"No Cyan": A Day on the Grafton Loop Trail

“Cyan”, for those of us who wrestle with laser printers, is the one ink cartridge we never seem to have when the printer ink runs out. In common parlance, it’s “blue.”

Cyan also represents a form of color coding for lighting, in the parlance of professional photographers and graphic artists. It is not a only kind of “blue,” but a darkness in the colors in the frame, caused by lighting at particular times of day; that darkness reacts with the bright tones of yellow and red to mute the brightness. It is why people shot at sunset are shadowed and flat, and why that photo never seems to capture the glowing fall colors quite right. There are ways to overcome cyan, through long exposures, certain lenses, and of course photoshop; however, the best way is to be at the right place at the right time.

I start a trip report on the Grafton Loop Trail in Maine with a digression on the technical jargon of graphic artistry and photography because our particular trip to Grafton was brought to us by the crisp golden fall colors of maples and birches, the glory of an October day in Maine. The Grafton Loop Trail, a long and gently graded trail, is also a long hike. During the 12 miles of the day that I hiked with Mahoosuc Rover Ryan Smith, also an accomplished graphic artist and photographer, we had plenty of time to talk about photography.

As a brief review, the Grafton Loop Trail, the wonderful accomplishment of the Grafton Loop Trail Coalition, is 39 miles of hiking through woodlands and across the spines of the Mahoosucs and Baldpates, and dipping into Grafton Notch. It was built by volunteers, professional trail crew, and made possible by extraordinary partnerships between recreational trail clubs such as AMC and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, land managers such as the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, and private landowners such as Sunday River and timberowners.

The trail itself is mellow in grade and winds around and along summits. It is fairly quiet, and is most frequented by those who seek a “pure” backpacking experience. It has, also, become enormously popular among long-distance trail runners.

AMC maintains four primitive campsites along the 17 miles of trail that connects Rt 26 in Newry, Maine to the Appalachian Trail on the summit of Old Speck: Bald Mtn, Sergeant Brook, Silde Mtn, and Bull Run. Last week, on that glorious fall day, we went to do the kind of minor maintenance that justifies a hike on a beautiful day: hanging signs, fixing outhouse doors, affixing hardware to a bearbox.

The campsites are clearly respected by visitors and overnight users, the proof in their consistently clean and tidy appearance, free of fire rings or garbage left behind in bear boxes, as well as not becoming denuded of vegetation through cutting or trampling. In our busy White Mountain campsites, we rely on the caretaker program to protect the resources of trees, soil, and water quality, and the campsite infrastructure itself, during periods of high use. In the quieter Grafton Loop Trail, we rely on visitors themselves, and AMC only checks on the sites once or twice a year.

In the four years I’ve been involved in the maintenance of the Grafton Loop sites, I’ve picked up occasional pieces of scraps of wrappers and dispersed a single fire ring. The forests surrounding each tent platform or pad remain dense and lively. The visible and tangible respect from the hiking public is impressive.

But back to the glorious foliage. The Grafton Loop winds through a particularly glorious stand of maple trees between Slide Mtn campsite and Bull Run. We managed to hit this particularly glorious stand of maples in the early afternoon light, which, according to Ryan, was devoid of “cyan.” Ryan, being cameraless (what kind of graphic artist is camera-less? The kind that works in the woods and lives out of his car and can’t always find his camera), relied on me to capture a few shots. Of course, I failed to capture enough, except for the one shot at the top of this post.

Enjoy. And enjoy this peak foliage season in the ways you enjoy.