15:23 Thu Jul 30, 2015
Fog - More Likely Than Not
Wow! I can’t believe that I only have one more shift left on the summit. This internship has been challenging, mentally and physically, but it has also been more than rewarding. I really enjoy being able to practice my forecasting skills and observe whether or not I was accurate. For most of the first half of my past shift, the forecasts were relatively easy because the summits were in the fog.
The higher summits see so much fog because of orographic lifting (in essence, the lifting of air due to terrain). Air at the surface of the Earth carries some amount of water that usually exists as vapor. As you or the air travels up the side of a mountain, you are also travelling through some of the atmosphere’s mass. You will observe a decrease in pressure (roughly 20% on Mount Washington, but up to 70% on Mount Everest!) because there is less mass sitting on top of you. This in turn allows the air to expand and cool. If the air is cooled enough, specifically to the dew point temperature, the water vapor in the air will usually condense into small droplets, which forms the fog we so regularly enjoy up here. That same process is also the mechanics for lenticular clouds, which many people liken to UFOs near mountainous terrain.
Being in the fog for so long makes being days in the clear 1,000x better because you appreciate them so much more. Some days the fog is so thick you can barely see 30 feet in front of you. That makes retrieving the precipitation can challenging and sometimes pretty eerie when you can hear people talking around the summit, but you can’t see them. However, when the clouds break, lift, or drop below us (which we call “undercast”), you can literally see for over 100 miles (pending on haze). So if you visit Mount Washington when we are in the fog, try not to get too frustrated, because you are experiencing a phenomenon that the summits experience over half of the year. If you come up and we are in the clear, just know that you are lucky, and enjoy the views!
Thailynn Munroe, Summit Intern
08:12 Tue Jul 28, 2015
Over 200,000 people visit the summit of Mt. Washington in a typical year. While a number of hikers make the climb, many arrive via one of our supporting partners, the Mt. Washington Auto Road or the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. Even if you "catch a ride" to the top, you may want to do a little hiking. Living on the summit, I get a chance to do some shorter hikes in the evening and I’d like to share a few suggestions to consider for your next visit.
Tuckerman Ravine Trail begins at the edge of the parking area for the Mt. Washington Auto Road. You can test your balancing skills on the rugged rocks and, if you’re up for it, reach the junction with the Lion Head Trail in about 0.4 miles. No matter how far you decide to go, you’ll get some great views down toward the famous ravine and Pinkham Notch.
On the other side of the summit, after a short rocky stretch on the Trinity Heights Connector, you’ll find the Gulfside Trail, which is less steep and not as rocky as some of our other trails. Take a right onto Gulfside Trail. The trail crosses over the Cog Railway’s track (look both ways!) and in 0.2 miles you’ll reach the junction with the Great Gulf Trail. You can go straight onto the Great Gulf Trail or take a left to stay on Gulfside Trail. Whatever direction you choose, you’ll get some amazing views down into one of our most famous glacial cirques, The Great Gulf...which, interestingly, was originally known as the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll also see the Northern Presidentials (Mts. Jefferson, Adams, and Madison) rising steeply on the gulf’s northwest side.
Heading southwest off the summit, according to the AMC’s White Mountain Guide you’ll be on “. . . the oldest continuously maintained footpath in the United States. ” The Crawford Path dates back to the early 1800s. As you head down this rocky slope, you’ll see the Southern Presidentials. Mt. Monroe’s craggy summit is the first and most prominent peak, rising above the AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut.
Of course, you don’t have to leave the summit to witness the fascinating weather and scenery that The Rockpile has to offer.
If you do decide to take a short hike during your visit, be sure to dress appropriately, take water, and feel free to ask for information on the weather and trail conditions. It’s always a good idea to have a trail map, even for short hikes. We have a variety of maps available at the Extreme Mt. Washington museum shop. Stop in to visit the museum and say hello! We look forward to seeing you on Mt. Washington . . . "Home of the World’s Worst Weather!"
Peter Purvis, Summit Museum Attendant
15:32 Sat Jul 25, 2015
Weird and Wild Weather
Wild and weird weather on the summit is pretty common to see on any given day. During the summer it is less common to see the wild and crazy winter weather that the mountain has become famous for, but other unique phenomena does replace it. During the summer the summit, like most places across the United States, sees numerous thunderstorms and its accompanying hazardous weather. With the summit sitting at 6,288 feet when thunderstorms pass through, it normally puts us inside the thunderstorm, causing numerous direct lightning strikes to the summit and unloading the full fury of the storm on the summit.
While it is wild and weird to be inside a thunderstorm as it passes, last week on the summit we saw another weird event that isn’t too common for the summit of Mount Washington. The weird event I’m referring to is observing smoke from a distant wildfire. You might be asking yourself “Why would that be weird? Wildfires are common across New England.”
Well you are right we do normally see smoke plumes from fires across New England when they are large enough. But on the 13th and 14th when we were observing the smoke from the distant wildfires the smoke was traveling over two thousand miles, from the northern part of the Alberta Province. The smoke was no longer in an identifiable plume, and was more dispersed through the atmosphere; leaving the summit in a thick haze that limited the visibility to 6 or 7 miles. The weirdest part was that the burnt smell from fires could still be smelled after all that distance.
While this wasn’t the first time I have seen smoke from distance wildfires it is definitely the furthest away I have smell the smoke from distant wildfires. While it was interesting to observer, I do wish the brave firefighters battling the fires and the community affected by them a quick and safe end to the fires and a smooth recovery.
Michael Kyle, Weather Observer/ IT Specialist
16:31 Thu Jul 23, 2015
The Incredible Seek the Peak Shift
The Incredible Seek the Peak Shift
Boy! What an exciting weekend to be a member of the Observatory! And what a great shift to be working! Things seemed to start off normally, with our crew coming up the Auto Road in the clouds and high winds. We reached the summit and did our shift change with the other crew. And, as things began to settle in for the exciting weekend ahead, the skies opened wide for us.
Quite the ocean of undercast! It was a beautiful sight that lasted for several hours before dissipating, setting up clear skies for the next couple of days.
Thursday was crazy. We were not even at Seek the Peak yet and it was crazy. Thursday morning we had a very important gentleman come up to the Observatory. Lieutenant General Richard Trefry is the General and Meteorologist who was one of two men who gave the order to President Eisenhower to postpone D-Day until the 6th because of the bad weather. Because of him the storming of the beaches in WW2 went off better than they would have had they stuck to the original plan.
And we gave him a tour of the observatory!
You go through life day to day living and experiencing whatever you can to the fullest. And you may expect to meet some fairly important if not famous people at some point during your lifespan. But I never, NEVER, thought I would get a chance to meet someone so important that I've only read about in history books. Someone who had that HUGE of an impact on our history. And not only meet him, but give him a tour and have him COMPLIMENT us! Like...what?!?! I still haven't fully wrapped my brain around it. We all got to talk to him and show him how things have changed over the years, as well as pick his brain about how forecasts used to be done. He also cleared up A TON of questions we had about the historical research project we've been working on. The whole day was just...wow. And he signed our log book:
"July 16, 2015
The summit has changed - but remains the same.
Please accept my thanks and admiration for all that you people do - for science - for humanity - and our nation.
Best of luck to you all.
Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry
United States Army Retired."
It puts a lot in perspective for me. I've wanted to be a meteorologist pretty much as long as I could think about the subject. And I knew it would be a cool job. But to think that what we do can have such a HUGE impact on so many people is crazy. And awesome. But in any case, for 90 years old he’s going strong, had great stories and experiences to share, and it was such an honor having him here. I'll remember his visit for the rest of my life.
And that was the TIP of the iceberg for the weekend.
Friday was a continuation of the nice weather we were having. But Saturday was not looking good at all weather wise. So we were pushing for a lot of people to start their hikes for Seek the Peak early. And we were no exception to the early morning wake up call. We got up at 4 am to welcome the media crew from Channel 8 news out of Portland, Maine to come interview our staff and our team, the cirrus contenders, our interim director of summit operations Ed Bergeron, as well as the first hiker to reach the summit, Chris Nichols. I also snapped that awesome sunrise pic you see there. I don't get very many of those because I enjoy sleeping.
It was so awesome to be on TV and be interviewed about Seek the Peak LIVE! And the media crew were super nice and fun. We gave Matt Zidle and his son a tour of the tower as well.
We were giving tours and prepping the conference room for the Hikers. Despite the warning with our forecast for Saturday, only a handful of hikers came through, with most deciding to wait for Saturday. Saturday came and sure enough, the weather was not good; rain, fog, 45 degrees and 30+ mph winds. But the hikers came up all the same and we took good care of them. Two-thirds of the day was giving tours of the observatory to everyone who came through.
A BIG deal was to have Chris Warren from the Weather Channel and Jennifer Grey from CNN visit! We gave them a tour as well! They were truly fantastic guests!
In the evening we went down to the base of the Auto Road for the after party! I snapped a great shot of a thunderhead off in the distance!
During the after party for Seek the Peak, they gave away prizes, we had a nice turkey dinner, and it was a great opportunity to talk to fellow members of the Observatory. The biggest fund raisers as well as those who have worked tirelessly for the event were all specially recognized, which was so wonderful. It truly was a great time with a TON of member support. Really, it's so awesome that our members have donated so much to our cause. Together we all ended up raising over $235,000!!! Everyone here at the Observatory truly appreciates your commitment to our work and the Observatory itself. I know I personally have been trying to find a way to give back to the place that has given me so much in terms of experiences and happiness, any little way I can. So I am glad myself and my family could pull through and contribute so much to the advancement of the Observatory, along with all of your wonderful support as well. It was truly a great event. So thank you all very much!
Sunday was liked someone slammed on the brakes going 80 mph. No hustling and bustling. No interviews. Life went back to normal. Which isn't a bad thing. I guess we all had just got used to going 80 mph for 2 days. We went back to the normal routine. But it wasn't a totally boring day like it probably sounds. WE GOT OUR FIRST THUNDERSTORM WITH LIGHTNING UP HERE!
We've been waiting all summer for one. We were totally in the clouds with lightning making several direct strikes to the summit and surrounding towers. It was crazy! It looks like someone was firing off white and blue strobe lights over and over, with someone banging garbage cans on the observation deck. It was crazy!
On Monday we came out of the clouds to clear blue sky! It’s one of my favorite moments up here when that happens. Usually it’s a pristine and beautiful blue sky when we break free of the clouds. But this time, a wandering Fog Monster decided to feast upon some of our happy little cirrus clouds! Oh no!
Truly terrifying, I know.
Tuesday was a busy day of cleaning and prepping for our shift change. At the same time, there was lots of IT work to be done. The beginning of the day was clear, which allowed us to run cable and wiring to the roof for our new conduit. But in the afternoon, the Hudson Bay low swung a cold front through us. Even though we didn’t have a direct summit strike, we could see lightning off in the distance, which halted the remained of our work for the day.
Our Tuesday night themed dinner was Mafia themed. Everyone, including the gentlemen from state park, dressed in their mafia best. Italian mafia, Russian mafia and the Yakuza were all represented, with accents abound as we feasted on pizza, meatballs and sausage. It was a ton of fun as always!
As we conclude my fourth shift on the summit, again I find myself slightly sad. But through the entirety of this past shift, I have made a solid affirmation.
I feel very close with the rest of my crew. They are my Mountain Family and truly great friends. And THAT is the biggest gift the mountain has giving me this shift. I am so comfortable and happy to be working with such great people. And I know these are relationships that will last the rest of my life.
So going down, yes I am a little sad as always. But I am going down to the base with great friends, and I will be looking forward to coming back for my next shift with them.
Ian Bailey, Summit Intern
14:22 Mon Jul 20, 2015
What a Week!
I am now the majority of the way through my internship and I cannot believe it has gone so quickly. This internship has been an incredible experience on so many levels. I have learned about this mountain, its history, and the geological development of the Appalachians; I have learned about forecasting weather, instrument maintenance and calibration, and have been able to hone life skills like public speaking. I am learning so much and am so appreciative of this opportunity I have had to explore myself further and make great friends here at the Obs. I know it will not be easy to leave here come September.
Last shift I stayed an extra day on the summit to hike. Wednesday afternoon I hung out at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut and then hiked back up to the summit via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. I had a blast down there and even got to help out with dinner.
Thursday I attempted a Northern Presidential Traverse. Thai came with me for the first part of my journey, and we witnessed a beautiful sunrise while we hiked down toward Gulfside Trail.
The day was absolutely perfect for hiking. Temperatures were mild, winds were calm, and skies were clear. I would periodically stop and listen to the birds chirp. I took a particularly long pause on top of Jefferson to enjoy the peace and quiet of a more remote peak on an unusually calm day. It was a wonderful way to wind down after a busy week on the summit. The early morning lighting made the views all the more breathtaking.
I made it to Sam Adams and decided it would be best to return to the Rockpile. I now know better what’s in store for the next time I attempt the traverse.
It’s been an eventful week up here on the Rockpile. We started the week off with awesome clouds and beautiful sunsets.
Saturday was Seek the Peak
so the past couple days have been filled with tours, cookies, and reunions. There were a number of former observers and volunteers up here helping to make sure the Seek the Peak festivities went smoothly. In spite of the weather, we saw a decent number of hikers up here yesterday and several who decided to hike up a day early to take advantage of the beautiful weather Friday. Though we were in the clouds with extremely low visibility all day, we were fortunate that storms held off yesterday and hikers were able to safely reach the observatory. We provided tours in stations. I was stationed on top of the tower and managed to grab a quick selfie between groups.
Friday morning, Matt Zidle from WMTW News 8 in Portland came up to the summit and featured our Seek the Peak team, the Cirrus Contenders. Thank you, again, to everyone who helped support my team by making a donation to the observatory!
After a successful Seek the Peak, we were able to settle back into our typical routine, and found ourselves in the midst of a severe thunderstorm! What a week!
Elena Weinberg, Summit Intern
18:02 Fri Jul 17, 2015
Notes About Saturday
Tomorrow is our annual Seek the Peak
event. Every year we hope that the weather is going to be spectacular – sunny, calm, warm, unlimited views, etc. In the 14 years of Seek the Peak, some years saw weather that was in fact spectacular. However, for most years, Mt Washington does what it does best and provides hikers with one or two elements of “bad” weather – rain, fog, high winds, cold, etc. But a small handful of years, the weather sets up to live up to our “World’s Worst Weather” title. This year is shaping up to be one of those years.
Over the past week, we have been watching the models for Saturday. Earlier this week, the initial indication of inclement weather was showing up. However, we weren’t overly concerned as a lot of things can happen in the way weather shapes up on the summit. While we weren’t too concerned at first, with each passing weather model run, the weather model on Saturday continued to hold. While we have been reporting this in our Higher Summits Forecast
the past two days, we are aware not everyone may have read our reports. So, here is the outlook: a frontal boundary will be setting up over the region spreading rain in along with thunderstorms. Model soundings are indicating that by the afternoon, some isolated thunderstorms may become severe with heavy periods of rain, small hail, and violent gusts of wind. With rain falling overnight and through the day, heavy downpours could lead to flash flooding in some neighboring ravines and surrounding water crossings.
With this in mind for tomorrow, there are a few things Seek-the-Peakers (or any hiker for that matter) should note:
1. Huntington Ravine should not be your trail of choice. Moisture will make it extremely slick and if a thunderstorm occurs, you will be stuck, as down is not an option on this trail.
2. Rain will make everything slick.
3. Avoid anything cotton. Cotton doesn’t breathe and will soak up the moisture weighing you down and increasing the risk of overheating or hypothermia, depending on how your body reacts to expected temperatures and winds.
4. You will not be able to hear the thunder until it is too late. In ideal atmospheric conditions, thunder can be heard about 10 miles away. However, fog, winds, temperature, rain, etc. all play into limiting how far sound will travel. In any case, if you hear thunder within 10 miles above tree line, you will not have time to seek shelter.
5. You will not be able to see lightning coming. We will be in the clouds so you will not be able to see a storm coming. Or if you are below the clouds and thinking about coming up from Pinkham, you will not see the storms coming as they will be on the opposite side of the mountains.
6. You should consider a trail and/or peak below tree line as an alternative.
Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist
7. Lastly, if you Seek the Peak, you should also Chase the Base. In other words, if you hike up, you are responsible for getting down too. Participants should never depend on transportation down as weather can play into operations of the Mount Washington Auto Road
and the Cog
. Or if it is a busy day, there may not be any available seats. So only hike as far as you can go to still be able to walk back on your own.
22:01 Mon Jul 13, 2015
Midsummer in the Mountains
It really has been a great week on the mountain for me. Wednesday morning, right when I met up with the rest of my shift at the base of the summit we saw a rainbow, acting like a crown over a hill. The picture I was able to take really doesn’t capture how bright all the colors were, you could even clearly see some violet toward the bottom!
One of my fellow interns on Kaitlyn’s shift, Elena, was staying up on the mountain an extra day so that she could hike the Northern Presidentials. It was really nice getting to talk to her and spend some extra time with her, as our shifts only ever get to catch up with each other briefly on Wednesdays. However, as Thursday morning was going to be phenomenal (clear, warm-ish, and barely any wind), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to escort her out for at least part of her hike. We woke up before the sun did and prepared to head out. Out on the observation deck I saw the most amazing sunrise I had ever seen. The sun looked MASSIVE, like a planet sitting on the horizon. What we had seen on the observation deck had not been the actual sun, but an illusion created by all the particulates in the atmosphere, from water vapor to smoke to dust and everything in between, scattering the sun’s light and making it seem much bigger than it actually was.
The rest of our hike was really pleasant, aside from a pretty nasty scrape I got from a large rock on the way down. It was a small reminder of how dangerous the White Mountains can be, and that no matter how experienced of a hiker/outdoorsman you are, accidents can happen to anyone, and you should always be prepared. The views of the Great Gulf were breathtaking, and hearing birds singing to each other amid the gentle white noise of the gap winds was a really peaceful sound. After Elena and I had parted ways, I crossed paths with the Mt. Washington Cog on one of its early morning test runs. It was pretty neat being able to see it from a different perspective, as it always looks like a toy train from our office windows.
Saturday was one of the Auto Road’s annual bike races, and watching all those men and women power their way to the top was really inspiring. This mountain proves to be an obstacle and a challenge in various ways that so many choose to face, and usually come out on top (pun intended). For me, this is my first internship and my first time truly living on my own (when I’m off the mountain). I can already say that I have experienced, learned, and grown so much in the few weeks that I’ve spent here. I had never been to New Hampshire until my final interview in April, but I fell in love instantly. In a conversation with one of the State Park rangers who had lived in the Whites his whole life, he mentioned that the mountains get in your blood. I think Thursday some of my blood actually got on the mountain, but I definitely understand what he means. It truly has been an unforgettable summer so far.
Thailynn Munroe, Summit Intern
18:35 Sat Jul 11, 2015
Newton's Revenge at the Summit
Dating back to the first days of the Mount Washington Carriage Road, the Northeast’s highest peak has been a hot spot for athletes to cut their teeth for a variety of outdoor sports. That legacy continued today with the annual Newton’s Revenge bicycle race held by the Mount Washington Auto Road. Beginning at 8:40am this morning, hundreds of seasoned bicyclists from the United States and Canada lined up at the base of the auto road, ready to tackle the most challenging stretch of roadway on the East Coast.
Conditions were fantastic for the race. A deep blue sky draped itself overhead, and temperatures climbed into the pleasant upper 40s in time for the fastest riders to reach the finish line. Winds were a bit stronger than last year, gusting at times over 35 mph however, which slowed the overall times of the bikers by a few minutes. Nevertheless, I was quite impressed with the strength and willpower of all the riders who pushed themselves to the limit. Summiting Mount Washington on a bike rather than on foot also does not give one much of an advantage as I learned today.
This year’s first place finisher reached the summit in just under one hour, and just a few minutes faster than the gold medalist time from the foot race just a few weeks ago. Usually, one would think traveling anywhere on a bike would get them there faster, but not here! While we have made significant progress in cutting the time it takes to ascend the summit, compared to the several hour long trips to the top at best back in the carriage road days, it seems as if there’s really no shortcut when it comes to reaching the top of Mount Washington. In my mind that makes the 6,288ft peak perhaps the greatest finish line for any race, and of course the indescribable beauty of a clear day make reaching the top whether it be by foot, bike, or even automobile, all the more rewarding and breathtaking.
The Observatory would like to thank all who made today’s event possible, and send big congratulations to all who participated in the grueling climb. We look forward to seeing you all again next summer!
Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern
16:33 Thu Jul 09, 2015
Mountain Life Adventures!
It has been another great shift week here on Mount Washington! For the first time this summer, we rode up to the summit in dense fog and windy conditions. It was crazy to see what a difference the weather makes in regards to having to approach carefully. On sunny conditions you still drive carefully. But in fog and wind it even more so. Regardless, it was fun and awesome to see.
With the 4th of July on the approach, our crew was a bit busy. But I am never too busy to miss a beautiful shot when I see one! This picture came on Thursday morning as we broke free of the clouds. It was a perfect timing moment as the first Cog of the day was about to arrive, with blue sky and sunshine to greet it!
On Friday, with all of our prep work done and ready for the 4th, myself and some of the crew decided to hike down to Lakes of the Clouds to visit! We always love going down to see those guys. They are so welcoming and nice to us. Plus it’s great to share stories with them. We made excellent time going down and getting back up just in time for sunset! Conditions were interesting, as smoke from the Canadian Wildfires had settled in all around us. As a result, we had many vibrant colors for our sunset! It can be difficult to appreciate the beauty behind it, however, knowing that it is the result of so much destruction. I think it’s important to keep those affected by the fires in our thoughts, and hope the situation is resolved soon. It certainly was a different perspective.
That night was also the first night I got to see fireworks from the summit! Talk about interesting perspective. It’s true that you can see dozen of fireworks shows from all of the surrounding valleys, and even way off toward the horizon. And that’s really cool! The difference is they are not very big. It actually looks like hundreds of little dandelions popping into view, blossoming and disappearing. It was a lot of fun to see!
On the 4th the summit was abuzz with people. While we were super busy, it was a lot of fun, especially giving tours to people who came through! It’s one of my favorite parts about this internship. As the day died down, we went outside the sub door for a beautiful sunset. It was sunny, with calm winds and moderate temperatures. Very peaceful! All of a sudden, off to our North, we see this cloud…
Check this out! I wasn’t sure what it was at first. But Ryan and Mike informed us that it was probably the underside of a giant lenticular cloud! Wow! The mothership has definitely landed! It was by far the biggest lenticular I had ever seen! A very nice gift right before dinner.
On Monday morning, we were presented with a rare opportunity. The sun, in combination with the haze and smoke, highlighted an inversion line out on the horizon for us! Normally they are a bit difficult to discern between that and just normal haze. But, thanks to the Mountain, we were at the right place at the right time. An inversion occurs when there is warming in the atmosphere as you go up in height, instead of cooling. So this doesn’t happen terribly often, and we were very lucky to see it!
That night and into Tuesday we went back into the clouds. The weather had been very back-and-forth in regards to cloudy and foggy versus clear and sunny. But Tuesday morning appeared to be a mix of both! I went out on the deck to capture a time-lapse of the clouds that were ripping past the summit. I wasn’t having terribly much luck with it. Frustrated, I looked around, and to my East I saw this:
Pow! How I hadn’t seen it when I came out on the deck is beyond me. But it sure was beautiful! The sun was rising through the cloud layers, making rainbow crepuscular rays! And very defined ones at that! I took a moment to stop and think “Dude, you have one of the coolest jobs on the planet. NEVER forget that!”
And I never will. Just like in my last few comments, I’ve noted that the mountain rewards those who truly appreciate it and put a lot into having fun adventures and living happily here. I come into every shift trying to top how I was the shift before, with more effort and drive. As a result I get to capture these moments that are super rare and special, and I can keep them for the rest of my life. If you are coming up to the summit, I hope you come with similar ambitions! You won’t regret it!
As we prepare to go down for our off week, again I find myself sad. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my life in North Conway. But I’ve come to think of the summit as my home more than my apartment. My family is here! My friends are here! And I’ll be counting the days until we’re back here, living and loving the Mountain Life!
Ian Bailey, Summit Intern
21:17 Tue Jul 07, 2015
A Volunteer's Muse
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
― John Muir
Keil Davis and Josie Paul, Summit Volunteers
The high pitch trilled call of the Cedar Waxwing pierced my ear as a flock fluttered overhead on a comfortably cool July morning. They lit in a nearby tree as I was standing there with Josie, my friend and colleague, staring at the sheer mass of mountains from the parking lot below wondering what the week would hold. Interns and crew began showing up as clouds crowned the summit, enveloping our destination. We made acquaintances, chatted a bit, and piled into the van. With Kaitlyn at the helm, the van chugged upward and onward into the clouds.
The wind was as strong as it was cold as it flung the van’s side door wide open when we piled out to unload bags and boxes full of supplies. A mere 24 hours before I was in the sweltering humid heat of Houston, Texas where I call home. The change in temperature was most certainly a welcomed change, though I wondered if we would ever be able to see farther than 15 meters in front of us and if the wind speed would ever dip below 35 MPH. Once inside, the shift change went swimmingly; we absorbed as much knowledge from Jeanine and Charlie as we could before we took the reins. We took stock of what we had to work with in the kitchen, got a basic idea of the building, Knapper joined us for a safety meeting, and then we settled in for a week of cooking, conversation, maintenance, hiking, and passing time.
The clouds hung around for about a day and half. Josie and I didn’t mind, we enjoyed hanging out in the den, cooking, listening to music, and getting to know each other and the crew better. On the second day we got a call from Kaitlyn up top to let us know that the clouds had broken. It was a sprint to the weather room; I likened it to a fire alarm drill. As we approached the window of the weather room, I was floored by the scenery that was coming into view. Gray trodden trails led the way across rolling green hills that casually stretched out to peaks covered by exposed mica shist. And this was only the foreground, as a backdrop there were grayish green profiles of impressive ridges lingering in front of other ridges growing fainter in hue with every mile until they disappeared from view into a colorless, shapeless oblivion to create a masterpiece that time and erosion have been slowly painting for the last 300 million years.
This would be our home for the next several days and we could not be happier about it. The week has been filled with delicious food(Josie happens to be a pastry chef and all around wizard in the kitchen), mesmerizing conversation, hearty laughs, fulfilling hikes, and a sense of wonderment for the entire organization that is the MWOBS. Josie and I have really enjoyed being around driven, passionate people pursuing their love for weather. The chemistry shows itself in the group cohesion, the way they relate, and the wonderful dinner conversations.
As I sit here now on the couch in the den, a day from departure, I think about the things that I won’t soon forget. I think about the conversations, I think about the meals, the forging of a relationship with Josie, the wonderful views, the unbelievable sunsets, the crew that Josie and I’ve gotten to know this week, the fascinating weather up here, the beautiful, serene call of the White-throated Sparrow I heard while out on the trails, and the beauty and vastness of the White Mountains, which I may have never experienced had it not been for this volunteering opportunity. Josie and I would both like to say, thank you, to all involved with MWOBS, you’ve got a great thing going up here.
16:25 Thu Jul 02, 2015
Reminiscing on Good Memories
It is now July and the last day of our first summer week volunteering here in several years. A mere two days to go until a significant day in our history. We have enjoyed, as always, the uniqueness of this place including watching the waves of tourists arriving daily. The weather, as changeable as ever, still provided time for a hike to the Lakes of the Clouds hut which I hadn't visited in some time.
Charlie and Jeanine Kinney, Summit Volunteers
The most important aspect of this trip, however, became the flood of memories associated with the "Rock Pile". The first serious hike our families made was with Al and Marion Lake, long time volunteers here, to the Lakes of the Clouds hut. The very reason we started volunteering was because of their stories. Some memories include watching the Cog Railway
arrive each day without the plumes of smoke of yesteryear; the romance of riding a steam train gone but a good environmental decision overall; chatting with a couple of Auto Road
drivers who have become friends, remembering riding up in a fifties vintage Ford Station wagon, and standing at the State Park desk looking at a large segment of cable realizing the electric power comes from the valley now. No more drone from generators running outside of the Yankee building before 2002 and only occasionally inside the Sherman Adams building entrance since. Gone are the days of Marty Engstrom airing the weather from the summit. The crew at State Park changes as well, but many of them are old friends. It is always fun to stretch the facts of our last great adventure. Possibly the greatest surprise this week was an evening visit with the Obs staff and a group of visiting meteorologists, some who we knew from their internships here years ago. Yes, it is soon the Forth of July, where did the time go? With every new day our circle of friends continues to grow. The weather continues to evade and confuse, resisting normalcy. The "Rock Pile" is still here though; it is constantly morphing. Mount Washington is, at best, a diverse and multi-faceted place but change is inevitable, just another chapter in "Life's lessons". We learn and grow through change. The "Old Man of the Mountain" may have fallen off but MWO forges on. Thanks to all the folks at Mount Washington Observatory for yet another great week and we look forward to the next.