Sense of Place: Road Trip
The payoff comes at lunch at a wonderful outdoor spot perched right on the harbor. This is my opportunity to photograph Maine lobster, steamers, “chowdah,” lobster rolls, coleslaw, and blueberry pie. I order all of them–just for documentation, of course.
Sated at last, we depart the city of Portland, heading northwest toward the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As we drive from sea level up to the higher elevations, the fall color intensifies.
Near dusk, we find ourselves driving through the vibrantly colored foliage of oak and maple trees, contrasted against the majestic evergreens, and on to the cozy accommodations of our hotel, the majestic Omni Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods.
We make plans to meet in the lobby at 6:30 a.m. to catch the first light of day–usually the clearest and most compelling light.
In the early-morning darkness, we enter a village surrounded by mountains and rocky streams, hugged by turning trees. The sun rises over the Presidential Range, the snow-capped summit of Mount Washington poking up through the clouds. The sky is changing rapidly from purple through shades of pink and delicate blue. Heading southeast into North Conway, Scotty shares a story about Arthur Tauck’s car breaking down on the road with a double flat tire in front of Cannell’s Country Store one time in the late 1920s. A gentleman named Ray Cannell owned it; he befriended Tauck.
“In those days it wasn’t easy to find tires or service stations along the way, and it required a long drive to find replacements before the tour could continue,” Scotty explains. “But Ray made it happen and Arthur never forgot his kindness.” For years afterward, Tauck tours always stopped to patronize the shop.
Jackson, New Hampshire, north of Conway, is one of the prettiest mountain villages you’ll ever see. Standing on an old stone bridge, gazing down to the stream below, we notice a great blue heron perched on a rock. We try to be as inconspicuous as possible as I take one shot after another: another gifted moment.
Heading north again, the day gets even better, as we climb the Mount Washington Auto Road. Neither of us has ever been to the top. As the road twists upward, our guide tells us that he’s awaiting word on his two-way radio whether the weather will let us proceed to the summit. As we climb, the foliage below contrasts dramatically with the evergreens and the cold, rocky terrain of the high elevation.
Finally, word arrives: We can reach the top. No one has been to the summit in nearly a week. We’re the first, and the sky is so clear we can see 100 miles due east, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s like being on the tundra, or the moon, with rime ice covering everything. It’s quite spectacular to go from a crisp, sunny, colorful autumn day to this, the summit, all in about 30 minutes. Nice afternoon at the office!
Scotty and I chat about this experience the rest of the day. We stop to shoot as we travel through the notches on our way west. We pass Twin Mountain, Bethlehem, Littleton. We stop at a covered bridge and at The Brick Store, in Bath, the oldest emporium in New Hampshire (established 1790). The owner, Nancy Lusby, is making her famous fudge. Leaf peepers are stopping by. High-school kids are selling pumpkins to raise money.