This month marked the 4th bi-annual New England Walk and this adventure took us up to Woodstock and Quechee, VT to catch the New England foliage. For the first time (for many of us) the walk took on a new direction - that being a multi-day event centered around a gorgeous 1850's AirBnB Farmhouse.
The farm was immaculate and looked like an L.L. Bean ad threw up all over every room (in a good way). Of the 13 people on the walk, 7 of us stayed at the farm (well, one outside in her truck). And man, the times there were priceless and have forever more shaped the model of future walks. This was truly a new adventure for all that attended.
Everything began the day before the walk. I got up to Woodstock around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Annoyingly, there was no cell signal on the road and GPS was putting the address of the farm about 3 miles beyond where it really was. Luckily, the people on that road made it sort of a game by not having house or mailbox numbers. At one extreme, an old farm house had a mailbox number in the 6,000s, but it was a few miles before I saw another (in the 9,000s) and realized I was going in the wrong direction. Swinging back past the first house, I eventually found one with a number in the 2,000s and was able to ping-pong my way to the right address. Once I got online at the farm, I messaged the rest of the folks about the lying GPS and gave them some landmarks to shoot for. Sadly for Carla and Mike, they came at night and still had to ping pong their way a bit to the farm. Landmarks don't mean jack on a pitch black night. I tried to make it easy by flicking on every light at the farm to make it a beaming lighthouse.
They arrived within an hour of each other and we toured the house, chose the best bedrooms and then darted out for dinner. We settled on a little place called Worthy Kitchen. Quaint little place with some fine beer and farm-to-table foods. We had a wonderful late dinner then headed back to the farm to kick back a couple pints while watching The Empire Strikes Back (yes, we're nerds). It was long until the beds draped in heavy down quilts beckoned us to sleep.
The next morning, we woke to a wonderfully foggy back yard. Mike and I headed out with our Pentax's (somehow Mike's 67 jammed so he jumped onto his new 645) and we walked about in the field shooting the barns. Then the 3 of us headed into town for breakfast at the charming Mon Vert Cafe and a mini-walk around town. Holy gorgeous.
I was shooting the little Yashica Electro 35 GX in town (damn, didn't send off that roll yet!) and wanted to grab some more 35mm - just in case. We went into a little pharmacy and I asked the lady at the counter for film.
She said, and I shit you not, "Don't you mean an SD card?"
So, once a brief explanation of why and how film is still relevant and viable today, we checked a few more shops with no luck, though Carla did find a cheap disposable at the grocery store that we later re-branded at a Leica Disposable with a red circle cut out from a tea bag. Much giddy laughter ensued.
We got back to the farm in time to meet the boy from the Great White North, aka Matt. As he was coming in on the red-eye Subaru using Apple as his GPS at "ludicrous speed," we were genuinely worried he'd not even be in the right state. But low and behold, it brought him right to farm.
He greeted us with counterfeit Girl Scout cookies (I think they were called Girl Guides) and some Coffin Crisps. (I shake my fist at America for not carrying these crack-laced goodies on store shelves). We didn't have long until we had to head out to the Quechee Gorge, and since Matt just drove 8+ hours non-stop from America Jr, we opted to have him drive us to, as he put it, "a legit fucking gorge."
When we parked at the gorge, we walked right across the path of Olya and Meagan who didn't make it to the farm yet and were grabbing a quick bite to eat. Kelsea was also just arriving, so we grabbed her and met up with the rest of the crew at the gorge entrance. (The 6 I mentioned so far were all staying at the farm). Save one person, everyone showed up for this walk and after handing out Richard Photo Lab vouchers, we all headed down the trail head.
The walk itself isn't that long - roughly a mile to the base of the gorge through a winding wooded trail. But as always, these walks are about the conversation, not the distance covered. With such a small group, it really looked like everyone was talking to everyone and having an amazing time. No soldiers left behind.
We hit the base of the gorge where people scattered around the riverbed to shoot and talk for about an hour. It was really cool watching all the interactions and people doing their own thing, getting their own spin on the landscape. I think for one of the first times ever, I got to sit and talk with each and every person on the walk for a little bit (as well as some tourists doing the same).
After kicking around the base, we hiked back up the trail (that somehow got very steep it seemed) across the bridge and to the dam on the far side of the gorge. For the "finale" we hopped into the bridge for the iconic birds-eye-view of the gorge. As it's fall in Vermont, you are standing arm-pit to arm-pit with 100 other folks trying to get the same shot.
Post-walk, all 13 of us headed over to The Public House to have dinner and share a few pints. A special shout-out to Andrew for allowing us to make reservations on what's perhaps the busiest night of the year. Thank you!
After a ton of food and laughter, several folks headed back across New England. The remainder came back to the farm house for a night of beer and Cards Against Humanity. Kels, this is for you: "M. Night Shyamalan!" Oh my, I am still laughing. (Sorry - only the 7 residents of the farm, plus Tyler and Amanda will get that...).
The morning wasn't overly eventful. Meagan and Olya were up early to catch some foliage in the field while the rest of us pounded gobs of coffee around the old table. We spent the early morning cleaning up the home and getting ready to part ways.
This whole idea of small group walks based around a house on a long-weekend is going to be a major theme for future walks. Getting these extra days on the head and tail of a walk make all the difference in the world. I got to know 6 other folks on a level I never knew them before - and am so grateful for that experience.
NEWLK 5.0 is going to have a very similar feel - but will be stripped down even more. For a hint, think very, very small group on a tiny Atlantic island - B&W 35mm film only with 3 days shooting and sink-dev nightly over fine scotch and whiskey.
Below are select images submitted by those on the walk (there are many more on the way, so stay tuned - those on the walk, please email me your images as they come in). Such talent in the NEWLK group.
Kelsea Anderson @forest.keeper
Thomas Risberg @cameraswede
Brandin Tumeinski @brandintumeinski
Olya Vitulli @olya_vitulli
Mike Poulliot @mpouliot_photo