David Howland Photo

Fall Foliage in Franconia Notch

29 September 2020

Filed under: White Mountains, Foliage

The foliage peaked rapidly in New England this year. The combination of a summer-long drought and a brief cold snap pushed all the trees from green to golden yellow and red in the span of a few days. I would have likely missed all of the foliage this year if it weren’t for an unplanned overnight trip to New Hampshire for personal reasons that took me through Franconia Notch. Low clouds were rolling over the mountains and the trees were a brilliant golden yellow color.

Unfortunately, I left all of my “professional” camera gear at home as this wasn’t planned as a photography trip. So all the photos in this post were shot with my iPhone using a combination of the Halide and Spectre apps.

Halide is a powerful camera app that unlocks manual controls and RAW workflows for the iPhone. Spectre is a long exposure camera app that uses an effective algorithm to reduce motion blur and enable long exposure daylight shots with an iPhone.

Although the iPhone is a great pocket camera I was definitely frustrated to not have my Sony cameras and have once again learned to always pack my camera gear. Always.

At any rate, the first place I stopped was the Basin. This is one of the first parking lots on the Franconia Notch Parkway / I-93. The Basin area is a trailhead for the Basin Cascade Trail and also has some short trails that explore the Pemigewasset River. The whole area was beautiful and the forest was blanketed in a layer of red leaves.

Downstream from the Basin, the Pemigewasset River drops through a small slot in the rocks. This area is called the Little Flume after the much larger Flume Gorge nearby. I was really impressed with the how sharp the long exposure photos were using the Spectre app at the Little Flume. Some of these shots are a handheld nine second exposure.

I explored upriver from the Little Flume, working my way back towards the main parking lot. This section of the Pemigewasset River spills down over wide expanses of rock. The river was full of fallen leaves which contrasted beautifully with the foliage left on the trees.

After leaving the Basin, I drove farther up Franconia Notch to the Echo Lake parking lot and the trailhead for the Artists Bluff - Bald Mountain trail loop. Artists Bluff and Bald Mountain are two small mountains that sit at the northern end of Franconia Notch and command fantastic views looking down the Notch towards Cannon Mountain and Franconia Ridge. The trail is short but demanding with a few rocky scrambles through the forest. I hiked this in the winter to photograph the torchlight parade and fireworks at Cannon and it was fun to hike it in the summer and see how different everything is without several feet of snow on the ground.

Artists Bluff was incredibly windy but the 180 degree views were well worth the hike and buffeting by the wind.

I let the wind blow me back into the woods and hiked up and over the hill behind Artists Bluff towards Bald Mountain. The rocky clearing at the top of Bald Mountain was just as windy but has a different view into the Notch. I was struck by how consistently yellow all of the trees were under brilliant blue skies. It was truly a beautiful day.

I finished my day by hiking the mile or so down Bald Mountain and along the trail paralleling Profile Road to the trailhead. It was a great day in the woods.

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