Seeing Red

October 12, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Riotous RedsMAPLE'S MAGICExeter, New Hampshire Spend time in New Hampshire's White Mountains in early October and you'll be seeing red: beautiful, ravishing red. Log enough hours in the region and you'll come to know exactly where to find crimson leaves that will make your heart skip a beat. 

This is not to suggest the Granite State is a one trick pony. Quite the contrary; it boasts a variety of fiery autumnal hues (more than you might imagine). Amber, honey, tangerine, carrot, ochre, apricot, burnt orange - each more brilliant than you would have thought possible. But the reds are in a class by themselves. The crème de la crème. The pièce de résistance.

One of the best places to see reliable reds en masse is Bretton Woods - a beautiful area located within the town of Carroll.

Even if you've never been to New Hampshire, the place name of Bretton Woods might ring a bell from a long-ago history class or Econ 101. In 1944, delegates from 44 Allied nations gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel to establish an economic system intended to, among other things, help countries recover from the war. The Bretton Woods Conference.

That property, which opened at the turn of the last century and still operates today, is one of the four remaining Grand Hotels in the state.

Looking at the hillside next to which it's nestled, you can see why the red roof was an appropriate choice. 

You might be smitten with Bretton Woods, too - just as I was many years ago. It was love at first sight.

You don't have to work very hard to see the jaw-dropping beauty in this area; you can be amazed right from your vehicle (though you really ought to get out, spend some time, and explore). Driving north through Franconia Notch on I-93, exit on Route 3 and proceed until it intersects with Route 302. Head east and prepare to be dazzled. I recommend seeing the area in all types of light: in the morning, late in the afternoon, in overcast, in the mist. As with any foliage, remember to check it out from both directions to get the full effects of front and backlighting.

You will not be disappointed. 

This isn't to suggest Bretton Woods is the only place in the White Mountains - or in New Hampshire or New England, for that matter - to find ravishing reds. It's reliable, though. Even in years when the foliage display isn't quite as vibrant (which seems to disproportionately impact reds), you can usually count on Bretton Woods to deliver. Beyond that, I just happen to have a real soft spot for the area. It's one of my own personal "Happiest Places on Earth." (Meaning no disrespect to Mr. Disney, I think the happiest places on earth are to be found in nature, not theme parks.)

If you share my reverence for red, there are a few other locations in the White Mountains I'd suggest. Try Chocorua Lake, Zealand, the area around the Willey House, Bear Notch, Pinkham Notch, and in the general vicinity of Rocky Gorge (accessed via the Kancamagus Highway). That should be enough to get you started - but remember the other colors are amazing, too. It's hard to go wrong.

Is it possible to see red without getting angry? Of course! Visit New Hampshire in autumn: a little bit of heaven on earth.

MAGIC CARPET RIDEMAGIC CARPET RIDEAt the height of foliage season in New England, the ground below is often as beautiful and colorful as the trees above.

Dover, New Hampshire

Radiant Red White Mountains New HampshireRADIANT REDVibrant autumn foliage can nearly always be found in this spot at Bear Notch. The season this image was made, however, the crimson leaves outdid themselves. Mount Washington, often cloud covered, is visible in the distance - entirely in the clear.

White Mountains, New Hampshire
About the Photographs
(in order from top to bottom - and proving my point that you can find red anywhere!)

1) I found this reflection in a pond about ten minutes from my home. The shoreline was cluttered and there was quite a bit of algae on the water - but this young sugar maple was absolutely beautiful. I found some open water and simply removed all the distractions by focusing only on the reflection.  

2) If you're interested in shooting the Mount Washington Hotel (technically the Omni Mount Washington Resort, though I still use its original name) I'd suggest doing so from somewhere other than the viewing area adjacent to Route 302. While that's a good spot for a snapshot you'll probably want to do something more interesting. There are many options if you're willing to walk. There's a pond on the grounds out front you can use for reflections if the sky is cooperative (there's also the potential there for a dash of morning fog); the Presidential Range is behind the property. 

3) This is the west shoreline of Chocorua Lake at its most beautiful. The color that year, already especially vibrant, was even more striking on this drizzly late afternoon. Conditions were rapidly changing; the ceiling was dropping, fog was rolling in, and I was losing both light and visibility. There was no time for the tripod. I wouldn't know until later whether or not the photo was successful since this was captured on Ektachrome.

4) There are many lovely cemeteries in New England: old and filled with stately, massive maples which often stand in rows. I made this in Dover, New Hampshire at my favorite cemetery where the falling leaves create a spectacularly thick carpet thanks to the abundance of these specimen trees. If you catch them when they've just begun to drop it's as colorful under your feet as it is overhead. One huge, brilliant red tree there stands out not only because of its size but also its color - surrounded, as it is, by yellows and oranges. Here, one of its leaves had drifted and come to rest on a nearby blanket of yellow. Good neighbors.

5) And finally, when it's a knock-out year for color Bear Notch can deliver some really nice reds. On this morning not only was the foliage popping, but Mount Washington - notorious for hiding in the clouds - was completely in the clear. 


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