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VT and NH Autumn Trip, Part 1


Honey Hollow

At the end of September and beginning of October, I took a six-day adventure driving through northern Vermont and New Hampshire. I had originally planned to include a little bit of Maine in the itinerary, but strep throat had other plans for me. As an additional obstacle, I had very rainy conditions the first couple days, although the first day was slightly more manageable than the second. In spite of these problems, I was able to visit a lot of places I have had on my list for a long time and come away with many images, including a couple that rank among my best images of all time.

This update regards my first two days. On the first day, I spent a large part of the day just driving up from Boston to the Stowe area of Vermont. My first destination was a brook on the northern side of Camel's Hump, which is a mountain, for those unfamiliar with the area. Incidentally, it's a great mountain to climb if you ever get the chance. Anyway, the first destination is known as Honey Hollow, and it's a bit off the beaten path. However, it was actually one of the most easy locations to find. I never even lost my location in Google Maps, which happens often when exploring wild places and happened many times later on this trip.

Honey Hollow

Honey Hollow is certainly one of the prettier areas I've been to. It's a gorge, with many areas of the rock being worn down smooth by the water. There are small cascades and pools in the upper section, which I would have to say I enjoyed the most. Below these is a more typical waterfall. It is also very pretty. Conditions for this place were perfect, as it had rained earlier but had stopped while I was here. Brown and orange leaves dotted the rocks everywhere.

The rest of the day ended up being a bust. I drove to Mill Brook Falls, which was an extremely obscure cascade, but encountered Posted signs. For that reason, it goes onto a list of places I won't be revisiting. After this, I headed to a much more well-known location, Chittendon Mills. This is one of those old brick mills that sits adjacent to a section of rough cascades, usually near the center of a small village. There are similar places elsewhere in New England and I know of at least one out on the west coast that is a pretty famous spot for photographing. In any event, by the time I got here, the rain had started coming down pretty constantly. I attempted to use my rain-cover, but after this experience it is likely I will never bother with it again. It is simply much too difficult to keep the rain-cover over the lens while turning the focus (for focus-blending) and also keeping the cover out of sight of what the lens sees. In any event, I concluded that this wasn't the kind of place I wanted to shoot. I have never really liked shooting scenes with man-made objects, other than city skylines. The last place I visited on the first day is called Jeff's Falls. It's really hard to call it a waterfall considering the low height of the drop, but the area around it is fairly interesting with large rocks. While it was interesting to my eyes, it didn't look very interesting in the images I took. Sometimes certain places seem to work out that way. I probably won't revisit this one.

I set up my tent for the night after this at Gold Brook Campground. This was kind of a weird campground, as the entire area was on lawn rather than most campgrounds which have you set up on bare dirt. Despite the rain that was now falling constantly, I slept better that night than the remaining nights. It was still quite warm out.

The next day it rained nearly continually until the evening. In addition, all the brooks were now in full flood condition. A lot of the plans I had didn't work out. First on the list, I headed back toward Smugglers Notch to visit Bingham Falls. This waterfall has two sections of interest. There's a section of carved out gorge, and then below that is the main waterfall. I am sure both would be very interesting in normal conditions, but all grace was lost in the flooding. In addition, I once again discovered the problem of shooting in the rain. This is definitely on my list to return to.

A short distance up the road, I found the Hell Brook Cascades. I did not bother bringing my camera here because I was quite salty over the downpour and it was a very steep incline to carry the heavy camera gear knowing that I wouldn't even be getting a shot. That said, what I found was pretty awesome. A towering plunge of a waterfall into a narrow and deep chasm that I could not even safely see the bottom of. I have heard that this can dry up, but there was entirely too much water for this visit anyway. I will revisit.

The next destination I had on the schedule was Moss Glen Falls. This was one of the most important places on my list. On the way back passing through Stowe, I made the wise choice of stopping to buy an umbrella. I was able to hike in to the waterfall with the umbrella keeping the camera dry. The falling rain did not stop me from getting a good shot, but I ended up screwing up a few things from here. It's probably the biggest loss of the whole trip. In any event, the fall colors were not at peak, so maybe it gives me an excuse to revisit another year.

From there, I visited a roadside waterfall called Jeudevine Falls, which is almost a commercial waterfall as the landowner holds weddings there. It was a nice enough waterfall, though certainly not topping the beauty of Moss Glen Falls. Because of how it is built up and the way it is privately owned, I was rather skittish about stepping off the main path for a good shot, or getting into the water with my waders on. This one was also kind of overwhelmed by the flooding. I might give it another try another day, if I am in the area.

Sheeps Hole

A strangely-named spot called Sheeps Hole was next. This one is one of the most obscure ones on my trip, but it was on the way between more important destinations. Ironically, it ended up being the only image from Day 2 that I found usable. It is pretty small by waterfall standards, but was a powerful cascade with the flooding.

The next two destinations were more waterfalls ruined by the flooding. First I went to Crystal Falls, which is a waterfall that drops right below a classic covered bridge. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get anywhere that I could photograph the waterfall with the bridge behind, and in the flooding the waterfall itself was just a big mess. Then I journeyed to Big Falls, which is actually not a huge waterfall by height but is surrounded by huge cliffs and has a fairly impressive water volume. Well, on this day the volume was ridiculous. Unfortunately, the river was completely flooded and I couldn't even get to a place where I could see the waterfall aside from the top of the cliff, and since I am pretty afraid of heights I didn't want to shoot at the edge there. It isn't a good angle anyway.

Lake Willoughby

Finally I drove on to the White Caps Campground by Lake Willoughby. By this time, the rain was blowing off, being replaced by incredible winds and plummeting temperatures. It was the first of many cold, shivering nights for me. I had planned for both sunset and sunrise at this lake to double my chances of getting good light. Unfortunately, the heavy clouds never broke until later on Day 3. The shot here was actually taken in the morning of Day 3, but since I arrived here the previous evening, I'm including it in this post. The other reason would be that there are plenty of images I captured on Day 3 compared with being rained out the first two days. Lake Willoughby is easily one of the most photogenic places in New England I've been to so far. It has high cliffs on either side of the water and you might think you were standing in one of Norway's fjords. Since I had no sunrise to work with, I chose to go with a black and white image here. I will definitely put this on my list to return to, hopefully with more colorful light.

Day 3 will be the next update, featuring some really cool stuff in northern New Hampshire. In fact, I might say that I got the best shot of the trip on Day 3. Check back for that!

- Justin Smith

all content copyright Justin Smith 2017