On the Charles River in Boston on a cool summer night listening to the Boston Pops as they rehearse for their July 4th performance.
I had the opportunity to hike the Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire recently. The 8.8 mile trail that we tackled started in the Lafayette Place parking lot in the Franconia Notch. It took us up from the valley to the ridge and the mountain tops and back in a loop. If you do this loop in a counter-clockwise direction, you climb up to the ridge using the aptly named Falling Waters trail. You break out of the forest near the end of this trail at Little Haystack Mountain. You then take the Appalachian Trail (AT) along the ridge for a while, proceeding to Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette. This part of the hike is completely above the tree level and feels very different from the climb and the descent which are through the woods. At Mt. Lafayette, you descend the mountain to the Greenleaf Hut following the Greenleaf Hut trail. At this point one takes the Old Bridle Path trail back to the parking lot.
This is an amazing hike. It is quite challenging with the steep slopes and the rough terrain, and it takes a good part of the day to complete the hike. You have to be well prepared, and the hiking conditions also change with the seasons. We did encounter a little bit of snow on the trail even in May. If the weather is bad, and I have heard that it can turn bad in a hurry even on a good day, you will be completely exposed to the elements as you walk along the ridge.
I took at lot of pictures during the hike, but the ones I have been coming back to look at most often on my computer are the ones taken along the ridge. Because it is quite open out there above the treeline, you get a good lesson on visual perspectives. I have pictures of certain sections of the trail taken at different times and from different distances. When you look at something from a certain distance you get a certain picture in your mind of how the terrain might be and of the distances you will be covering, but as you get closer you may realize that the picture did not accurately represent reality. Often times, you do not even realize the size of what you are up against until to get close to the object. Here are a series of pictures focusing on the slope leading up to the top of Mt. Lafayette. (In viewing these pictures I found that I could use the size of the patch of snow on the side of Mt. Lafayette as a reference of some sort.)
The first three pictures were taken from Mt. Lincoln by zooming in with the camera.
The next three pictures were most likely taken from the small crest in the ridge closest to Mt. Lafayette. You can see this crest in the first and second pictures in the series of the three pictures above.
Here are a couple of pictures that I think help with providing a better perspective of the vastness of the space that one is dealing with, especially because people are present in the pictures.
The first picture below may make you think you are actually walking along a narrow edge for this section of the trail, but the picture below it clarifies that the edge is really not that narrow after all. In fact, as you walk along the ridge you do not get the sense of this being a risky endeavor, a perspective that could prove to be incorrect and quite dangerous on a windy day.
When you get up to the ridge at Little Haystack and look north along the trail you see Mt. Lincoln in front of you. Mt. Lafayette is hidden behind Mt. Lincoln even though it is the taller of the two mountains. If you were unfamiliar with the territory you would not know which mountain you were looking at and heading towards. Some people may not realize until they get to the top of Mt. Lincoln that there was still more ground to be covered to get to the last stop along the ridge. It is all a matter of the visual perspective. Here is a picture that provides a little bit of that perspective.
I think it is actually quite difficult for a person who is only looking at pictures to truly grasp what one is dealing with in reality. You will appreciate the real challenge you are up against only while you are in that space. You might try to capture the nature of that space with a series of pictures, but that is not the same thing as being in that space.
Here is a picture of the Franconia Ridge taken on the way down the mountain. (Click through to see the picture in its full size.) At this point we still had a long way to go to get back to the parking lot from where we had started the hike. The Old Bridle Path trail from the Greenleaf hut descends along the ridges of the hills to the left of the picture. The three peaks that dominate the picture are Mt. Lafayette (5249 ft), Mt. Lincoln (5089 ft), and Little Haystack (4760 ft). We walked the ridge from Little Haystack to Lafayette, a distance of about 1.7 miles.
If you are interested in viewing more pictures of the hike, follow this link.
It was the second day of our visit to the Great Smoky Mountains. We had just completed a hike that turned out to be more strenuous than expected. The hike had started at the old and abandoned town of Elkmont, and we had followed The Little River trail upstream to its intersection with the Huskey Gap Trail. On our way back we decided to take the detour via The Cucumber Gap Trail to make our walk a “loop”. This trail turned out to have some unexpected challenges. There was a steady climb during the first part of the trail that did not seem to end, and we had to also deal with a somewhat challenging crossing of the Husky Branch stream along the way.
In any case, we arrived back at Elkmont a little later than expected experiencing some hunger pangs, both due to the nature of the workout that we had gotten that morning, and because we had completed the hike somewhat later than originally expected. It was well past lunch time. In spite of the urge to gobble up some food immediately, we decided to find a place on the road to Cades Cove, beside the river, for lunch. It was a beautiful day and the crowds had yet to arrive in large volumes in this part of the park. We easily found a place beside the road to park our car, and then step down to the river side to have our lunch.
The orange Eastern Comma butterfly caught my eye immediately as I navigated the slope from the road to the river. Butterflies had been rare up to this point during the trip and this one was also colorful. (It made sense that butterflies were scarce since it was still early in Spring.) As the others climbed down to the rocks to a spot beside the river to enjoy their lunch, I paused. I got some pictures as the butterfly flitted around and paused for an instant or two to rest on some surface or other. I followed its flight carefully.
Eventually the butterfly got attracted by the track suit I was wearing. Perhaps it was the color and sheen of the fabric. It parked itself on my blue pants while I attempted, unsuccessfully, to try to take its picture. I even changed lenses, but I was having difficulty focusing on the butterfly at this short distance while zooming in on it. The butterfly hung around on my track suit through all my attempts at picture-taking. It would take flight every once in a while, but then it would return to me.
I finally gave up and climbed down the rocks to join the others who were enjoying their lunch and grabbed a sandwich for myself.
As I savored my tuna salad sandwich (that tasted quite delicious especially after the extensive activities of the morning), the butterfly settled on one of the backpacks that we were carrying.
We enjoyed our lunch on the banks of the Little River in peace, to the unending, calming, roar of the waters slamming on to the rocks, surrounded by the beauty of nature, and with the little butterfly hanging out with us. I wished the moment could go on forever…
As we were relaxing and enjoying ourselves, I observed a little bird flying from tree to tree on the other side of the river, stopping occasionally to take a look at the people beside the river. Wonder what was going on in its little brain?
Many of you know that we visited The Great Smoky National Park in Tennessee during the week of March 15th. It was a great all-around experience for the family. It was the time for us to get away to spend some “quality” time all together in a quiet place. The girls came home from college for this trip. The only real activity planned was to hike the trails of the park together, keeping to ourselves in general.
We walked the pathways in three different parts of the park over a period of three days. The weather stayed good for all of these hikes, and it rained only on the day we were returning. The three hikes were in three different kinds of settings, with three somewhat different types of terrain encountered, and natural surroundings experienced. All of the hikes were challenging, with an approximately 2300 foot climb straight up a mountainside to a waterfall called Ramsey Cascades capping our efforts on the last day. Awesome! Pictures of the hikes will appear online at Pbase more slowly, and I may even write more about our outdoor experiences on this blog site, but this posting is primarily about what I was able to see from the place that we stayed at for four nights in the town of Gatlinburg.
Here is an excerpt from the review I wrote for the benefit of the owners of the place we stayed at:
“This condo, located on top of a hill, and facing downtown Gatlinburg and the ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance, was a great find for us. It is a quiet location from which you can sit by the window, or lounge on the balcony, and meditate over nature and its different moods from the comfort of your home. You have an unobstructed view of an expansive scenery laid out in front of you. Imagine yourself sitting beside the window quietly reading a book. Having some interest in photography, I got some wonderful shots under wildly varying conditions – day and night, morning and evening, cloudy and sunny. Just a note that in order to enjoy this wonderful experience, you will have to drive up and down some winding mountain roads with plenty of hairpin bends and steep slopes. It will not bother you if you have a sense of adventure. It could be a little nerve-racking the first time, but you do get used to it. (Plenty of people live in these hills!)”
All I am going to do in this post is show you some of the pictures I took from the place that we stayed at. (Click through the pictures to view them in their full size.) I will be posting more pictures at Pbase.