White Mountains, NH.
This place, these people, the weekend after Labor Day. Summer was over and the crowds were silent. My friends and I took a 20 hour trip up to Crawford Notch State Park located in the White Mountains and man, was it an adventure. Being from the midwest, I didn't know mountains like this existed unless you headed out west. Needless to say, I was very wrong. The drive in was breathtaking. What is supposed to be hours of driving feels so much shorter when you are in awe and staring out your window on the edge of your seat.
Right after we pulled into the state park, we took an exit that led us around the side of a mountain. It was somewhat cloudy, but the sun found it's way through a few clouds and cast a bright pink light beam through the valley. None of us caught that exact moment on camera, but it will forever be one of the most incredible views I've ever seen. It was one of those moments that nobody will ever understand other than the people who were there in the moment. I think experiences like that are so special. You'll find the photos of us chasing that sunset below.
We trudged a half mile from the car to our campsite that night in the dark. We had no clue what we were doing or where we were going, but we could hear a river and see thousands of stars. We were happy. We set up camp, made a fire, and cooked up a nice (burnt) dinner before crashing. None of us knew what we would wake up to in the daylight.
The alarm rang at 6AM, just in time to get the sunrise through the valley. I was so excited when I saw the view. The river led perfectly to a beautiful mountain and the sun lit up the riverbed. I could not believe what I was seeing. We all took some photos for the memories, played guitar, and ate some breakfast burritos next to the water as the rest of the world was still asleep.
The rest of the day consisted of driving over to Arethusa Falls Park and looking straight up at our next competition - "Frankenstein Cliff". Oh boy. We were meandering down the railroad tracks with an old couple that parked next to us in the lot. We were looking for the exit onto the way to hike up the mountain. All we could see were tall trees and a curve up the tracks. We were hoping to find a dirt trail off one side of the tracks, but a vast view of the mountain range is what we found instead. I literally stood there still, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. I was absolutely speechless, the only words coming out of my mouth were "I can't believe this" for a good thirty minutes. I still feel like it was a moment from a dream. This was one of the most incredible moments of my life to date. The mountains, the lack of human life, the lush trees, the old railroad, the lighting, the vastness of the view... I'm still in awe.
After spending nearly 45 minutes soaking in that view, we hiked straight up a cliff to the top of the mountain. When we got there, our lovely new friends were there awaiting us, siting on the edge of the cliff and telling stories. We talked to them about traveling, US history, their trips around the world, and all of the wisdom they could provide. No joke, this couple was 70+ years old and hiking up cliffs. I will never forget their excitement for life and their inspiring motivation for us young kids. Sand and Beck, thank you for those words and stories - I hope to be just like you someday.
We sealed the trip with a few more miles down the mountain and ended with the lovely Arethusa waterfall. The leaves were changing color, the air was crisp, and we were all in the best mood. Hundreds more photos were added to the collection. We made it back to the car just in time to catch the couple one more time for a final "Goodbye and good luck!" as they drove off onto their next adventure. We headed home with full hearts and stories we couldn't put into words until weeks later.