I was born and raised in Massachusetts, so when my parents made the shocking decision to move to California in the middle of my freshman year of high school, I was heartbroken. But flash forward three years, and I was so stoked on the west coast, I didn't even bother applying to colleges outside of the golden state. I had only traveled back east once in the last two decades, and I had no immediate plans to return. All of my friends and family had relocated to other parts of the country, so what was the point?
Well, autumn in New England is pretty special, and after shooting fall colors out west for the last few seasons, I wanted to switch things up. But the main reason for this trip was to see my friend Lexi, who moved to New Hampshire earlier this year. The last time we went on an adventure, she flew out to me, and from getting fresh air to catching up, I know this would be the perfect girls' trip. I had points to burn on hotels and first class flight vouchers from Alaska Airlines, so this was going to cost me a bag of groceries, a few meals out, plus $25 for a campsite. Perfect.
After a very stressful week editing two big projects, I was in dire need of some time off. It's extremely difficult for me to let go of work when I travel, especially when there are awesome things to shoot, but this was different. If I didn't want to take photos, I didn't have to. I felt no pressure, and most of the time my camera was tucked away in my backpack. It's amazing how much you can truly appreciate nature (and your friends!) when your face isn't pressed to the viewfinder of your camera. I am extremely lucky to get paid to travel the world and take photos of it, but I'd be lying if I said my job hasn't taken away some of the joy I once felt when photography was just a hobby. This year I've learned that taking breaks is necessary both on a personal level -- and to reignite the spark that fuels my creativity. If I'm not amped, I'm not going to get imagery that tells a story, and if my photos don't say anything, then what am I doing?
I flew in to Boston, crashed at Lexi's place, and we hit the road for Acadia National Park the following morning. The weather was nasty on the drive up, but it cleared the next day and we got our first peek at the palette of red, gold and green splashed all over the hillsides, running right down to the coast. Despite a late start, we got extremely lucky and snagged a parking spot at the Jordan Pond trailhead, an easy loop that has a number of side trails to other prime vistas. We took one to a gorgeous and quiet waterfall, and another to the Bubble Rock Trail, which offers fantastic views of the coast. After logging a total of about 8 miles, an early dinner at the Jordan Pond House was a no brainer. We took it easy the following day, and after scoping out the Bass Harbor Lighthouse and another popular boardwalked path in the park, we grabbed lunch at the Side Street Cafe and made our way back to camp.
I love camping, but when my sleeping bag is soaked with dew and the fire is struggling the stay alive (even after being blasted with half a bottle of lighter fluid), I'm down for Plan B. On top of the dreary weather, we unknowingly scheduled our trip the same weekend as the Mount Desert Island marathon, so Acadia was crawling with both leaf peepers and runners. Don't get me wrong: I love our national parks and I am a tourist as well (hell, I earn much of my income shooting for tourism bureaus), but the crowd situation was a bit much, even for me. I'm used to finding happiness off the grid -- not in places where busses can unload hundreds of people who all want to take the same selfie. This was a good reminder of that, and one of the reasons why I love traveling with Lexi.
"So, do you want to go home a day earlier than we planned?" she asked. "We can hang with the dogs and watch movies and--" Before she could finish her sentence, I said yes, and we immediately packed up and headed back to New Hampshire. We stopped by the L.L. Bean store in Freeport and grabbed dinner at Nosh Kitchen Bar in Portland (they serve a burger sandwiched between two deep fried mac 'n cheese patties -- obviously I had to try this), and we arrived in Dover just after dark. The following day we slept in until 10am, and vegged out on Netflix, bagels and wine and spent even more time catching up. We braved the rain and bought supplies to make candles, but we never got around to it. We were too busy sitting there doing nothing, but really, it was everything I needed.