Pulpit Falls (finally!)

A while back, I can’t say exactly when, I read about Pulpit Falls in Winchester NH. Being a lover of waterfalls I thought it would be cool to add them to my growing portfolio of images. Problem was that not many people had ever seen them or knew where they were. A few pictures came up on Google, but not that many. One that was at first incorrectly labeled as Pulpit, came up also, with an explanation from the photographer that he’d hiked either the wrong way on the right brook, or hiked along the wrong brook. Those cascades are nice though and it wasn’t a bust. I wanted to see if I could find the right ones though and with a bit of research I found a bunch of information to support a hypothetical location. Given where the brook runs and the proximity of power lines, I couldn’t get too lost even if there was no trail, which was true and not true. The trail part, not the lost part.

Anyway, so I picked a day where the chance of rain was 30% and headed out. I find the pullout spot on the side of the road and switch from driving shoes to hiking boots. While getting my camera pack out of the back of the car, another car pulls up behind me. A small family gets out. Really? Of all days? The one time I come here hoping to find a semi-lost waterfall I have to have an audience? With a kid? OMG. Laughing, I set out on the trail which might or might not lead me to Pulpit Falls.

I decided to leave the trail at the first water crossing I encountered. Partially to get away from the people and partially to look for brook/forest landscapes. Those are the best. Soon I reached the powerlines. Usually powerline clear-cuts are full of blueberry bushes, but these are full of mountain laurel. And poison ivy. I had to pick my way through to the brook again, which went down into a steepish gully that I had to go around. When I got to it again, I saw that another brook joined it. Given the GPS coordinates and the map in my head, I knew I should follow the new brook upstream. With a bit of ledge scrambling, I came to this lovely spot –

Undiscovered greatness

Promising huh? I was psyched. To get this shot I put the camera on a downed tree, as far over as I could and still reach it to compose and find my focus points. And people think I’m weird to demand a flip and swivel LCD on the back. LOL.

Onward and upstream I bushwacked. Mostly it was easy. Then the land on either side of the water’s edge started to rise dramatically. Another New England gorge was ahead. I could either walk in the water or scramble. I scrambled. And surprised myself at how I judged (correctly the first time – miracle!) the best way to get into the gorge itself. First up, along some ledge, then down, clinging to some saplings for support along the way. Then under some downed trees, a couple of times taking off my backpack and pushing it under ahead of me so it wouldn’t get snagged. All the while the sound of the water getting louder and louder until eventually I had to turn off my iPod (listening to audio books is something I do all the time and I was re-listening to The Count of Monte Cristo for this trip…maybe I should start including my listening material in my blog posts. Could be fun. Anyway…). When I came out from under my final log, I was presented with this –

Pulpit Falls

Woah!

Some waterfall guide sources said it was a seasonal fall and not too impressive, but I was impressed. It doesn’t show here because it was really messy with deadfall, but the gorge is very wide and deep. Probably 3-4 stories from the bottom of the streambed to the top and almost straight up. Not quite and there are plenty of trees and bushes growing everywhere they could find purchase. I put the camera is where the gorge narrows considerably and there’s a handy boulder. Too bad there’s a newly fallen hemlock right next to it or there could have been more dramatic views. The tree is blocking them now. Maybe if I’d gone in last year I could have gotten those images. Self recriminations didn’t last long though. I was too excited to explore a new place.

The condition of the moss and the presence of beer cans told me I wasn’t the first to be here, but I knew it wasn’t a popular spot either and I hoped the family wouldn’t appear at the top of the falls to ruin my shots. Under and over another couple of dead trees and I got myself about 1/2 way up the cascade onto a wedge of granite –

Geologic geometry

The roar was intense as was the breeze coming off the force of the water. And I stayed blessedly alone. Well except for a green frog which I nearly squished. I think this is the strongest image of the falls, but I also like this one with the ferns waving in the water-powered breeze –

Happy Little Ferns (thanks to Bob Ross)

After marveling and trying a bunch more shots that didn’t really work, I headed up higher and got right up on the edge of the rock for this one. I love the layered slabs of granite and the curved shape the water made –

Structural Fluidics

I wished I could have gotten out further but levitation isn’t one of my skills so I had to be content with this. All the while I shot and marveled, little birds flew into the bowl of the falls and took sips on the wing. It was very peaceful despite the roar of the water. With the ground now reasonably level, I headed upstream a bit. I wished I could go further, but I had a date with another elusive waterfall and if I wanted to get both in before the rain, I had to move. I plan to go back though. It’s a beautiful brook and one worth more exploration, that’s for sure.

Burnished
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