Photo (W)interlude: A Ramble through Central NH
On January 16 I recruited my dad for a half-day road trip. The plan had been to set off from Laconia and head east toward Sebago Lake, seeking out unheralded small towns and landscapes to photograph on both sides of the border. When the forecast called for overcast skies, it dampened my enthusiasm for shooting in winter's dramatic low light. We decided to mask up and head out anyway, keeping our explorations to a few towns in the northern Lakes Region. I hope you enjoy a handful of photos from the towns of Center Harbor, Tamworth, and Sandwich, in rural Middle New Hampshire.
Our first priority was lunch at the exquisite Italian café Gusto in Center Harbor. This stylish yet down-to-earth eatery has become a must-stop when I'm passing through the area. Food is top-quality, service is commendable, and you can sense the passion of its owners (a young woman from Italy and her American husband) and employees right when you walk through the door. The incredible dessert selection and harbor view don't hurt either! Gusto almost seems like it should belong in a bigger city, but I am genuinely pleased they located exactly where they did.
We then proceeded easterly on NH Routes 25 and 113 before weaving our way into the tiny town of Tamworth. The town center is composed of perhaps a dozen historically eclectic buildings ranging from a library to a summer theatre to a church and even - somewhat incongruously - a modern, hipster-ish brewery. It was as quiet as one would expect such a small town to be on a lazy Friday during a COVID winter.
The next stop was the village of Chocorua (Chuh-COR-oo-uh), which is technically still part of Tamworth but sounds far more exotic and mountainy. It's named after the nearby 3,480 pyramidal peak (which I hope to climb very soon!). The mountain, in turn, is named after a legendary Native American chief from the 18th century. I won't go into the story here, but if you'd like to learn more, be my guest.
We stopped at snow-covered Chocorua Park, which was as deserted as everywhere else. A small wooden gazebo with four lonely chairs overlooked a pristine river flowing from a picturesque dam. We crunched through 4" of snow, descending gradually toward the Chocorua River (whoever named this area's landscape features either loved that word or was the least creative person on earth).
A waterfall roared over a dam that had an extensively-chronicled history posted in a nearby kiosk. Photo ops were many, and the sun was shrouded enough to dramatize things a bit. It was a peaceful place to poke around for 20-30 minutes.
The conditions were quickly going from mostly cloudy to overcast, as had been forecast. We made another stop at a nearby lake with a name of... surprise! Chocorua. Given the fairly paltry amount of snow and mild temps, I had somehow idiotically forgotten that the lake would be frozen over. We arrived and tentatively stepped onto the icebound water. There was a group of three women, perhaps 100 yards out, taking photos with a tripod. After 5-10 minutes on the ice, however, I was having second thoughts about the its thickness so we retreated back to shore.
It was now mid-afternoon. The sun had retreated like a frightened cat from a perceived predator. While I pride myself on finding beauty in all seasons and conditions, somehow the land wasn't as magical anymore. Everything - trees, buildings, snow piles, hills - seemed iron clad and somber as we proceeded west from Tamworth into Sandwich.
I only realized a few years ago how colorless northern scenes can be from November through March. When blue skies are drained, it's almost as if we're living in a grainy old film. Sometimes we have to insert our own color. It's not the same, but it's all we can do to avoid becoming part of the ashen landscape ourselves.
Winter is often far longer than we like, but its tenacity can develop the same within us. We're challenged to be greater than the winter, with spring arriving all the sweeter should we prevail.