21:18 Tue Sep 01, 2015
Tata For Now! (TTFN)
Well, here we are at the end of another summer that went by way too quickly. As brief as it has ultimately felt, this summer has been one of incredible learning and growth for me. None of my comments this summer have talked very much about my journey as a person up here, so I would like to take my final blog to give you a larger window into my experience this summer. This comment is not my typical “picture book” post, but I have taken some amazing pictures this week and I’ve included captions with each. I’d also like to add that kitty was being unusually adorable this week so I’ve included a couple (okay maybe a few) pics of the King of the Summit as well. I hope you enjoy the pictures!
Andrew (our new Fall Intern), Mike D., and I went for a short hike down the Nelson Crag Trail Friday evening before dinner. I was able to capture this beautiful panorama of the sun setting and the full moon on either side of the sky with our fortress (the Sherman Adams building) in the middle.
When I arrived to the summit for the very first time on June 5th (mid-shift), skies were clear and the views were incredible. To think this place had been in my own “backyard” basically my whole life and I had never been here! As I quickly learned, I was extremely lucky to have such a clear first drive up to the summit (one of the first statistics we learn for our tour-giving duties is that this summit is in the clouds 60% of the year). However, by the afternoon the summit had plunged back into the fog and we were completely socked in. Now, do not get me wrong, I knew that this place was foggy a lot of the time and I knew I would probably feel a little “off” when the clouds descended (ascended is probably more accurate, but you get the gist), but I did not expect to feel claustrophobic. It came as a bit of a shock. I tried to go outside to get some fresh air but the fog reminded me of a bad horror movie. I could not even make it to the end of the A-Frame before deciding to turn around to head back inside. I ended up going to the observer lounge and doing a light workout there to help relieve the anxiety some. Later in the week I mentioned the claustrophobia to some of my co-workers in the Obs and State Park, and they all reassured me that would likely subside once I became more familiar with the summit cone and the surrounding area. I was glad to see that they were correct!
The sun appeared above the haze line about 20 minutes after sunrise Saturday and it was bright red!
A couple days later, I went out to get the precipitation can in 70 mph winds. As I stood in the lee of the building watching the fog and sporadic ripples in puddles located in the most exposed part of the summit, Guy, one of the State Parks employees, caught me giving myself a pep talk while paralyzed in place. He assured me the windiest spot was just after leaving the lee of the building and then he ran with me across the summit cone. It was the most thrilling experience! Fun fact that might not have been a fun fact had things gone differently—I almost dropped the precipitation can that morning (at that moment I saw my internship flash before my eyes, over before it had even really started). A gust of wind blew it over when I put it down to replace it with the empty can—rookie mistake. Luckily, I caught it with my foot before it could fall to the ground and it wasn’t full enough to have sloshed any water out with the fall it did take.
The coolest looking clouds formed over Clay and Jefferson on Sunday! I’m pretty sure at least one time lapse per Obs summit employee now exists of this event.
The rest of that week consisted of continued tour training, museum training, training to do the daily 7am AMC hut broadcast, learning about meteorology, forecasting, and taking observations, and learning about the historic data entry project. I also spent some time working on IT tasks; I discovered quickly I liked the hands on nature of that work. I was also able to take a 5-hour hike one morning to get to know the surrounding area and trails, as well as the summit cone.
We took a farewell picture before AJ left yesterday; I’m definitely gonna miss these guys.
I became braver this summer. I did not grow up a very outdoorsy person; it has only been in the past 5-6 years that I developed a strong passion for the mountains and hiking, particularly above treeline hiking. So beyond my interest in learning more about meteorology, I learned a lot about safe hiking practices in the White Mountains and beyond. I learned about the geological history of these mountains and the many lives that have been claimed by the fierce climate surrounding Mt. Washington. I learned about the over 200 years of summit occupation and the mountain’s importance as a communications hub. I tackled my minor fear of heights and learned to enjoy the thrill of being outside in the fog and high winds. By halfway through the summer, I was walking face-forward down the ladders from the parapet and climbed a tall ladder to replace a temperature sensor on the Lakes of the Clouds Hut roof. I went for a run down the Auto Road on a foggy day when I needed fresh air but did not want to risk losing track of the cairns on the trail in the dense fog (since that is one of the more common causes of fatality up here in the Whites). I have stood by myself on the very top of the parapet in the fog and high winds. I am better informed about the conditions that make a thunderstorm and the clouds that indicate unstable conditions so I no longer will end my hikes early because of benign clouds. I have also hiked by myself on several occasions (of course it helped that I had a radio with me for emergencies).
Had a bit of a love affair with Marty the Cat this week…
Oh hello, Sir Cuteness of Cutenessville.
Marty and Kaitlyn are having a moment. See how they’re gazing deeply into each other’s eyes?
I attribute this bravery in part to continued exposure and my will to rise above my fears, but also to the highly supportive crew up here, both in the Obs and State Park. The people up here are amazing. As no doubt my fellow interns have written in their farewell comments as well, the folks up here on the summit have become my great friends and my family. Kaitlyn and Ryan spent countless hours explaining meteorological phenomena to me and patiently answering my many questions. Mike Dorfman, IT Specialist and a fellow physicist, taught me how to program in PHP and showed me how to calibrate instrumentation. Some of my favorite tasks involved helping Mike with wiring items in the weather room and re-extending wire from instrumentation up in the parapet down to the server room. AJ, our museum attendant, always made working in the museum a blast. When it was slow and we had finished our side work, we would disappear into the infinite hole that is Wikipedia. I always enjoyed my museum hours. I have had conversations with every one of the State Park employees up here and learned things from each of them, too. In particular, Jim Cyrs would spend hours (literally hours) teaching me about the geology and history of the Whites. I also had my fellow summit employees admit they had many of the same fears when they arrived here, which helped me to feel like overcoming mine was all the more possible. The general philosophy up here was that each of us is comfortable with different degrees of risk and that is okay…usually (our fearless leader, Kaitlyn, would definitely put her foot down when she felt the conditions were too unsafe). As I already cited, Guy helped give me the courage to go out and swap out the precipitation can in 70 mph sustained winds, and then when I came back inside, Joe, another State Park employee, told me I was brave. This certainly helped me to feel comfortable expressing my doubts and fears which in turn helped me to overcome them.
This morning we had an incredible sunrise. I believe the mountain is giving me a proper send off with a peak gust of 87 mph yesterday and now this! Can you believe that this afternoon we’ve seen winds below 5 mph after a day like yesterday?
Aside from work, I will never forget the many nights spent with my crew and State Parks watching movies, playing games, and exploring the summit. One of the highlights of my summer was the night Kaitlyn, Ian (my fellow Summer Intern), and I hiked back from Lakes at 11 o’clock at night. Throughout the hike, we would stop, turn our headlamps off, and look up at the stars. The Milky Way was so incredibly visible; it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! I was also extremely lucky to witness an aurora here during one of the strongest geomagnetic storms seen up here in recent years. After taking pictures early in the evening we all decided to go to sleep. Ryan then woke us up around 1am to show us the green lights dancing overhead. It was extraordinary to see! Other nights were simply spent winding down with State Park or watching episodes of Modern Family or The Office, which were always nice ways to end a busy day.
Another shot from sunrise this morning, the lighting was just incredible.
This experience has been everything I hoped it would be and more. What an extraordinary way to spend a summer between finishing grad school and starting a job in the "real world". I have gained so much knowledge on so many subjects and have also learned so much more about myself. I have made what I hope to be lifelong friends here. The folks working up here are so incredible, and I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of the summit crew this summer. Over the course of this summer I have grown to love this place and its inhabitants, and I hope to be able to return here as a volunteer one day.
There’s nothing like having the summit to yourself first thing in the morning.
Until next time-
Stay classy, Mount Washington.
Elena Weinberg, Summit Intern