Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dickey / Welch: In the White Mountains of New Hampshire

night from Mt. Welch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire
From Nature


The trail up Mt. Welch
From Nature


daytime view of the Waterville Valley from Mt. Welch
From Nature


A large amanita mushroom
From mushrooms

One of my favorite places to go hiking is the Welch/Dickey loop in the southern edge of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Many of my best mushroom photographs in my mushroom gallery are from this trail. In the late summer and fall, this trail just fills up with fungus of every kind. But, the best pictures of this particular trail are all of the mountain itself. From near the top of Welch, there's a wonderful view of the Mad River Valley. It's a smooth, easy hike up, easily accessible to even the most casual folks. In fact, I was first directed here by the front desk at an inn when I asked about easy hikes for beginners. While it's a great view during the day, it's even better at dusk and dawn when the sun either sets behind the cliff wall behind you or rises over the mountains in front of you.

I've been going back to this trail for about 16 years now (I know because it was one of the first dates of my current relationship... I'd be in trouble if I forgot) and it's that time again. Soon I'll have a new batch of pictures and hopefully a new batch of friends that I've take up there. Perhaps I'll even get the chance to do some night photos of the stars this year.

One of the rarest sights I've seen on this mountain is a luminescent fungus growing on a tree. It was a pale bluish color and no larger than a rasin. It was probably all over the place that year, but I only saw it on the lower sections of the trail as I walked back down in the dark on one late excursion. Since then, I've always tried to head back a little after dark so I could see it again, but I never did.

The roughest excursion up this particular trail was when a friend of mine and I foolishly decided to do it early in the winter. I think it was probably just after a late November or early December snowstorm, and we trudged up through 1-2 feet of snow, tearing off layers of clothing as we went, due to the heat we were generating from the effort. When we got to the top, and cleared the trees the very slight wind was enough to force us to immediately bundle back up. My friend who had been keeping a water-skin slung under his arm, pulled it out, took a drink and handed it to me. In that time (no more than 20 seconds) it had already turned to slush. We hurridly made some tea on a burner that I'd brought (note to those who might try this: making tea with mittens on is really quite hard), drank it with the leaves in and almost immediately headed back down for fear of cold-related injuries that would strand us. It was a wild night, but it didn't sink in just how dangerous it was until the next day when I saw a news report that someone had died on Mt. Washington that very night.