16:38 Sat Mar 31, 2018
1855 Days at 6288 Feet
All good things must come to an end.
On July 30, 2008 I arrived at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road at 8:30AM for the very first time. I had just been contacted by the Observatory one week prior in response to my submitted application for a summit internship. One week later, here I was for an in-person interview in an awe-inspiring place I'd never laid eyes on before. A true fish out of water. A ride up the Auto Road and an overwhelming few hours later, I was offered a fall internship on top of Mount Washington—the "home of the world’s worst weather". For a meteorologist and a die-hard fan of all things extreme-weather, tagging this as a dream come true would be a categorical understatement. The opportunity to spend a few months living with, working with, and learning from summit weather observers would no doubt prove to be the experience of a lifetime.
Nine-and-a-half years later, here I sit, enjoying 130-mile visibility and sunshine outside my office window, composing my very last blog post with the Mount Washington Observatory.
After nearly a decade with this storied organization, the time has come for me to move on to new adventures and exciting challenges.
It's been a tremendous roller coaster ride to say the least, and it certainly puts matters into perspective to contemplate on the fact that, at 31-years old, I've spent nearly one-third of my lifetime living and working on this incredible mountaintop.
I've worn many hats since that fateful July day:
Interim Director of Summit Operations
Co-Director of Summit Operations
My career growth has been tremendous with the Observatory, and it's opened up countless new doors and paths for me both personally and professionally. I am truly thankful to the organization for these fresh new forays into the exciting unknown!
It's nearly impossible to select only a few highlights among so many years of memories. The weather I experienced, of course, was unrivaled:
Peak Wind Speed: 138 mph (March 2017)
Coldest Temperature: -40F (February 2016)
Coldest Calculated Wind Chill: -97F (January 2018)
Lowest Visibility: Less than 5 feet (Many Times!)
Heaviest Snowfall Rates (estimated): 5-6”/hour (March 2017)
Notable Events: Summer 2011 Thunderstorm, Hurricane Irene, Pi Day 2017 Blizzard
I've been knocked over by high winds countless times, had some close calls with lightning, waded through snow drifts up to my neck, been in the middle of land-falling Hurricane Irene, experienced sleet so heavy and sharp that it drew blood, been completely rimed and glazed over from head to toe, gotten temporarily lost and disoriented on the summit due to thick fog and dense blowing snow, ran out into a few hailstorms to collect hailstones for measurement, experienced a few instances of thundersnow, watched visibility oscillate from a few feet to 130 miles and back again within seconds, viewed the Aurora Borealis, seen many shooting stars streak across the night sky while manning the night shift, enjoyed countless stunning sunrises and sunsets, observed intricate and unique orographic cloud formations, shoveled some of the deepest drifts I could ever imagine, and stood in awe at a 12+ foot snow wall.
All in all, though, it's the people that will leave the most lasting memories. Since my first days as an intern, I've met an incredible array of folks: staff, interns, volunteers, guests, educators, guides…the list is seemingly endless!
There's of course Brian Clark & Ryan Knapp, my first shiftmates who trained me during my intern days. Then I can't forget Steve Welsh & Stacey Kawecki, my shiftmates for years as I came on full time as Night Observer. Our museum attendant Deb joined the shift for my first few summers, and came to be known as "Mama Deb" along with "Papa Steve" Welsh—my first fearless shift leader!
Things began to change when Steve & Stacey left, and I moved up to take the shift leader and education specialist roles in 2013. Brian Fitzgerald and Will Broussard joined the crew around that time along with Tom Padham—three individuals who remain staunchly dedicated to the Observatory and its educational mission to this day!
Mike Kyle and Kaitlyn O'Brien joined the crew a few years after, who were two of the finest and hard-working folks I've ever had the privilege of working alongside, as we held down the fort and navigated the summit crew through some particularly tricky times. Great friends and fine people to be sure!
But I consider myself extremely lucky to be ending my Observatory career with two dedicated summit observers and great friends, Adam Gill & Caleb Meute. Being on shift with these guys for two years has been a thrilling ride for me, and I wouldn't have it any other way to end my near decade-long career alongside Adam & Caleb. They are the last additions to my summit family, which has grown and morphed over the years, and will always remain very special to me. I am thrilled to be passing my education buck to Caleb, and my shift leader duties to Adam, who has been my right-hand man on the day shift through thick and thin. I have no doubts that I'm leaving things in some very capable hands.
I realize I'm leaving out an extremely long list of people here, and for that I apologize immensely. This blog post would be near-infinite if I attempted to name every individual that influenced my tenure at the Mount Washington Observatory in some way. From valley staff to state park crew to volunteers: your support and friendships over the years have been truly wonderful and will by far be the most invaluable take-away from my career with the Obs!
Before this blog post transforms into a novel, I'm afraid I must wrap it up and finally utter that oh-so-bittersweet goodbye that I'm just never any good at articulating. But the future is bright for me! Although I will always be a Meteorologist, my time as Education Specialist with the Observatory sparked within me an immense passion for science education, and I look forward to turning my career down that path and helping to guide a younger generation towards a career in the sciences!
The support of my extended family back home in New Jersey has been staunch over my many years in New Hampshire, and I am forever thankful to them as well. At the end of the day, though, I'm particularly looking forward to settling down a little closer to sea level with my beautiful soon-to-be wife Jesse and our big happy ball-of-fur, Skookumchuck. Her support through my latter days at the Observatory has been tremendous, and the fortune that I have the family that I do makes me feel invariably lucky. Although I'm leaving my summit family behind, between the wagging tail of "Skook" and the wonderful smile of my fiance, I just couldn't be happier and more excited. The White Mountains will forever be our home, and will always be special to our hiking family!
It has been an honor, a privilege, and an absolute pleasure to contribute to the historic Mount Washington Observatory—a storied White Mountains organization richly steeped in history. The employees are dedicated, and the mission is one that I will always believe in wholeheartedly.
And the mountain, well—with its majesty, mystique, and magnificence—will forever soundly and firmly speak for itself.
Mike Carmon, Senior Meteorologist & Education Specialist