The crisp autumn air has arrived in the east, bringing both a chill to my camera-clutching fingers and a warmth of color to the landscape. I drove to the northern tip of New Hampshire last week to get my first look at peak foliage. The forest was ablaze with color creating a dramatic backdrop for wildlife shooting. I headed straight for the water and paddled into the night beneath full moonlight. I shared the sunset view with a busy blue heron out for a bite to eat. The temperature dropped along with the setting sun and a fog began to envelop the feathered fisher. The scene was breathtaking, the night’s entertainment had only just begun.
The marsh had been relatively quiet since my arrival, but the silence was broken by a noisy group of geese passing overhead. Perhaps it was only a coincidence, but just as the raucous gaggle flapped on by, a bull moose began calling from across the water. Another bull in the woods behind me returned the call and the two proceeded to deliver an impressive chorus that reverberated through the cold night air. The sun had long set, and the heron continued swallowing up fish. I was now under a starry sky, and decided to finally paddle back to the truck.
With the aid of my cellphone’s flashlight (that’s about all it’s good for that far north) I un-ratcheted my kayak, and launched back into the dark marsh. My thermometer read 29℉ and my frozen hands confirmed the report. I paddled for half an hour expecting some additional body heat to reward my efforts. While I warmed up a little, the real reward was the stunning sunrise, revealing a frosty autumn landscape. The morning light also uncovered scores of canada geese swimming in my midst. I paddled in for some shots triggering a mass retreat. A hundred or more geese took flight all around me in a chaotic display of flapping, splashing and squawking.
A moment later, a bald eagle performed a high-dive for breakfast right behind me. The beaver pond had awakened. The cold finally forced surrender on me though, and I paddled back to the truck to defrost. It was 8 o’clock and I’d already been up for four hours without coffee. Not to mention the temperature still stood stubbornly at 29℉. I headed back to my camp on Back Lake to reboot. A quick nap, shower and a cup of coffee later and I was ready for the woods.
I spent the rest of the morning hiking some old clearcut hillsides taking in the views of Maine, Canada and of course New Hampshire. I spotted another bull, but once again found him darting into the woods. Some friends joined me later in the afternoon for a little bit of sight-seeing. We hiked to a fire tower at the top of Mount Magalloway and checked out a local waterfall. On the drive back we spotted a cow moose and a coyote along the dirt road. The sun had set again, and my frosty morning felt like a week-old memory.
The next day I treated myself to a couple extra hours of sleep, but the forest didn’t punish me for it. The overcast skies produced perfect lighting in the woods, and the moose were back for photo-ops.