Living in southern California has advantages. The weather is fantastic and there’s always something happening. From a photography perspective, it’s hard to beat. Sometimes, however, you need a little change. For the past several years I’ve wanted to go on an east coast tour of the United States. Specifically, I’ve wanted to visit during the fall season to photograph the legendary fall colors. Well, this year it finally happened! My wife and I just returned from a spectacular two-week journey along much of the east coast. The cool thing is that other than our flight, we didn’t have a single reservation. This trip was about complete flexibility.
Prior to our trip, I had done quite a bit of research to determine the best time to see the fall colors. I scoured the internet, spoke with friends, and consulted with commercial travel services. What I discovered is that determining the best time to see the fall colors is not easy. In fact, the “best” time to visit varies each year and is rather hard to predict with any certainty. Ultimately, we committed to a specific two-week window and booked a flight. After so much research and planning, I was really hoping we weren’t going to be too early or too late. We left Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon (October 13th) and touched down in Boston that evening. We picked up a rental car and hit the road. Over the next 14 days we experienced an adventure that exceeded all expectations. Our timing was absolutely perfect! The entire east coast was covered in beautiful fall foliage. We traveled through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, New York and Washington DC. Every place we visited had thick forests of bright orange, yellow, red and green.
The entire trip was absolutely amazing with many incredible experiences. The people were really friendly and we had many laughs. There were a few things, however, that made the trip even more special. One of my favorite events was visiting the West Point Military Academy. There’s really no way to describe West Point if you haven’t seen it for yourself. It’s an awe striking institution rich in U.S. history. West Point is dedicated to educating and training our nation’s best young minds. The West Point website states their mission as follows:
The United States Military Academy’s mission is to educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army. The Academy provides a superb four-year education, which focuses on the leader development of cadets in the academic, military, and physical domains, all underwritten by adherence to a code of honor.
The entire West Point Military Academy is inspiring and beautiful. There are countless buildings with stunning architecture. One of my favorite buildings is the main chapel. I took this image from the back of the chapel looking forward. I love the stained glass, hanging flags and perfectly aligned rows of bibles.
After leaving West Point, we headed south into New York City. Downtown New York is a place that almost defies description. It’s wildly expensive, crowded, loud and brightly illuminated day and night. It’s a hustling place that never sleeps. There’s so much to do there. Times Square, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty are just a few of the incredible sites awaiting New York visitors. New York City is amazing! Due to some unexpected timing issues, I found myself behind the wheel of our rental car during rush hour traffic right in the middle of Times Square. This is an experience that I will never (ever) forget. There were SO MANY people walking in the streets (did you catch that – I said streets – not sidewalks) that it was almost impossible to move forward in a car. Traffic lights are irrelevant and are generally for display purposes only. My wife described it as trying to drive a car through a school of fish!
The 9/11 memorial site in New York was also amazing to see. The site is dedicated to the nearly 3,000 men, women and children (some unborn) killed during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center site and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The site is also dedicated to the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The footprints of the former Twin Towers now contain beautiful reflecting pools. The names of those killed in the attacks are inscribed into bronze panels that line the reflecting pools. Being at the site of the attacks (even so many years later) made the events of September 11, 2001 feel so raw and real again. Standing in the midst of the memorial site is deeply humbling and saddening. Many people were just crying. Others pressed their hands upon the names of loved ones inscribed in bronze.
Although the Vietnam War was officially over when I was very young, I readily identify with this war. I assume this is because of the numerous movies and documentaries I’ve watched about the war. As part of my trip, I was fortunate enough to visit Washington D.C. and see several memorial sites. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as “the wall” is a spectacular site to see. The memorial is made of black granite and contains the names of the 58,272 service personnel who were killed or are now listed as MIA or POW.
Interestingly, the weather during our entire trip was uncharacteristically pleasant for the time of year. There was lots of sunshine and the daily temps were somewhere in the mid-70s. After two awesome weeks, we headed back to Los Angeles on the morning of the 27th. By that evening, hurricane Sandy had started to make its way up the eastern seaboard. Within a few days, over 13,000 flights had been cancelled. It seems our timing was perfect in more ways than one. I’m not certain when I’ll have a chance to visit the east coast again, but when I do, I’ll do it the same way – no schedules and no reservations.