View Full Version : Disappointed with Summit construction

05-30-2012, 05:28 PM

I'm new to this forum, and enjoying all of your posts. I attended Camp Wachusett, Holderness, NH, Little Squam Lake during 1967 - 1968. We hiked the Southern Presidentials to the Tuckerman Ravine shelters, then the next day over top of Mt. Washington and down though the Great Gulf. Since 1968, I have climbed Mt. Washington three other times, the last in the late 1970s. Back in the 1960s, Mt. Washington just had the Summit and Tip Top Houses, but now, the Observatory, plus a bunch of other stuff. I am really disappointed with all the development, because it takes away the incredible experience of Mt. Washington (I remember sitting on the Mt. Washington cone near the top, just taking in the feel of the unbalanced weather). Is the State of NH responsible for the development of Mt. Washington State Park? Also, I have read that the trails are much more crowded, now. It's all a shame.

06-06-2012, 07:10 PM
Sorry for your disappointment and frustration at the development of the summit.

I can?t speak for all parties involved but the Mount Washington Observatory has had a presence on the summit since the 1930?s; so when you were hiking up here in the 1960s and 70s, we already had a weather station present on the summit. As for the other development over the years, there has been a mix of private parties, military, the Auto Road, the Cog, the Observatory and NH State Park that all had various structures that were standing up here at one point or another. And while I can?t speak directly for what the summit looked like in the 1960s and 70s, since I wasn?t alive then, looking back at various pictures in the time periods you mentioned, unfortunately there were far more buildings than you are remembering. At the time, there was the Summit House, the Stage Office, the former Observatory, the WMTW building, the FM building, Yankee Building, Tip Top House, as well as a Cog Tank, and a few smaller outlying buildings and FM/TV antennas at and just below the summit. All of these were present through the 60s and 70s, so they would have been present during your excursions up here.

More recently, NH State Park has been working towards tearing down and removing unnecessary buildings and structures up here and there are now fewer buildings than were present back in the 60s and 70s or even the early 2000?s for that matter. And the current visitor center (that has been up here since the early 1980s), according to NHSP, was built in a less-obstructive footprint so visitors can take in more of the view from the summit. But, I guess that varies for the individual. So, currently, the only buildings present are the Stage Office (owned by the Auto Road), Yankee Building (NHSP), Tip Top House (NHSP), and the Sherman Adams Building (NHSP with space leased to the Mount Washington Observatory) as well as some storage tanks and radio antennas at or just below the cone. The current structure footprint, surprisingly, is far smaller than it once was just a decade ago, or, in your case, 40-50 years ago. And while it can be argued for or against anything being up here at all, that is up to the individual points of view. And I have heard several good arguments for and against it all in my time up here. But, all I can say for the current set up is, it is what it is.

As far as the trails being more crowded, this is outside my realm of knowledge since we observe weather on the summit and not foot traffic. That question might be better directed towards AMC, RMC, USFS, or NHSP since they would track that kind of information. But, if I had to guess, you are likely correct as it comes down to better transportation (plains, trains, and automobiles), a larger population on earth in general (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population), a stronger desire to explore our outdoors with far better gear, and men and women that were teens or ?kids? back in the 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond that are now parents wanting to share their enjoyable hiking experiences with their kids and grandkids.

As one of my environmental studies professors constantly reminded us, "unfortunately, nothing stays the same and with time comes change, either for better or worst?". One only has to look at historical paintings of the White Mountains to truly see how the area was once perceived (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Mountain_art). But even in these early paintings, the summits were each interpreted and perceived differently depending on the individual artists. But even today, there are still plenty pockets of isolation and other summits around the state and Northeast for those seeking to escape the modernization or crowds of that this particular summit may see. But even if you hike the longer trails up to this summit, there tends to be fewer people encountered if you are still seeking the isolation that comes with summit hiking. But another way to think of it all is to remember the fond memories you had of this summit when you first hiked it - would you really want to keep that all to yourself or share in your experience with others from around the world?

But, again, I am sorry for your disappointment and frustration with the development and crowds on the summit. And, if you have any inquires about summit development, they can be directed towards NHSP: http://www.nhstateparks.org/explore/state-parks/mount-washington-state-park.aspx. And if you are looking for hard numbers about trail population, you can inquiry the NHSP, as well as AMC: http://www.outdoors.org/, or WMNFS: http://www.fs.usda.gov/whitemountain. And I will pass your thread along to my supervisor so he is aware of your disappointment and inquiries.

Bill O
07-13-2012, 10:15 AM
BREAKING NEWS: Some Things May Have Change In The Last 40 Years!

Here's the real news. When it comes to Mount Washington it is all for the better. As Ryan noted, the summit used to be a far more crowded place with many more buildings and permanent residents. Um, there used to be a hotel up there, sheep pastures and a runway. It's only in the last 30 years or so people started to realize you can't just walk all over the alpine zone without causing damage. Ever see old photos of the peaks? It was all dirt, now it is not.

And the trend is only getting better. The Sherman Adams building isn't going anywhere, but the other structures will slowly be removed. Old foundations are being demolished, and any wood structures will either be destroyed be fire (they always are) or phased out. Digital transmissions are making the antennas obsolete and I don't think any new buildings will ever be approved.

More people? Duh! There are 50% more people in America now than 40 years ago. It makes sense that they would find there way into the mountains. Yet, the trails have probably never been cleaner. More people in the mountains means more stewards to protect them.

How quickly we forget the past. Wasn't it the 70's when Americans decided to stop trashing the country and clean up all the litter on the highways?

07-13-2012, 10:42 AM
And while trails may seem more crowded, that all depends on what trails you use and when you are on them. If you hike around Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, weekends, etc., etc., yes indeed there will be more people on the trails as there is in a general sense. However, while many trails have been lost due to neglect, misuse, storms, etc., there are many more trails available today than ever. A vast majority of these (i.e. the Cohos Trail) will take you to beautiful areas that many casual hikers do not visit to the North Country. If crowds are a concern, skip the high peaks and visit the more remote areas, even at the busiest times your human encounters will be few.

07-31-2012, 11:41 AM
Thank you all for the great information. I'm glad that some of the buildings are coming down on the summit. Hiking the Presidentials is quite the experience, one that will never be forgotten. Ever time I hear the words "State Park", associated with any summit, I shutter because it means over-development. Mount Mitchell State Park is just as bad as Mount Washington:


Luckily, I am about 2 hours from the Shenandoah Mountains, and unlike the Smokey Mountains, they do not allow commercial development within the Park. The are two 4000+ footers within Shenandoah, one being the beautiful Hawksbill Mountain:


07-31-2012, 01:21 PM
Luckily, I am about 2 hours from the Shenandoah Mountains, and unlike the Smokey Mountains, they do not allow commercial development within the Park.

Just curious about this commercial development is that's allowed inside "the Smokey Mountains." If you mean within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I can't think of anything other than Park Service buildings and concessions such as horseback riding stables. There are no privately owned cabins or restaurants or anything like that in the Park.

08-06-2012, 02:47 PM
Just curious about this commercial development is that's allowed inside "the Smokey Mountains." If you mean within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I can't think of anything other than Park Service buildings and concessions such as horseback riding stables. There are no privately owned cabins or restaurants or anything like that in the Park.

Thanks for clearing up my semantics. When one drives from Warrenton, VA to Shenandoah it is purely countryside with little development, kind of like driving around Mt. Washington. The Great Smokies are nothing more than a lousy tourist-trap with such surrounding cities as Gatlinburg, which we unfortunaly stayed in years ago. Along with the strip-mining and acid-rain killed trees, I'll never go back to the Smokies again. The Smokies get 10,000,000 yearly visitors - Shenandoah only gets 1,000,000.

08-07-2012, 07:54 PM
Thank you, Gregory Smith, for not liking the Smokies. That means one less visitor to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Not that I have to worry about seeing other people in my favorite parts of the Smokies. I can go off-trail to the headwaters of Eagle Rocks Prong or to Raven Fork (and see a 150' red spruce) or to the wild cliffs of Lester Prong, or many, many other places, without seeing a soul. I won't see any strip mines, either, unless there is a sudden geological shift that brings coal eastward from the Cumberland Plateau. As far as acid-rain-killed trees, I would suggest you have just as many of those in Shenandoah (not that I have anything against Shenandoah), along with the many more that were killed by hemlock woolly adelgid and other insect pests. Yes, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are cluttered tourist traps--so is North Conway.

08-08-2012, 01:18 PM
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I know, and I see and hear every working day strongly diverse and divergent opinions about " development" in the WMNF.

What is truly important, whether one is pro or con, is that the actual history of the area going back many hundreds of years, is understood, remembered, and applied from a basis in historical fact.

We can't skip over the historical facts. We can't just disremember that King George of England was the first governmental power to offer " King's Grants" of ownership to landholders in the New World. News flash, King George wasn't a US citizen.

US Dept of Agriculture ownership of the WMNF is, in the time line of the history of the area encompassed by the WMNF, a rather recent development.

It does make things a bit more complicated than a point and shoot opinion that " development is nasty and is a crying shame."

We are what we are today because of history, with all the good, bad and ugly that goes along.


08-09-2012, 02:02 PM
Haven't noticed any acid-rain killed trees in Shenandoah, certainly not like Mt. Mitchell, for example:



08-09-2012, 03:35 PM
Those are the balsams that were killed in the mid- to late 80s by the balsam woolly adelgid. Shenandoah doesn't have balsams because it doesn't have sufficiently high elevations. "Acid rain," "strip mines," "development"--easy words to throw around.