Northern New Hampshire Foliage (Lincoln Area)
I left Salem, Massachusetts, at 4:30 am and drove route I-93 with a mission to arrive in to find Northern New Hampshire foliage in Lincoln, New Hampshire, as the sun, or at least the light, was getting brighter. Once there, I stopped at a convenience store and met a gentleman shouldering a huge backpack. I talked to Sandy Stott for a few minutes and he told me he had just finished a walk that had started down in Massachusetts. For two weeks he had been walking the Appalachian Trail and now he had hit his turnaround point.
I asked if he was walking back, but he was there to catch a bus to Boston. He said the best thing about the trip was the slowing of the pace of his days. Your whole outlook changes, he said, when you’re hiking with 50 pounds on your back. You take things slower and more deliberately.
Back in my car again, I saw my first moose (after almost five years of looking) in the median around exit 29 on I-93. A big bull with a big rack was just standing there munching on greens. I was flying by and he was just a glimpse. I saw a female a little later on the side of the road, but before I could get my camera out, she was gone into the woods, unlike the male who didn’t care if I saw him or not.
Not for the first time this day I changed my route (I was heading to Littleton, NH) and headed to Woodstock, NH, on route 112 west. I continued on route 112 and it was still very cloudy, with rain threatening.
I was traveling in the Blue Ridge area when I came down a hill with a totally still pond to my left (Beaver Pond) with a very nice parking lot and pullout there. The water was like glass with fog wisps floating in the trees on the far side of the pond.
Not content to just take pictures here and move on, I walked a short distance to the runoff for the pond and followed it down a ways to see if I could get some good waterfall shots. The key (to me) for good waterfall shots is to have your camera on a tripod and close the aperture very small to allow in only a little light. This means the shutter will stay open longer, a half second or more. The longer, the more blur you will get with the water. The trees and the rocks will all be sharp and in focus, but the water will smooth out into a ribbon of white. If you get a breeze and all those colored leaves move, then that’s good also. They will blur into less distinct colors.
Swiftwater Covered Bridge
I continued on route 112 toward Swiftwater and pulled over at the Swiftwater Way Station. I talked to Winny, who was staffing the counter and she told me that the Swiftwater Bridge was two-tenths of a mile ahead and had parking on the far side. I found the parking as she noted and proceeded to shoot it from both ends and then I went exploring.
I always say to do your exploring with safety in mind. I went down a path that led to the lower side of the bridge and a swimming area for kids during the summer. I always look for a different angle to shoot something that has had hundreds, if not thousands, of photos taken of it. I want to try to make it unique to me. So I also went to the other side, which wasn’t as easy, and walked up a little brook that fed into the river and caught the last shot of the bridge for the day.
I was driving along route 112 and stopped on a curve in the town of Haverhill, NH. I saw a nice barn that caught my attention. Like many barns in New England, the name of the farm was on a sign above the door. It was called “The Weathered Barn.” I will say that this is the first real case of truth in advertising that I’ve seen.
I traveled south to Haverhill to find the Bedell Covered Bridge, which spanned the Connecticut River to Newbury, Vermont. You would think that when you take the road that it is on, that the bridge would be right there. However, you come out of the trees into a farmer’s field and you drive this dirt road for about a mile when you come to a turnaround.
There is a path up the hill to where you would have entered the bridge. I say would have, since the bridge blew down in September 1979, just four months after it was rededicated in April of that year. All that stands there now is a marker describing the bridge and its dates of use and the circumstances of its demise.
On my way back up north from the Bedell Bridge I turned off 302 and onto the western terminus of route 117, which is also listed as Sugar Hill Road. I’d read in Yankee that they had nice views from an inn on this road, so I followed it.
I came to the top of the hill where the cemetery entrance, South Road, and Easton Rd all converge. In my quest for color, I took South Road, which turns into Toad Hill Road, and then came back on Easton Road. What I really wanted was a segment of road that had a big puddle on it so I could have a reflection of the color in the trees.
I pulled off on Easton Road and walked back and forth along the road just shooting photos of the far hill. I thought to myself this is why it’s called Sugar Hill, because the hill is obviously covered in 99 percent sugar maples. It was a multi-hued tapestry. The sun wasn’t out but it was still a wonderful sight. To have this hill to look at for the two to four weeks of each foliage season would have to be heaven on earth.
I next found the Sugar Hill Meeting House and I snapped a few shots of it while I waited for the holes in the clouds to line up and spotlight the meeting house. It never did happen.
If you get up to the area of Sugar Hill (route 117), make sure you travel down Easton Road to Toad Hill and then back up South Road to the main road again.
I left Sugar Hill on route 117 and turned north onto route 116. A short drive up on the left is Streeter Pond Road leading to Streeter Pond. As I was driving by, the sun picked this moment to pop out and illuminate the far shore and I swung my truck onto the dirt pull off and jumped from my truck with my camera.
I started walking up and down the shore taking pictures of the entire far shore. There were no strong subjects but the color of the trees was enough to just about render me speechless. Not quite, but close… So you know it was a pretty sight.
The sun went behind the clouds and I continued on my way along route 116. I soon entered Bethlehem, NH, and, on this late September day, it was as near peak as I had seen on this trip, with low to medium leaf drop. I then turned south onto route 142.
I got onto I-93 south and was soon at Bald Mountain and Artists Bluff, overlooking the valley below, Franconia Notch. It was a very nice sight, but hard to photograph since you are so far from all the trees. It’s much nicer to just sit there for a minute and take in the tapestry of color.
I again got off the road at Cannon Mountain at one of the numerous pullouts. There is a nice pond there and standing in the parking lot was another photographer shooting the light on the hills.
I pulled off one more time around Little Coolidge Mountain and walked a short distance on the trail with a view of the river nearby. The sun was slanting in low at this point and lighting up the woods on the far side of the river.
From here I drove down to route 112 and back into Lincoln and I stayed on 112 east. My intent was to drive the Kangamagus Highway (route 112) into Conway and then follow route 16 south to Chocorua.
I stopped at the Lily Pond on route 112 and the color was very nice and many cars were pulled off in the dirt pullout. I didn’t stay long, but noted that the color wasn’t quite peak here, but really nice to see.
I spotted a woman who was standing on a boulder trying to visualize a shot (as soon as her husband came back with the camera). She said they were from Wisconsin and wondered if they would see better color. I told them about Sugar Hill and she was frustrated by not finding the peak color that was so close but not yet here.
I pointed out to them that while this wasn’t quite peak it was, in my book, very nice color and if it was the best that they see this trip, then they should relax and just enjoy it. Few people get lucky and hit peak during a short vacation.
When I pulled out, I looked back at them and they were just standing arm in arm enjoying the view instead of stressing over whether or not they were seeing “peak.”
I don’t recommend anyone driving as far as I do. I do it to get foliage reports, but 400 miles in a day is rough on these old bones. I recommend that you pick a base of operations to explore from and then learn every road, mountain view and pond in that area.
This drive has been adapted from Jeff Folger’s 2008 blog post on Peak Foliage in Northern New Hampshire.