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Winter Hike to Orris Falls

Orris Falls is a beautiful waterfall in a wooded hilly area near Mount Agamenticus in York, Maine.
This waterfall is on land that is part of a collection of land trusts.   
Field Sketch Orris Falls watercolor 6×8

It is an easy hike through the woods to reach the falls.

The path is an old road that passes through wet lowlands with winding brooks and thickets of pines.

 As you get closer to the falls the path climbs higher and higher.  Soon you are walking on the crest of a tall ridge.

At the very top of the ridge are two ponds. Beavers created the large ice-covered pond… 

…which flows into a smaller ice-rimmed pool of faster moving water…  

…that spills into a small creek…
Field Sketch Orris Falls watercolor 3×3

…that carves a path through the trees …

…splashing and foaming around rocks… 
Field Sketch Orris Falls watercolor 4×4

…making collars of ice on boulders and along the edges of the stream.
Field Sketch Orris Creek watercolor 6×8

It gathers speed as it rushes down the hillside in between large granite ledges.

The sides of the ravine are steep.
Field Sketch Orris Falls Ravine watercolor 4×5

 Over the years many trees had toppled down into this narrow valley.

Some were old and rotting; others looked like they were up rooted in a recent storm.
Field Sketch Orris Falls Ravine watercolor 4×6

I scouted for painting locations on a high trail as Marcus climbed down into the bottom of the ravine.

He found a perfect spot for me to sketch down near the edge of the falls… 

…on a narrow ledge below the top of the rushing cascade.
I sketched the water as it surged down from above me.

It streamed down forming interesting ice formations on the mossy granite outcroppings.
Field Sketch Orris Falls Ravine watercolor 7×9

I sat very still sketching. The hillside was sharply angled and covered with slippery leaves. 

The rock ledge I was sitting on hung out over the falling water.

It is the only level spot on the falls. Beside me the land falls abruptly down to the bottom of the falls. 

The water roared by with a crashing sound. 
Field Sketch Orris Falls watercolor 6×6

I’ll definitely return to this location with my oils paints to do some plein air paintings. 
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Deep in Pinkham Notch

 On the east coast of the United States, large rivers create paths through the Appalachian Mountain range. Up in New Hampshire the Saco River begins in a lake up on the top of Crawford Notch in the White Mountains National Forest.  

It flows east down to North Conway creating a open rolling valley named the Mount Washington Valley.
Mount Washington Valley, sketch 8×16 watercolor 

Along the sides of these mountains are groves of white birches. Some mountains are entirely covered with white birch forests.
 Silver Cascade Birches,  8×4 watercolor
The narrow valleys through the mountains created by these rivers are called “Notches”.  They were named by the early colonists because they looked like the notch marks made by an axe when cutting a log.  Beautiful waterfalls cascade down the sides of the mountains through these notches. 
Silver Cascade, sketch 9×12 watercolor

I paint every summer in the White Mountain National Forest for two weeks and still haven’t visited all the great spots. This forest is a popular destination that is easy to reach from the urban areas of the northeast coast.  

While driving to Pinkham Notch I discovered a great painting spot on the banks of a mountain stream near Wildcat Mountain. A series of waterfalls cascade for hundreds of feet down into a narrow boulder-strewn creek bed. 
It was a short 20 ft climb down to the stream’s edge from my car up on the road.  I carried my painting gear down and set it on a large flat rock. 

The streams and rivers in the White Mountains are full of rocks and huge boulders. Some of the rivers have more rocks than water during the summer months. The park rangers warn about dangerous rapidly rising water levels after sudden storms. 
Birches along the Peabody River, sketch 6×6 watercolor
This icy stream carved its way through the boulders and solid rock of the mountain side. 

I found a nice relatively level spot and set my easel up right next to the water.
Around mid-morning the mountains started making clouds. The mountains create their own weather. 
I started work on my first painting of the day; a view looking north up the river as it flowed down into Pinkham Notch.  

Looking North, sketch 5×8 watercolor

As the sun moved higher in the sky the stream bed emerged from the shadows of the trees. 

 Small Pool, sketch 4×5 watercolor
Groups of cyclists pedaled up the mountain on the road above me. 
I was surrounded by the sound of falling water. 
As the day grew warmer people arrived! My painting spot was also a favorite swimming hole for families. The temperature started to rise toward midday. It became warm. I put my feet in the cold water. Awesome! 
The sun soon moved to the other side of the ridge. The stream was in deep shade.

Icy Mountain Stream, sketch watercolor  9×12

I start placing my color notes as the afternoon shadows moved across the creek.

The water pouring over the rocks appeared pure and cool.  The filtered light and shadows were changing constantly.  
At 6:30 pm I called it a wrap. The sun was behind the mountain and everyone had gone home. I didn’t want to leave this lovely wild place. I packed my gear and headed back up to my car.  I’ll be back!