Saturday, September 12, 2009

9-05-09 Twilight Forest

This was the view south late Sautrday from the top of Galehead Mt. It includes Mt. Osceola which is to the left in the distance with three of its summits and, Mt. Tecumseh looking like a perfect pyramid to the right of Osceola, and Scar Ridge to center right, and to the far right you can just see Loon Mt. with its ski slopes.

It was getting late so I decided to head back down to the trail head and the parking lot. Dan had asked if I wanted to do the Evening Program at the hut Saturday night but I decided I had too much work to do at home and wanted to be out of the woods by dark.

As I started down, with the sun beginning to sink fairly low towards the Franconia Ridge to the west, the light softened and slanted in between the trees in low shafts. It was quiet and lovely.

As I ran down Galehead Mt. I couldn't help stopping to take these pictures and continued to stop and take more as I descended all the way down the Gale River Trail (GRT). I wanted to run most of the way so I wouldn't get caught in the dark near the bottom so I carried my camera in my hand to make it easier to take photos.

As I have said myriad times the light in the White Mountains has a unique quality that I find enchanting. Mountain light has special qualities and different ranges have different light, or it feels that way to me, and it seems to be a factor of climate, latitude and longitude, how close the range is to the ocean or a desert, etc. The weather in the White Mountains is certainly unique and I think it follows that the light here would be unique also.

I had the sun in my eyes for the first mile on the ridge and other than that it was easier to run on the Garfield Ridge Trail, versus the trail coming down off Galehead Mt., because of better footing. Moving across the ridge I had the sun in these long shafts.

Every now and then a shaft of sunlight, due to some quirk in the topography to the west, would find its way to the trunk of a nearby tree but then it, too, would fade as darkness continued to rise up from the shadows.

I left Garfield Ridge and headed down towards the river on the GRT and it immediately got several shades darker because I was below the ridge. The light around me faded rapidly and as it did the light above in the tree became more evanescent and, as the woods around me darkened, the sunlight 'sat' high high up in the crowns reflecting some of the bronze-toned light back down to the ground.

A brief respite in this clearing at the "slide' where I had been working most of the day on my research project. Because the river is nearby there's a large opening here expanding the sky and the last bit of light. It's deceptive because the sunlight looks fairly bright up there on the flank of North Twin but the woods are dark under their canopy and absorb light and are no where near as illuminating. I plunged down the trail along the river racing the sunlight the last three miles.

Towards the flats that begin just below second crossing more sunlight flooded into the tree tops for a few seconds. It mean the sun had cleared the bulk of Garfield Mt. but was sinking quickly. It was the last thin serving of sunlight but lovely here where it nestled on the upper branches of the maples above the trail.

Shards of sunlight would find their way between ridiculous obstacles and try to shoot eastward again but then ended up getting caught in the web-like ferns where they would have to slumber until morning.

Then, with a mile to go, there was only a glow but I ran as fast as I could go to beat the last light to the parking lot and the car but it ended as a tie.

In a month or two this will be the scene as the sun sets much earlier than it did today and a bit of snow will reflect the last light to make up for the shortened days. In June you try and get out of the woods by 8:30 pm, in September by 7 pm and in November you try and get out by 4:30 pm, 5 at the latest. When there isn't any foliage in the late fall and winter there's a brief reprieve in that more of the twilight reaches the ground for a longer time and hikers can utilize that to gain a 15 or 20 minutes longer descent time. At any rate I carry two headlamps and spare batteries at all times "just in case."

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