Monday, October 09, 2006

Fall Foliage

Probably, rather definitely, I would rank this as one of my best sightseeing trips ! We started on I-93 N towards New Hampshire (NH) and were treated to some moderate fall colors on the freeway. NH was bursting with some very beautiful fall colors, I guess the best in the Northeast and the colors simply kept getting better as we traveled towards our destination.

Fall which is also referred to as Autumn is one of the four temperate seasons, the transition from summer into winter. Besides the other factors like the days get shorter and cooler, it is the season during which most crops are harvested, and deciduous trees lose their leaves. This transition which happens sometime now is by far the best wonders of Mother Nature. New Hampshire has so many things to do and see that there is no way you can cover all of it. We had planned to see some must see places and stuck to the same atleast for the start with some jitters though. We could not make the Lost river gorge and boulder caves since there were more than hundered cars on the freeway itself to get into the exit for the same. Instead, we headed to the Flume Gorge which was a part of the Franconia Notch State Park. The Flume is nothing but a
narrow riverbed gorge which goes millions of years back having a distinct and unique history to it related to other facts like erosion, granite, glacial debris, etc. This region was perfectly framed between Mt. Liberty and Mt. Flume make it all the more scenic. The Avanlanche Falls was also a pretty site. There is a pleasure to walk through these woods with sunshine flowing through the trees and winds blowing their own freshness into you. After the flume we visited some breathtaking waterfalls on Rt. 302.

We went to Silver Cascade falls to start with which is popularly referred to as the Gates of the Notch and I guess it comes at the entrance of the Crawford Notch State Park. Much like its neighbor just uphill, Flume Cascade, this cascade is a series of waterfalls dropping down the side of Crawford Notch. The falls drape over a certain kind of rock formation (which I cannot recollect) and supposedly, the height of the falls is almost upto 1000 feet. They go below the road and continue to flow over the other side providing a nice view. The fall colors next to it made it picture perfect. It seemed like a return to the primitive and the peaceful. All the trails leading to the waterfalls were also magnificient, since you had to pick your way through the woods, glancing left and right on the foliage, and then surveying the falls and the gorge in front of you.

Ripley Falls is a 20 minute trail and the hike is pretty easy besides having lot of parking. Rather parking was never a problem at any of the sites we went too. Ripley falls had quite a number of other good waterfalls nearby specifically Arethusa Falls, Coliseum Falls, Bemis Brook Falls, Kedron Flume and Nancy Cascades. We went to Echo lake beach which provided a colorful reflection of the colors in the waters. The must see places in NH are mostly on Rt. 302, Rt. 16, Kancamagus Hwy. and I-93 exits. Basically, the loop formed by 302/Kancamagus is a nice way to fit a lot of places in your schedule. Willey house is historical site which describes about the family tragedy during the landslide and the massive rainstorm that occured years ago. We went on the last trail for the day halfway, the cheering light from heaven makings it's way through the trees guiding us all the way through the pathless woods, it was quite a great experience untill fatigue creeped in and we decided to turn around under the pretext that it would be dark soon and quite remarkably it was indeed true since around 6:45 pm it was pitch dark.We had covered a number of places and were tired and hungry at the end of the day. We headed to Randolph near Rt. 2 where we stayed in a cabin near the Jefferson Notch State Park. The whole of White Mountains had loads of visitors for the Columbus day weekend and one could see vehicle plates from neighbouring states and Canada. Consequently, getting a place to camp or stay was quite difficult and we had managed to make a reservation earlier. After eating some authentic ready to eat Indian food which we had packed and following up with some nice Donut Holes from Dunkin we were snoring away to glory. After a nice refreshing 11 hours of sleep and a decent breakfast we were all enthusiastic about the day. One can't seem to have enough of the colors in New Hampshire since from every direction, soft illuminations of greens, yellows, orange, browns and reds make the place a sight to see or perhaps it is the subtle magnetism in Nature that keeps you on your feet all the time. Some people might wonder what is so great about seeing the same kind of colors repeatedly ? I guess the closest answer to that reminds me is one of the quotes I had read sometime back which keeps coming to my mind.

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver

The next day we headed on Rt. 16 where we got a better picture of the White Mountains. The sunlight was interspersed between the mountains which made one think how glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains ! Untill now I was so overwhelmed by the colors that I never took into account the beauty of White Mountains untill I reached Mt. Washington which gave the right blend between the foliage and the ridges. The drive going through the woods provided a stunning spectrum of colors adding to region's natural beauty. As far as the fact and figures go I overheard someone saying, "White Mountains is bigger than the state of Rhode Island". I was quite amazed and a bit deterrent to believe the same untill I reached the peak of this mountain. Mt. Washington auto road would definitely be the highlight of the whole trip. We rose easily and quickly in climate as well as ridges. It drastically kept getting cooler as we made our way to the top stopping occasionally for the scenic overlook. "A Master of the Mountain" - This was one the paper which certified that we ascended the Mt. Washington, highest peak in Northeastern United States by driving to it's 6288 feet summit over the 8 mile long carriage road overlooking the presidential range of the White Mountains on New Hampshire. Considering that the summit on the mountain is 60 % in clouds and has recorded a wind speed of 231 mph we definitely got good weather which further encouraged and inspirited us to continue with our "patel - giri" (photography). I managed to catch some awesome panaromic views from this place.


Our last thing planned for the day was going through the picturesque Kancamagus Hwy. from Conway to Lincoln which is amongst the top 10 scenic routes in USA for obvious reasons which we did find out. The Swift river which flows parallel to most of the Hwy is a beautiful, ignorant stream of water gushing and finding its way through hundereds of stones. It was the right place to finish the spectacular fall foliage trip which I would want to share with every leaf lover in the world. The scenic byway besides the colors offers astounding alpine views, a wide array of wildlife, and access to numerous trails. The view due to the large boulders in the Swift river that create an obstacle course for the exhilarating waters always give you a feeling to pull over and get down to the river. The complete byway has well-designated scenic overlooks, campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, waterfalls and historic sites. Amongst the places where I had been, which I would definitely recommend going would be the Rocky Gorge (you should not miss the Falls pond here besides the couple of trails), Pemigewasset and Hancock Overlooks, which all provide a place to park and to appreciate the ruggedly handsome terrain, the Albany Covered Bridge, and the Sabbaday Falls. One can see all the dazzling shades of autumn along this 34 mile road with thousands of red and yellow, maple and birch trees on either sides. The twists and turns which take you through the woods make the place a photographer's paradise. One of the quotes which probably would aptly describe the beauty of the place would be:

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Nature was at precisely it's best and such was the whole trip, I felt like clicking a snap at the blink of the eye however did manage to capture 500 odd. The quote, I did'nt decide to be a photographer; I just happened to "fall" into it definitely makes sense here. Fall foliage tourists are often referred to as 'leaf peepers' and this group is definitely going back (whenever holidays and Mother Nature come in synchrony) to New England region of United States which is famous around the world for the brilliance of there "fall foliage".

Fall is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~Albert Camus

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