Stranger 02/100 - Melanie

I photographed my second stranger near the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Initially I was more intrigued by the situation than by Melanie herself, whose face at first I couldn’t make out clearly in the mist hovering around the mountaintop. We had been hiking – my wife and her brother and sister – for around four hours and we were cresting the Knife Edge, a mile-long exposed ridge that leads to the peak, when I spotted a figure in pink resting on the rocks up ahead. As I hiked closer, I noticed how peaceful Melanie looked, legs kicked up, staring off and contemplating the abyss.

Ten minutes earlier we had crossed paths with three Amish women hiking in ankle-length blue dresses and white bonnets, and I was still irritated with myself for letting that opportunity slip away. It wasn’t so much the Amish aversion to being photographed that deterred me; they just looked kind of mean.

When we reached Melanie I let my companions hike ahead while I built up the nerve to ask for a portrait. “Excuse me,” I said and gave my spiel, but she wrinkled her brow and I figured my request was about to be shot down. Instead, with a French accent, she said, “My English is not so good,” and then indicated she would be happy to take my picture. I tried again and pointed at her; she seemed amused and maybe a bit embarrassed, but agreed. I took several frames, thanked her, and hiked on.

The only thing I learned was that Melanie is from Quebec. I didn’t have my 100 Strangers cards with me, or even a pen to jot down my Flickr address, so I doubt Melanie will ever see her portrait. Shame.