15:44 Wed Nov 15, 2017
My First Week, Part 1: A New Jersey Fish Out Of Water
This coming Saturday, November 18th, the Mount Washington Observatory celebrates another important date in our history: the date of our first recorded weather observation atop Mount Washington’s summit. In honor of this historic occasion, our shift has decided to regale you with tails from each of our individual first shift-weeks on the job. It’s been quite some time for a few of us, and maybe a little less for others, but one thing’s certain: we’ve all transformed in many ways since we took our first steps into the fabled world of the Rockpile.
I personally began my tenure as a summit intern back on August 27th, 2008. Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and whichever other clichéd terms you’d like to list, I knew this experience would be transformative, but I didn’t fully comprehend the day-to-day life I was in for as a summit staffer. Growing up in central New Jersey as a primarily “indoorsy” type of guy with little (if any) exposure to mountainous terrain, this area was a gigantic and foreboding mystery to me. As I spent the night at a local North Conway hotel the night before my first upgoing Wednesday shift change, my stomach was queasy, my knees were knocking, and my mind was running away in a thousand different directions. I was excited, nervous, optimistic, unsure, intrigued, anxious, and likely many other complicated emotions, all somehow simultaneously. I knew I was ready for probably the greatest challenge of my young life, but the uncertainty of what to expect with such an exceptional job was throwing my overthinking tendency into hyper-drive.
Caption: My first undercast was a cool convective spectacle (taken: August 2008).
My first upgoing shift change was a blurry haze, but I would soon come to realize that Wednesdays generally are this way regardless of whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned vet. The shift change meeting covered a whole host of topics which all sounded more than foreign to me, but I became fascinated by the seemingly endless layers of intricacy that weave into the operation of a mountaintop weather station. My first day on the job as an intern also necessitated some of my time be spent working in the summit retail shop, which was a wholly new experience. At 22 years old, I had never held a retail job of any sort in my life, so this experience proved a good one for me to have under my belt as I very quickly settled into this job task.
After the dust cleared from Wednesday shift change, summit life quieted down considerably. Still, I quickly jumped to the conclusion that this was not a job I would really want in the long term. It was too different, too foreign, and too far away from everything I’ve ever known and loved. While I knew this internship would be a good one for me, I swore it would remain just that: temporary (Spoiler Alert: stay tuned for a major change in my tune).
Caption: A sunset from my first week on the Rockpile (taken: August 2008).
A few days later, winds ramped up to about 70 mph. I look back now and chuckle a bit at how excited I was that day, having now experienced the incredible weather I have since that first week. At the time though, this was the loudest I’d ever heard the winds, and the most adrenaline-inducing overwhelming sensation being tossed around in the midst of them. My opinion of the summit was starting to transform.
During the length of my internship, our shift was undermanned. There were only two full-time observers, which opened the door to a whole host of opportunities as I worked the day shift solely with observer Brian Clark. After intense yet successful training during my first week, many of the duties of a summit observer were essentially bestowed on me by Brian (with his close supervision of course), and I became more and more excited by the tours, forecasting, observations, and data checking that came with this awesome responsibility. Little did I know, I was hooked.
At the conclusion of my first week on the summit, I was excited to get back to the valley, rest up, and explore New Hampshire at lower altitudes. But I was concurrently counting the days until I would be back up at my post on top of Mount Washington, all the while perhaps not even realizing how drastically my opinion had changed in just a week.
This pivotal week jump-started my career with the Observatory and the field of meteorology in general. Given the fact that it’s now November 15th, 2017, and I’m still composing observer blog posts, we can safely say that the rest is history.
Caption: My first week at the Observatory vs Today. I've changed a bit (jeans are now only for special occasions).
Mike Carmon, Senior Meteorologist & Education Specialist