New Hampshire Reflections, Part 1: The Arrival

This past weekend has been a very cool one for me because it has reaffirmed what I’ve felt about this state for some time now – New Hampshire is home.

The weekend started on Wednesday. I left work at the Y, stopped home to grab a few things, then began the long drive north to the White Mountains. I was headed to the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch, where I would be staying for the next four days while scouting for and leading the AMC Fall Photography Weekend. Along the way, I stopped at the Basin, one of my favorite rest stops along I-93. As I walked the familiar paths my mind flooded with memories the Basin – my first stop with photographer and friend Jim Salge in September of 2010, shortly after moving to NH, one time when I stumbled across a lovely couple visiting from England and gave them an impromptu tour of the Basin’s waterfalls, and of taking my mom here, on her only visit to the state I now call home.

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I continued on, driving through Franconia Notch in all of it’s autumn glory. I love the Notch too. Cannon Cliff is always impressive, and I always struggle with my inability to capture the glorious views one sees as they speed along the highway here. There are no pull-offs, and the Notch really ought to be appreciated at a speed much slower than 60 mph. Franconia Notch was as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it, its tall exfoliating rock faces towering high above the golden trees in the valley below. The journey was peaceful and invigorating. Inside my cramped, messy car I felt alive, surrounded by the wild and rugged beauty of the mountains.

When I finally arrived at the Highland Center, dinner service was just starting. I checked in and was brought to a table where a group of four people had already been seated. Dinner at the Highland Center is served family style most nights, which provides ample opportunity to meet new people and enjoy their company. My dinner companions were attending a workshop related to their work in the NH foster care system, and I found them to be delightful company. We shared stories, and they showed great interest in my photography and travels.

The walls of the dining room were decorated in photographs by Jerry Monkman. This fact gave me great comfort, as it reaffirmed my connection to this place – to New Hampshire, to the AMC, and to being the instructor for the AMC Fall Photography Weekend. This gig had once been Jerry’s and when he was unable to do it, he recommended me. Here I was, on his stomping ground, leaving my own footprints. To follow in the steps of someone I respect and admire as much as Jerry is in itself a worthy accomplishment.

After dinner I settled into my quaint and cozy dorm room. The small space seemed spartan, but within 24 hours, it would feel like a wonderful temporary home. It would remind me of things I had long forgotten I had once enjoyed, such as living on the freshman floor of my college dorm with friends just down the hall or at the staff house at Project U.S.E., where modest accommodations and shared bathrooms and showers seemed simple and satisfactory.

The journey had barely begun and already, I felt myself returning to my roots, as if I was finding something at my core that was vital to my happiness. Something about being in the mountains, taking photos, and the feeling of community that started just that first day was awakening a part of me that had disappeared for a little while.

I liked the way it felt.

This is Part 1 of a multi-post series about my weekend at the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center leading a fall foliage photography workshop in the White Mountains. Please check back soon for Part 2 and Part 3.

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