Friday, November 6, 2015


Everyone has been saying that this year’s autumn foliage was the most brilliant and ooh-inspiring in years.  I was pleased it was, because I had friends coming from Nebraska to visit, and they were eager to see some breathtaking colors.

“Nebraska is basically all cornfields,” they said. “So seeing trees, any trees at all, will be exciting.”

They arrived with two other couples, rented a van and decided to take day trips. I recommended they visit North Conway, mainly because of the spectacular views of Mount Washington there.

Just about every October, my husband and I used to take a drive through North Conway, where I would snap photos of Mount Washington. Then the moment we got home, I’d rush down to the local pharmacy to get the film developed with their one-hour processing.

“Aren’t these shots of Mount Washington just gorgeous?” I’d fairly gush, showing them to my husband.
Mount Washington, NH

He didn’t even attempt to feign enthusiasm.  “They look exactly like the other 547 photos you have of Mount Washington,” he said. 

I vigorously shook my head. “No, some have a little more snow on the peak than others. And a couple have no snow at all.”

“I really think you need a change of scenery,” he muttered.

In retrospect, he probably ended up regretting his words because he made me start thinking he might be right and I really did need to branch out with my leaf peeping. So the next autumn, I asked him to take me to the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts instead of up to North Conway.

His reaction was less than enthusiastic. “But it’s so far,” he protested. “And once we get there, it’s another 60 miles of steep, winding road.  Let’s just stick with North Conway.”

I frowned. “You’re the one who said I needed a change.  I’ve taken so many photos at the same scenic stops every year in North Conway, I swear the mountains actually strike a pose and smile when they see me coming.”

So bright and early on a Tuesday morning in October, we headed to the Mohawk Trail. We even stopped at a rest area to pick up some brochures so I wouldn’t miss anything.  Armed with two cameras and enough film to qualify me as a Kodak shareholder, I was ready for an entirely new fall foliage adventure…ready to expand my horizons, so to speak.

The minute we actually set tires on the Mohawk Trail, however, my husband complained that he had a headache and felt lousy.  “But don’t worry, I’ll still chauffeur you around,” he said. 

Unfortunately, he seemed eager to cover the trail in record time. As we zoomed past one spectacular view after another, I commented, “Gee, that would have made a nice photo.”

His response was, “Well, there’s no place to turn around now. Next time, give me some notice in advance and I’ll stop.”

I wanted to tell him I had no way of knowing how nice a view was going to be when I was still a mile away from it, but I kept silent.  I saw in one of the brochures, however, that the Longview Tower up ahead had a view of three states, so I notified him well in advance that I wanted to stop there.

He pulled the car into the tower’s parking lot. “Want to climb the tower with me?” I asked him, even though I already knew the answer.

He shook his head. “You just go ahead and have a good time. I’ll watch you from down here.”

So all alone, I climbed the four-story tower, which kind of looked like a giant lifeguard’s stand.  By the time I reached the top, I was so out of breath, I was afraid I’d need a respirator.  I grabbed my camera from around my neck and walked over to the railing. That’s when I made a big mistake…I looked down.  Somehow I had forgotten just how afraid of heights I was. My husband’s arm looked about the size of a piece of elbow macaroni as he waved at me from the car below. To make matters even worse, the tower was on the edge of cliff, which added even more height.  I suddenly felt dizzy. 

Clinging to the railing, I froze where I stood.  There was no way, I thought, I was ever going to climb back down those four flights of stairs, because that would mean I would have to look down.  And believe me, I didn’t want to look down…not ever.

It was pretty chilly and windy at the top of that tower.  My nose got so cold it started to run, but still I didn’t move. I finally convinced myself to at least look out at the view, to see if I actually could see three states, as the brochure had promised.  Well, I was so high up, when I looked east, I swear I could see Queen Elizabeth waving at me from her balcony at Buckingham Palace. I aimed my camera in a few general directions and quickly snapped some shots.

It took a while (and the beginning of frostbite) before I finally plucked up the courage to head back down the stairs. That’s when I noticed that most of the boards on the stairs had gaps between them.  A couple of the stairs even sagged and creaked a little.  I clung to the railing and inched my way down.

When I finally set foot in the parking lot about 4,567 steps later, I nearly kissed the asphalt.

I did manage to take a lot of photos that day:  the 28-foot Indian figure at the Big Indian Shop, the sign that said “Welcome to Florida” (Mass.), the Bridge of Flowers, the “Hail to Sunrise” monument, and miles of foliage. During the entire 5 hours, my husband, still complaining of a headache, never once set foot out of the car.  I think that by then, his headache probably was caused by the pressure of his bladder backing up into his brain.

The following year, when it once again came time for our annual leaf-peeping excursion, my husband was quick to suggest North Conway.

“A person can never have enough photos of Mount Washington,” he said.

I had to agree with him.

As it turned out, my friends from Nebraska never did make it up to North Conway during their visit last month.

No problem. I have about 2,000 photos I can show them.

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