut has some of the largest uninterupted fields (except for large boulders and occasional trees) that I have ever seen. These fields are so densely packed with ferns (I believe in this case, hay-scented ferns) that they seem to have crowded out many other species of plants. The visual effect is amazing, and the soft overcast light made photographing the fields quite pleasingly simple.

After a short hike up and over Duck Harbor Mountain, we arrived at Squeaker Cove. Beautiful smooth granite stones line the beach, which inevitably prompts people to create little cairn scultpures, many of which you can see here.

Incidently, when we arrived at the next beach at Deep Cove, which is populated by similarly smooth granite stones, my wife stepped in such a way that two of the polished stones slid against each other and produced a noise we both spontaneously described as a squeak, hence our theory that this is behind the naming of Squeaker Cove.

I have no idea if this theory has any truth to it, but it’s a good sounding theory. So there.

I hope you enjoy the images. More about hiking on the island in the next post.