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#170805 Mossy Stream


The last time I mucked around this stream deep in a ravine, was 7 years ago. At the time, it was a drier summer and the moss wasn’t nearly as vibrant. I’ve been meaning to get back to it ever since, and this summer has been so cool and wet, the moss everywhere is truly electric this year.

The most important thing with photographing streams, is to make sure you are shooting on a cloudy day with no direct sun. The highlights off the water are simply too bright in contrast to the dark shadows, so something has to suffer. I don’t get much time off from my gallery in the summer months, and have been looking for one of those cloudy days to fall on my day off. I know, most people would be glad to get nothing but sunshine on their days off, and I too revel in swimming the sunny rivers on those days. But I was getting frustrated after 5 weeks of it not happening, knowing there may not be a better opportunity for years. So recently, I decided to drive to this location after work instead, and hike the 2.5 miles to this location. My plan was to arrive late enough in the evening, to shoot the stream after the sun had set beyond the height of the steep ravine, eliminating the contrasting light, but before it got dark.

I made a few mistakes that day though. First, I biked up Bear Notch in the morning. Then I ate an early lunch, and in my haste packing, I forgot to add an afternoon snack. Next, with map and compass always on hand, and my familiarity with terrain, I cursorily looked at the map before starting. I also planned on using my cup to drink water from the streams as I went, and forego my water bottle. Lastly, and most importantly, I forgot to safety text my plan to my best friend in case something happened. Well, I realized three of these things when I got out of the car at the trail head, but was so intent on getting the shot, I decided to go anyway. After all, I’ve been doing this for years and would be extra cautious.

But I didn’t look at the map closely, and misjudged my water availability, so I didn’t get very far before I began to get thirsty and hungry, my stomach growling. I also realized a 1/2 mile in, coming upon a trail sign, I had miscalculated the distance. My 3.8 miles RT, would now be 5. Not a big deal on most days, but already having biked a vigorous uphill in the morning, and with no food or water, I could feel my pace slowing. The struggle was real, but I’ve pushed through far worse in my life, so plodded on. After a good hour+ of uphill hiking with all my gear, not seeing a single hiker this late in the evening, parched, hungry, and beginning to bonk, I came across the brook I had been seeking. I drank long and deep from it’s clear cold waters, fully satiating my thirst. I surveyed the situation, and it was just as green and mossy as I imagined.

With the deep wood evening light already waning, I gently climbed down off the trail into the brook bed, scouting compositions as I went. After some time, I settled on my first composition, placing my tripod mid stream, straddling slick rocks, and took a few photos. It was so beautiful, the rich emerald green contrasting with deep black rock, and a crystal clear water flow. I wanted to spend hours going up and down the stream. But being so deep in the ravine, the light was already fading fast. It was super slippery too (A mossy brook bed, shocking I know), even with my Limmer boots on.

I looked downstream, and as I crept further on, my situation came to mind: The air was cool and damp, in the 50’s, and supposed to drop into the low 40’s in the mountains (perfect hypothermia weather), I had not seen a single hiker, was now off trail, no one knew I was here, and it would be dark soon. I wanted to continue on, and didn’t relish the thought of trying to duplicate this effort another day, but being hungry and tired, if I slipped and got hurt, even with all my gear, I knew I could quickly be in deep trouble. This is just the thing you read about in the paper the next day, and I wasn’t about to push my luck any further.

I backed off, crawled back up the embankment onto the trail, and repacked my gear for the hike down. As I walked back down the trail, I could hear a pair of wood thrush singing sweet songs to each other. Night closed in about half way down, and I pulled off my pack to retrieve my headlamp for the rest of the way. At least I remembered that important item. Well, I will be back again with more images from this magical spot soon, but you can bet I will have water, food, and a quick safety text before leaving. Until next time:)…….This is the image from my second trip, with more time and proper planning.