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Wednesday, October 8th at 3pm MT, I departed from my home in metro Denver. Long overdue, this trip will encompass somewhere around 6500 miles, traveling through Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan (both Upper Peninsula and “the mitten”), Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas before finally returning home on Sunday, November 2th.

The idea for this trip originated in November 2013, after my fall foliage trip which I had to split in two, for a family emergency. The second half of my trip was not nearly as good as I was planning or had hoped for, but an early season snow had taken its’ toll on the foliage.

Knowing that in 2014, I would hit the half-century mark, the idea to really capture fall foliage around the U.S.A. was just what I needed to add great scenic images to my portfolio, but also experience the season from somewhat of a tourist’s perspective.

Having lived in a number of the places I would travel to or through, the opportunity to see those places and relive memories was an added bonus.

My second day ended in Superior, WI after shooting sunset and twilight at Point Park in Duluth, MN. Traffic in Minneapolis-St. Paul almost made me miss sunset & twilight; I did manage to capture a few good images. Here is a twilight shot:

Superior Twilight

I awoke the next morning very early, as I wanted to give myself plenty of time to experience the fall foliage in the “U.P.” and western side of Michigan. The Upper Peninsula of MI had so much to see & create images along the drive that time really got away from me and before I knew it, I had to make a slight adjustment to my planned route once I crossed the Mackinac Bridge. My goal was to get to Ludington, to shoot sunset and twilight at Ludington Harbor. Wait…this was a “fall foliage trip,” what the heck was I thinking? Oh, believe me, I knew what I wanted and Mother Nature was very kind to provide!!! Ludington Harbor Twilight is what came about from my efforts:

Breakwater Twilight

Once twilight was over and I was sure I had created “the” image, I headed to my hotel in South Grand Rapids. As I got on US-31S, I quickly found that the drivers in Michigan really love to drive fast (like 15 – 20 mph above the speed limit). Even bumping up my cruise control to four mile-per-hour over the limit, the cars were passing me like I was standing still. Made it to my hotel and as much as I wanted to get some sleep (had an 8am appointment to have the 10K service performed on my 4Runner at Toyota of Grand Rapids), I really wanted to do post-processing for the images I had created during the day. Two hours passed a lot faster than I knew and I faced going to bed at 1am. Oh well, who needs sleep anyway?
The next morning, with the 10K service completed (only took an hour!), I headed out to visit places I had lived and spent a fair bit of time in when I lived & worked in Grand Rapids. So many places and memories…fall foliage was also pretty stellar as well! As the day wound down, I headed back to the hotel to post-process pictures and get ready to have dinner with a friend I had not seen in far too long. Here is an image from the day:

Autumn Glory

As I planned this trip, I had made a few concessions to myself. One of those concessions was that a few of the days, I would have to do A LOT of driving to get from Point A to Point B. Leaving Grand Rapids, I had a long day ahead of me as I had thrown in a last minute jaunt into Amish Country in mid-Ohio. Fall Foliage there is supposed to be just amazing. Unfortunately, but laid plans went for naught as foliage was pretty well done in that area already. Scouting for future trips did happen though and I WILL be back at some point in the future to capture the magnificent farms and fall foliage!

Flyover State

Time did get away from me a bit on this drive too; I had planned to drive past my Dad’s childhood home outside of Cleveland, but if I was to make it to my campsite outside of Sheffield, PA with sufficient time to get camp set up before it got dark, I had to skip that stage of the trip. I guess that will be on my “Amish Country Fall Foliage” trip agenda too!

I arrived at Whispering Winds Campground at 5:45pm, got checked in and had camp set up in about 20 minutes, giving myself just enough time to make a quick dinner meal before the darkness set in. My REI Kingdom 6 tent had plenty of room and I was able to sit in my chair inside the tent (to avoid mosquitos) and post-process pictures from the day.

Camping. Such serenity and peaceful sleep, especially with a softly babbling brook nearby! The first few days of this road-trip had been filled with a lot of territory to cover, early morning departures and I took the opportunity to sleep in, which for me, was not really that easy…but I did force myself to stay in my sleeping bag until 7:30am. Finally, it was time to get up and get motivated, as I knew there were a lot of places to explore for the one day I had in this area.

The Allegheny National Forest is definitely another area on my “return to” list; Scenic drive after scenic drive, I found plenty of places to create images. I did have some local knowledge help from a gentleman running the Shell gas station in Warren, PA off of Exit 62 on US-6. Rimrock Scenic Overlook is one of those places where you could easily spend an hour or two there, especially at sunrise (hint hint for anyone choosing to visit in the future).

Rimrock Colors

After I left Rimrock Scenic Overlook, I headed to James Rock Overlook. Again, a lot of potential though I was cut short by a quickly approaching rain-storm, forcing me to jog back to my 4Runner (with my full backpack weighing 65 pounds) to ensure I didn’t get soaked (I had removed my rain gear like an idiot, to make room for something. Once I returned to the 4Runner, the rain gear was put back in the backpack). Driving along Longhouse Drive, I found myself mesmerized by the twists and turns, gorgeous color around every bend. Looking at the time, I had a few hours before it would get dark, so I made my way to Kinzua Bridge State Park to check out this landmark location.

The fall foliage here was pretty well gone, leaving me to appreciate the magnificent structure and know that I had yet another location on my “return to” list (ever-growing list, apparently!).

Kinzua Skywalk

Another fantastic night of sleep earned after my day exploring! In typical fashion though, I awoke at first light and found myself getting cleaned up and starting to pack up camp fairly early. Breaking down camp and getting packed up too all of about 30 minutes. Even with a short day ahead of me, I knew there might be stops along the way for something that catches my eye!

Along NY-23, I did find a few places to create images. Rider Farms was one that struck me as scenic:

Rider Farms

Returning to Woestyne South, the house my maternal grandfather built in the late 1930’s, to visit with family and to pick up a couple of items that I will write about later, was beyond surreal! The last time I was there was probably around 1985, prior to the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Vincent & Lois Schaefer. One thing that struck me as I left to head to my motel in Clifton Park (for a short overnight stay prior to heading up to the Adirondacks) is that time passes by far too quickly! This road trip is beginning to take on a fantastic sense of privilege; the privilege of enjoying the amazing upbringing my parents provided for my sister and I.

The next morning I left the motel and headed to the cemetery where grandma & grandpa are buried, to pay my respects and thank them for instilling a passion for the great outdoors. Despite instructions from my Uncle on where their plots were in the cemetery, I was close but was unable to locate after searching for an hour (missed their graves by 4 or 5 roads). I did feel that I made my connection though, so I felt the next stage of the road trip would definitely be fulfilling!

Visiting Family Graves

Heading North on I-87 towards the Adirondacks, my mind drifted through the countless memories of visits (infrequent as they may have been) to Woestyne North through the years. Probably the biggest memory I have is that Grandpa always (yes, always) had a fire going in the fireplace, even in the middle of the Summer. The smell of the fire in the fireplace is one that I will never ever forget.

As I arrived at my Aunt Sue’s cabin (my Mom’s sister) located just up the hill from Woestyne North, I opened the door and was greeted to that oh-so-familiar smell of the fireplace. Heaven. Pure, unadulterated H E A V E N !! Before I could even unpack the 4Runner and get settled in, I grabbed my tripod and camera to shoot some pictures. I had to capture the moment, not just the cabin, but also the birch trees that are so prevalent surrounding Hearthhaven. Once I had created a few images to satisfy my soul, I unpacked the 4Runner and got myself settled in.

The Colors of Camp

Before the forecast rain came, I headed up the hill to hike a trail into what I’ve named “Schaefer’s Woods.”  Knowing that Grandma & Grandpa has traversed this trail numerous times over the years, this was my way to reconnect and pay homage to a big influence on my passion for the great outdoors.  The trail was grown up, much like myself.  Hard to believe I would turn 50 soon.  I made it to a particular spot that just had the right feel and look, so I took off my pack, set up my tripod and camera and began looking for just the right composition.  Late afternoon light, fading with the looming storm-front offered a couple of options, but this image is the one that hit me as truly and accurately reflecting “Schaefer’s Woods.”

Schaefer's Woods

The next day, I got up to some rainy weather. I decided to take my chances to explore the Adirondacks and see what I could find, hoping for some reasonable weather too create images. Alas, there was just a bit too much moisture or clouds for 90% of the drive. The last bit of the drive, heading down the road along the Hudson River, I saw a couple of turnouts that caught my eye and the rain had let up for a bit, so I jumped at the chance. Some fun images of fall foliage, mist among the trees and the Hudson came about fairly quickly! Returning to the cabin, it got dark fairly quickly and I took that opportunity to turn on a couple of lights, then go out with tripod & camera for some long-exposure images of the cabin. I have hopes that the images I created will give all the family a sense of pride and keep the tradition of time spent at camp in the Adirondacks.

Hearthhaven II

I had lost a bit of motivation to write, but a post from a friend inspired me to get back on the writing train and get my act together!  Special shout out to @jestheccc for the motivation.

Stay tuned for Part 2 covering the next stage of #RoadTrip2014 and Part 3 covering the final stage of #RoadTrip2014, coming in the next few days.

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